Series: Twisted Tales #1
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Challenges: NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | Kobo | iTunes* | Barnes & Noble
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Blurb from goodreads:
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.
You read it? Okay, good. Despite the fact that this is published by Disney and the first quarter of the book follows the Disney movie closely, THIS IS NOT THE DISNEY MOVIE. Don't believe me? Go read the blurb again. I skimmed some reviews of the book after I read it and they had several themes, complaints actually, in common: the beginning follows the movie too closely, the book is too different and it's not Disney enough, and the characterization is flat.
The beginning DOES follow the movie quite closely, it's about 90% the same, with a few differences and a grittier, more realistic depiction of life back then for an orphaned boy at the bottom of the class system. It seemed to me that the author did this deliberately so that you had a solid base for where and how her version veers off.
The book is too different - well, I have to wonder if they read the blurb. To me, the blurb is quite clear and upfront about the differences. Also, Disney did not originate the story of Aladdin. It's been around in one version or another for thousands of years. This version uses all of the characters in the Disney movie, albeit in radically different ways, plus some new ones. It also has elements of much older versions of Aladdin and even draws from another story from the same part of the world, "Ali Babba and the 40 Thieves". So the differences didn't bother me nor did its darker and more realistic tone.
The characterization is flat. Well, there I have to agree somewhat. The author missed her chance to expand and elaborate the personalities and motivations of the characters, old and new. Actually, the new characters are more fleshed out than the Disney ones, though both Jasmine and Aladdin grow up quite a bit. Jasmine especially grows, becoming much more aware of social and economic problems in Agrabah. But in other respects, they are cardboard characters, simply standing in. Where the characterization is particularly lacking is Jafar. He's the focal point of the changes, is the catalyst for much of what happens, but he is the least developed character and we get very few scenes from his POV. Most of the POVS are from Aladdin and Jasmine's perspectives and they're similar to their movie selves but darker and more real. Actually, the whole book is darker and more real.
Oh, and when I say darker, I mean torture, murder, attempted murder, and kidnapping. Did I mention this isn't the Disney story? The Disney story was a jumping off point. This story truly is about a revolution, the poor first succumbing to Jafar's blandishments and then revolting against his tyranny; it's about a deposed sultana reclaiming her throne and vowing to be a fair and just ruler; and it's about a group of criminals who become outlaws and revolutionaries, trying to do the right thing. It's about justice versus fairness, right versus mercy, and when breaking the rules or the law is the right action to take. And yeah, there's a love story with an HEA and the story has a mostly happy ending. This story harks back to the old tales that weren't prettied up and toned down, and that suited me just fine.
The story has flaws, absolutely, but I personally enjoyed Braswell's take on the Aladdin story. She had a difficult job, taking much-loved characters and changing up their world and circumstances to give the story a new spin. While I'm not generally a fan of books that are heavy on politics, which this one was, I enjoyed this. I basically read this book in one setting and stayed up much later than I should have to finish it. My advice is to divorce the characters in the book from the characters in the movie, they just happen to share names, and pretend they are all new. I confess that when the book's genie talked, I heard Robin Williams in my head. But this genie, oh, this genie is sadder and more pathetic than the movie version. I really felt for him. Being a genie in a bottle is a miserable existence and his back story was heartbreaking.
If you're willing to take a chance, if you can accept that these characters share a name and some traits but are not the same ones that appear in the movie, you just might like this story. And at least you've been warned. :D