In a prequel to an upcoming Disney Channel film, the offspring of four familiar villains bond in an effort to impress their evil parents.
Having grown to adolescence in exile beneath a magic-banishing dome on the titular island, Mal, Carlos, Jay, and Evie—the children of, respectively, Maleficent, Cruella De Vil, Jafar, and Snow White’s Evil Queen—set out to fetch Maleficent’s staff from her Forbidden Fortress. Along with having to pass riddle and other tests clumsily designed to get them to admit the banality of their parents’ values, the quest forces the young would-be baddies to cooperate and even to moderate their ’tudes. De la Cruz turns the quest and its interminable buildup into a wordy string of trite situations in which every character trait is carefully explained lest readers miss something: “Lonely, Mal thought. I was lonely. And so were they. Evie, with her beauty-obsessed mother; Carlos, with his screeching harpy of a parent; Jay, the happy-go-lucky thief with a quick wit and dashing smile, who could steal anything in the world except his father’s heart.” Meanwhile, over in the United States of Auradon, Prince Ben, son of King Beast and Queen Belle, chafes at his lack of life choices and with an impulsive but unspecified notion at the end serves up a teaser for the film.
A paint-by-numbers effort to market a spinoff that’s likely to be equally ephemeral. (Fantasy. 11-13)