This review was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle. It has been reposted here with permission.
In an era of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruisers, and the slightly less immersive – but no less impressive – Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora: The World of Avatar available to experience at Disney Parks, it does beg the question for die-hard Disney fans: what if the beloved princess movies got a similar experience?
Enter Happily Ever Island, a week-long experience in the Florida Keys that lets guests choose which princess, prince, or iconic villain they would like to inhabit for the duration of their stay, and then provides them with thematically appropriate lodging and costumes, along with specially-designed “hero moments” recreating iconic scenes from the films in question.
The novel, also titled Happily Ever Island follows Madison, a massive Disney fan who won a trip to the inaugural excursion to the magical island, and her best friend Lanie, who might have seen a Disney movie or two in her day, but doesn’t really understand the hype. Madison is nursing a broken heart, Lanie is struggling with the weight of her mother’s expectations for her. A week of playing princess seems to be just what both of them need.
While on their trip, Lanie – who is playing Brave’s Merida for the week – sparks up an unlikely connection with Cinderella’s Prince Charming, while Madison – playing Cinderella – finds herself drawn more into the behind-the-scenes of the island as she helps the similarly Disney-obsessed trip coordinator Val work through the rough patches of the experience (and perhaps they find little connection of their own on the way).
The story itself is a sweet, coming-of-age story that reinforces the kinds of things you would expect from a Disney fairy tale. The importance of friendship, of being true to yourself, and and of course a happy ever after for the heroes at the heart of it all.
It’s clear author Crystal Cestari loves Disney. Much like working as a guest-facing cast member (like I once did), engaging with these stories on this detailed a level is not something you could do if you didn’t love it. The familiar story elements are there, on levels both big and small and will have you wishing upon a star that this vacation package was real. Though Cestari does cleverly avoid the question of just how much a trip this immersive would cost by having the girls win their trip in a sweepstakes, because nothing would kill the imagination vibe faster than a price tag with way too many zeroes.
If you’ve been missing a trip to Fantasyland, or have been dreaming about dialing your Disney vacation up to 11, then this is absolutely the book for you.
Happily Ever Island is available now. Special thank you to Disney Books for the advance copy for review purposes.