Author: Liz Braswell
Audiobook Length: 9 hours
What if Jafar was the first one to summon the Genie?
When Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish. To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed Princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.
What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.
I was skeptical to try this novel as there are tons of negative reviews for it, but I decided to give it a try since I absolutely love Disney. I am not sure if people misunderstood the synopsis or what the initial disconnect was as a lot of reviewers expected this to be a complete retelling. I know not everyone thought this, but it just happened to be the negative reviews I came across. A Whole New World takes the beginning of the Disney movie up until the Cave of Wonders and then flips the script to create a new tale. Jafar still betrays Aladdin and leaves him in the cave, but instead of Abu stealing back the lamp, Jafar walks away with it.
The story starts off in a similar way to the Disney movie, Aladdin, where we are introduced to Aladdin. This tales gives a little more backstory with Aladdin and his mother, though, and shows their relationship with each other before Aladdin was left alone. The story moves on to present day Aladdin and Abu who are stealing from the marketplace and being chased by the guards. The scenes from the movie play out on the page with added inner thoughts into Aladdin’s mind. Elements are changed here and there to fit the narrative of the written word compared to the spoken, but it generally follows scene for scene from the movie. Some readers did not like this as it is the first quarter of the book, but I did not mind it as I fully expected this to happen based on the synopsis. I fully expected the events to go exactly the same as the movie as the events do not become “twisted” until Aladdin hands the lamp over to Jafar and is betrayed.
Once Jafar has the lamp, his first two wishes follow a similar path as the movie where he is both the sultan and a sorcerer. The third wish differs based on the new events in the story. Essentially as the new ruler, Jafar becomes an egotistical dictator that wants everyone to love him and blindly follow his wishes. Aladdin and Jasmine team up with a band of street rats, composed a fun and entertaining set of new characters. Their underground rebel gang has to try and figure out how to stop Jafar and his all-powerful take-over of Agrabah. It goes a lot darker, with more death than one would expect from a Disney tale. There is also some darker magic introduced, complete with an army of zombies. It truly did follow what was promised on the cover as a twisted tale.
The pace of this novel was decent as the middle felt very slow as there were meetings after meetings to try and organize to retake the kingdom from Jafar. I enjoyed that Jafar was still witty in this novel as he was a very entertaining villain in the movie. Aladdin and Jasmine were fairly similar to their movie versions, but they seemed a little flat at times and I expected more from their character development given the new obstacle of being rebels as Jafar is sultan. The two of them still have instant chemistry like the movie, but I felt it lacked at times where I thought it would develop more, given that they were spending a lot of time together. The other characters were a great addition as it gave a different perspective on the “street rats” and their thievery in the city. The entire tale is narrated by James Patrick Cronin, who did a great job remaining consistent with how he voiced all the different characters.
Overall, this story is mainly told from Aladdin’s perspective, so we miss out on the inner workings of Jafar’s mind after he has the lamp and power. Although I enjoyed seeing how Aladdin and Jasmine come together to defeat the villain, it would have been really interesting to get the other side and see how the villain thinks everything while they are trying to hold on to the power that they stole. As it is still a fairly middle-grade tale, the writing is on the simplistic side which made it a great novel to listen to in the background. As other reviewers have stated, it does read like a fanfic, but, to me, it is sort of the novel that was promised as you flip one event in a known tale to see what happens if you take that path. There were elements that could have been approved upon, but, for me, it was not as bad as people claimed and I would interested to see how the other tales turn out in this Twisted series!