In this re-imagined tale of Disney’s Aladdin, Aladdin never possesses the lamp when he takes it from the Cave of Wonders. Instead, Jafar immediately begins his terrible reign as sorcerer and sultan, sending Jasmine’s father to his death. Aladdin, with the help of the magic carpet and Abu, manages to dig himself out of the cave, and steals back into Agrabah, finding a much changed city, ruled by the Genie’s golem soldiers and Jafar’s Machiavellian whims. Aladdin decides to steal back the lamp, but in doing so, he loses the carpet and aids Jasmine, who is being forced into marriage just for her political status. Together, they manage to escape Jafar and learn of his plot to bend the rules of magic by making his own undead army. Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Street Rats, a gang of young thieves, use their skills to undermine Jafar’s search for these magical artifacts, and in doing so forge a rebellion, one the city eventually joins. Despite the overwhelming odds against them, Aladdin and Jasmine must choose where their true motives lie and defeat Jafar once and for all, or Agrabah as they know it will be destroyed.
True fans of Disney will stick with this novel, but otherwise, it is merely an ok read. For the first 20% of the novel, it merely re-hashes the movie, adding a bit about Aladdin’s background and his friendship with the Street Rats. What it managed to do better than the movie was show a stronger feminist version of Jasmine, who despite her temptations to use black magic, is conflicted and embraces the power she holds over the people for the right reasons. The romance, which is easily bought into for children, is less emphasized but still present, making Aladdin the one who sees the true potential Jasmine holds rather than simply a “prize to be won”. World-building is less favored than character building, with the main focus of the book being very plot-driven. I see this as being more attractive to middle grade, reluctant girl readers, and big-time Disney fans, but more mature readers will be dissatisfied with the story as a whole.
Notes: More graphic violence than the film. Think a more teen-friendly version of current Middle East violence.
The cover is really stunning and subtle, showing a faded version of Aladdin and Jasmine on either side.
–Aside: This is a growing trend of Aladdin novels…I think I’ve seen more than a few published recently…