Children's Literature · Modern Fantasy · Review

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la CruzSynopsis from Goodreads:

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that’s been left to rot and forgotten by the world.

But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon’s eye: the key to true darkness and the villains’ only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it…who will it be?

Maleficent, Mistress of the Dark: As the self-proclaimed ruler of the isle, Maleficent has no tolerance for anything less than pure evil. She has little time for her subjects, who have still not mastered life without magic. Her only concern is getting off the Isle of the Lost.

Mal: At sixteen, Maleficent’s daughter is the most talented student at Dragon Hall, best known for her evil schemes. And when she hears about the dragon’s eye, Mal thinks this could be her chance to prove herself as the cruelest of them all.

Evie: Having been castle-schooled for years, Evil Queen’s daughter, Evie, doesn’t know the ins and outs of Dragon Hall. But she’s a quick study, especially after she falls for one too many of Mal’s little tricks.

Jay: As the son of Jafar, Jay is a boy of many talents: stealing and lying to name a few. Jay and Mal have been frenemies forever and he’s not about to miss out on the hunt for the dragon’s eye.

Carlos: Cruella de Vil’s son may not be bravest, but he’s certainly clever. Carlos’s inventions may be the missing piece in locating the dragon’s eye and ending the banishment for good.

Mal soon learns from her mother that the dragon’s eye is cursed and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the dragon’s eye, these kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad.

Review:

Prequel to Disney’s Descendants (2015) and first in the Descendants series, Melissa de la Cruz’s The Isle of the Lost tells the events leading up to the film. It features the children of Maleficent, Jafar, Cruella de Vil, the Evil Queen, and Belle (Beauty) and Prince Adam (King Beast). The villains’ children set out to find the Dragon’s Eye, Maleficent’s scepter. The scepter’s appearance gives them hope that they can get off the Isle of the Lost. In the middle of the quest is a plot to get revenge on Evie, the Evil Queen’s daughter. Meanwhile in Auradon, Prince Ben learns firsthand what his father, King Beast, does every day.

The first place I heard of this novel is BookTube, but I was disinterested in it and the movie. I have watched Descendants several times now, and I love it. I do not like reading books adapted from film. After long consideration, I decided to give The Isle of the Lost a chance. It is good, but I saw a couple of holes. One of the holes is that the synopsis says the villains have been trapped the island for twenty years, but I read several times in the ebook that the villains were there for ten years. I may have been confused, but that is what I read. Another is the very end with Prince Ben, son of King Beast and Queen Belle. It does not line up with the beginning of the film. The third plot hole does not explain how or why the villainous parents would sit together in the same room.

The cover shows the conflict between Mal and Evie. It does not, however, show much of the plot nor any of the central characters. And why is there a green leaf background (other than green looks sets off the foreground)?

The crafted world is explained better. It goes into greater detail about life on the Isle of the Lost. Life on the island is crueler and more about survival than the movie could state or show. The residents call it the Isle of the Leftovers. For forcing the villains to live without magic, the “good” people of Auradon do not want the villains to get their own food through agriculture or fishery. This adds a new layer to the hatred between the children of Auradon and the Isle of the Lost. I also liked the puns for certain technology, making it relevant to today’s children.

I liked that the narration changed focus between five characters, but there was little depth into each one. The children share the same emotional hurt from how they were raised. They do not show much of the same personalities as they have in the movie. I would not expect it, except the novel is set within a week of the movie’s start. The villains themselves are evil of course. Their behavior fits a villain more than their film roles.

As for Prince Ben’s subplot, it is simple and mostly unrelated to the main plot. It broadens the view of him from what is known in the film, particularly on his thoughts about his girlfriend, Audrey. It did not relate well to everything else.

Two themes I found are living up to parents’ expectations and realizing that parents’ histories are true. The four villain children try to live up to their parents’ expectations. The worst part is how unrealistic the expectations are. The children know only the lives they have lived on this island, and any story that takes place off of the island seems unreal.

The Isle of the Lost is an okay read for children in middle grade. Middle grade children would like it if they watched Descendants.

Genres: Fantasy, Children’s, Middle Grade, Fairy tale Retelling, Adventure

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

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