Thursday, July 9, 2015

ARC REVIEW: A Whole New World by Liz Braswell (Twisted Tale, bk 1)

A Whole New World
(Twisted Tale, bk 1)
by Liz Braswell
3/5 stars
Release date: September 1 

I'd like to thank NetGalley and Disney Book Group for sending me an ARC in return for an honest review.

Jafar gets the lamp? A classic story on its head? Officially Disney? I did not hesitate to request this. But I will admit, after the fiasco that was Fairest of All, a retelling of Snow White from the Wicked Queen's point of view that I had major issues with that you can hear all about here, I wasn't sure it would be any good.

The first 5 or 6 chapters are essentially the same as the beginning of the movie, though the author did add in context to beef up the story and connect some of the new dots she injected into the storyline, like hounding in on Princess Jasmine's cluelessness to the plight of the poor and her blossoming determination to basically make Agrabah a utopian society.

Overall, this was a fun story. It's always interesting to see a classic twisted around. For the most part I was entertained. It was very, very different from Aladdin, which was kind of the point, but it wasn't just different in story. The characters developed in different directions, it concentrated a great deal on the politics and social structure of Agrabah, and was a lot more serious than the movie. This is not really intended for kids. The tone is much darker and takes on serious issues. Not quite as many laughs.

Many of the major characters didn't have big roles, like the Carpet and Abu, which I totally understand -it's really hard to write good, non-talking animal sidekicks!- but at the same time, I missed them. The Carpet and Abu were there, mind you, they just weren't there often. Unfortunately, because the Genie is in the hands of Jafar, we also don't get as much as him in the story, either. He still gets in one-liners and Genie-ish jokes on occasion, but he's just not as fun and upbeat. *sad face* The biggest change I noticed is that Jasmine basically became the main character. Aladdin has a big supporting role, but this is all about Jasmine. She's the most important piece in this puzzle, the one who gets things moving. She's the one who starts the revolution, for crying out loud! Instead of Aladdin becoming a prince and stepping into her world, Jasmine is thrown into the ranks of the street rats -introducing us to some fun new and interesting characters- and becomes a heroine.
One of the things I really liked was Rasoul, the captain of the guards. You know who I'm talking about. This guy. This Rasoul is depicted as a lawman determined to uphold the law but also possessing a good amount of empathy. He is referred to as 'a big, stupid rock of morality', a description I just love to bits. His personality clashes drastically with the guy I remember from the movies -who chains Prince Ali Baba and throws him off a cliff at Jafar's behest- but I didn't care. I liked him too much.

I felt Jafar was dealt an injustice in the climax -parts of his downfall really conflicted with his character for me and I feel it cheapened his evilness. He could have had a better -not necessarily demise, but more his reaction when confronted with his downfall. I feel that he had a very ignoble end, and not in a good way.

The writing was mediocre, and the story sometimes...bizarre. I won't lie. There's some weird stuff going down. It's fun to see a Twisted Tale but it also makes you very nostalgic for the original. Don't take this one too seriously; it might destroy your childhood. There were several references to the movie -made mostly in wishful thinking by characters about 'what could have been'- and one off-handed comment about a staff that maybe grants access to an all-powerful oracle, a la Aladdin and the King of Thieves, which I loved growing up.

I give A Whole New World by Liz Braswell 3 out of 5 stars. It could have been better, but it wasn't terrible. (Just bizarre.) It was interesting enough that I would check out future Twisted Tales to see what will happen to other Disney classics.

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