Review: A Whole New World by Liz Braswell
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“What if Aladdin had never found the lamp? This first book in the A Twisted Tale line will explore a dark and daring version of Disney’s Aladdin.
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.”
This is a concept that I’ve seen used before to good effect: take one critical plot point from a well-known story and change it so that the exact opposite thing happens, and then run with the story from there. In this book, the tale is the same as Disney’s Aladdin for the first several chapters and then takes a dramatically different turn when Jafar gains possession of the magic lamp instead of Aladdin. The author manages to slip in some concepts that are more mature than the animated film, such as the common citizens’ perception of the sultan and the rampant poverty in Agrabah, and I liked that the story gained some maturity thereby.
From that point, most of the movie’s major elements remain intact, but skewed to the darker. For example, instead of “Prince Ali” staging a parade through the streets, it’s Jafar who does so, with the unwilling help of the Genie. Jafar’s initial two wishes are the same as well, although he gets them much earlier than before. It’s this manipulation of the tale that I really enjoyed. Braswell continues throwing in elements that are darker or more mature as well. Going back to the example of the parade, I liked Aladdin’s observation that all of the dancers and performers look the same, and that it’s kind of creepy. (Bet you never look at that scene in the movie the same way now.)
The novel suffers from two problems, however. Once the story starts to diverge from the Disney original, the characters do so as well. The author doesn’t capture their voices or their personalities very well, and having to spend time establishing new characters like the Street Rats takes away from that development as well. The other, bigger problem is that this book is just too long. Yes, I was liking it, but around the two thirds mark I started to feel it getting bogged down. By the three quarters mark, I caught myself skimming more than once. For an adaptation of a ninety minute film, 350 pages is just too long. A good hard edit of this novel would have done wonders, in my opinion.
Braswell had some interesting twists on how you as a reader can view the classic elements of Aladdin, but I think she got too drawn into fleshing out details that didn’t need it. I’d say that it’s worth a checkout at your local library at least. I’m hoping the next Twisted Tale to come out does a better job holding its strengths than this one did.