In a Disney-authorized riff on the animated film Aladdin, one crucial plot twist has horrifying results.
The first quarter of the book serves up a straightforward novelization of the film, until evil vizier Jafar traps the roguish protagonist underground—in this version, without the magical lamp. Aladdin escapes to find that with the genie’s aid, Jafar has publicly murdered the feckless sultan, imprisoned the princess Jasmine, and terrorized the people of Agrabah into submission. Fortunately, Aladdin can call upon the Street Rats to spearhead a revolution, but can a gang of petty thieves prevail over Jafar’s black magic? Briskly paced, with nonstop action and clever allusions to classic horror tales, this retelling suffers from paper-thin characterization and abrupt shifts in tone, from saccharine romance to snarky quips to grisly horror, including the tortures and deaths of more than one beloved movie character. The setting and dialogue are rife with jarring anachronisms, and even when some characters are granted added depth—as in the genie’s tragic back story and Jafar’s terrifying descent into madness—it often backfires, for instance conflicting creepily with the former’s jocular wisecracks and latter’s cartoonish villainy. Despite a tacked-on happily-ever-after epilogue, the darkness and violence, culminating in a rebel “victory” that is at best ambiguous, leave a bitter aftertaste.
Competent enough as fan fiction, but strictly for (not-too-devoted) fans of the movie. (Fantasy. 13-18)