Disney’s Villains series’ fourth installment highlights Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent.
Maleficent turns to the villainous witch trio the Odd Sisters for aid finding Aurora. Although they were lost in the land of dreams after Poor Unfortunate Soul (2016), they give enough advice that Maleficent succeeds in the spindle plot. But Maleficent needs Aurora gone for good, so she abducts Prince Phillip and seeks the assistance of two other powerful witches, Circe and Nanny, to ensure Aurora never wakes. The connections with the previous books of the series (including periodic recaps and reminders as well as appearances by Princess Tulip, Snow White, Queen Grimhilde, and more) as well as the back story shared among Maleficent and the other characters are told in lengthy, sometimes-clunky expository passages and flashbacks. The nonlinear plotting allows for forward plot progression on the storyline with Circe and her sisters, as well as a metafictive one about a storybook. In flashbacks, Maleficent goes from an isolated outcast adopted by Nanny to a victim of extreme bullying to the villain. Feminist Maleficent sneers at the princesses-needing-rescue trope, thereby insidiously reinforcing it, and the book primarily concerns itself with all manner of relationships between females. The story builds to a revelation that answers the question of why Maleficent seeks to destroy Aurora. Aside from colorful Maleficent (she modulates between green and lavender), if other characters’ skin tones are described, they’re pale.
Despite frequently inelegant prose, the story will probably please series fans. (Fantasy. 10-18)