Author: Liz Braswell
Publisher: Disney Press
Length: 384 pages
Welcome to a new YA series that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways. Each book asks the question: What if one key moment from a familiar Disney film was changed? This dark and daring version of Aladdin twists the original story with the question: What if Jafar was the first one to summon the Genie?
When Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish.To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed Princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.
What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.
Protagonists: So for the first twenty percent of this book or so this book is almost exclusively told from the third person POV of Aladdin, but when the big twist to the story happens the books is split between Aladdin chapters and Jasmine chapters. Aladdin is pretty much the same character he is in the movie, street smart, a thief with a moral streak, and at times a bit self deprecating. He doesn't really have all that much character development, but there is quite a bit that goes in to establishing who he is and what kind of character he is. Jasmine on the other hand, actually has quite a bit of character development. Since we don't see from Jasmine's perspective until after the twist to this tale, we really only get to see her innermost feelings after these great tragedies, that make an arranged marriage look like the best present in the world, have befallen her and her people. We do get a little glimpse into who Jasmine was prior to the change, a girl who really never needed to think of her citizens as hungry, and over the course of the book she begins the realize the needs of all of her people. On a whole I liked these characters it's really easy to see them as the classic characters I love while also seeing a new side to them.
Romance: The romance, in my opinion, was a little half-assed, it wasn't really insta-love, but in the grand tradition of classic Disney fairy-tales, there isn't all that much romantic development. It's not like there wasn't chemistry between Aladdin and Jasmine, there was, but it was hard to know whether it was legitimate chemistry or it was my seven year-old self waxing nostalgic about how these two are perfect for each other. The romance wasn't bad necessarily it's just that with the focus that there was on the larger aspects of the plot, for there to be as strong a romantic bond between the two just felt a bit unbelievable.
World-Building: So when I first heard about a series that takes classic Disney stories and changes one thing in the story, which of course sets of a chain of events that completely changes the narrative from what it originally was, I was intrigued. Like I said the first four chapters or so of this book are pretty much a novelization of the movie, with a few changes here and there that either relate to the new overall theme of this story or things that translated better on film have been changed to reflect better on paper. Then comes the change, the one choice or lack of choice that sets off a cataclysmic series of events that pretty much turns Agrabah into a pseudo-dystopian society ruled over by a corrupt although seemingly benevolent ruler. This isn't the tale you're used to, it's darker and definitely for a more mature audience than the original movie. I think the only thing that bugged me in reference to the world-building was the backstories for certain characters in the original film that never really got backstories, let alone this one, and while I understand it's to show some parallels and help advance the plot they still seemed a bit out of place.
Predictability: So I have to say that while the first part that matched up with the movie wasn't all that surprising I was shocked with most if not all of the twists that came after that. Again when I said that this book could be a bit dark, I wasn't kidding, There are two "chapters" of sorts in this book both titled "Interlude" that detail some small events from Jafar's perspective, and I must say the second one is extremely dark, and kind of kicked me right in the childhood. The end though was probably the most shocking of all.
Ending: So the final climactic moments of this book started off a bit like the final climax of the movie, with some obvious changes, but then things changed and once again the story was holly new. I was shocked with how the final climax ended, it was something that was foreshadowed in small ways but then still came as a shock to me. The calm after the storm was a pretty good wrap up for the story. Even though this book is the first in a series, it's also very much a standalone as well. It's wrapped up rather nicely albeit very differently than I had expected.
So on the whole this book panned out much like I expected. I liked the twist and how the story drastically changes while still holding the original story in it's core. There are a few things that I would have liked to see go differently, but I'll be interested to see how Braswell twists other classic stories.