Welcome to a new YA series that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways. Each book asks the question: what if one kew 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.
As I may have mentioned a couple of times before, I ADORE everything Disney. And, in particular, Aladdin has always been one of my absolute favourite Disney movies. So, when I heard about this book, I was (quite obviously) so incredibly excited! A book asking “what if everything had just gone horribly wrong and Jafar ended up actually obtaining the Genie’s lamp?”, what could be better? Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed, and this book didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
Now, for me, this wasn’t quite as terrible as other reviewers seem to have found it. But still, there were a lot of things that just didn’t work for me and I ended up finding this kind of a meh read. For starters, the first 25% or so of the book is basically the exact same thing as the movie, with even characters saying the exact same lines. Of course, I see why this may be needed to introduce the story, but nevertheless became pretty annoying fairly quickly. Things really started moving only once Jafar summoned the Genie and started using his wishes to become ruler of Agrabah and the world’s most powerful sorcerer. From then on, we start following Aladdin and Jasmine as they plan to take the throne back.
My biggest disappointment was definitely in the characters. I hoped that having the story in book form we would get to know the characters a lot better than we do in the movie. Unfortunately, while we are given some backstory for Aladdin and Jafar, this is really minimal. For the rest, the characters for the most part recreate their movie counterparts, but end up losing a lot of their appeal in the process. The Genie, in particular, had almost nothing of the funny, witty and sparkling Robin Williams character. True, he doesn’t have much to be happy about, having Jafar as a master, but I still felt like there was a lot missing there.
It wasn’t ALL bad, though! I liked the fact that we saw a lot more of the poorer Agrabah, and came to know the Street Rats, the poorest of the poor who survive on thievery alone. This was definitely an element that was worth reading about, and it was very interesting to see them risk everything to free their city. And the female characters definitely had a much bigger role to play than in the movie, with the tough, no-nonsense Street-Rat-leader Morgiana and a very different Princess Jasmine. Book-Jasmine is still the sassy princess we all love, but this time round she is much more an active element of the plot. Once she is deposed by Jafar, Jasmine takes matters into her own hands and, rather than marrying him, starts to lead the revolution so that she may become sultana again. She witnesses poverty and war, and it changes her, and I loved her for this.
Overall, this was a pretty average read, although it may have suffered because my expectations were so high. It definitely had a way darker tone than the movie did (characters DIE! And there is torture!! And war!!!), but it suffers a bit in character development (or lack thereof). There were some different elements that are worth exploring, but overall I was disappointed. The idea behind this was amazing though, and I would say that if it intrigues you, you should still check it out, maybe through your local library.