G-Rated, gender-bending retelling of Aladdin
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: July 21, 2018
Publisher: Folkshore Press
Pages: 320 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Nineteen-year-old orphan, Adelaide (Ada) lives in a mysterious, magical, fairy-tale world. There are many different lands in this world, but they are separated by dangerous terrain such that, without magical intervention, travel between them is often difficult to the point of being impossible. Though Ada spent much of her early life as a thief, perilously wandering from town to town, and city to city, she did not enjoy her travels. She was often cold, hungry, and homeless. As a result, all she wants in life is to settle down in the small village where she has found a haven for the past two “seasons” and gained a family of affiliation in the form of her dear friend Bonnie Fairborn and her gentle, absentminded father. (Bonnie is the heroine of a future retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” by this author. We are also introduced to a character named Ella who will be the heroine of a future retelling of “Cinderella.”) The Fairborns have allowed Ada to live with them rent-free. Ada also has a stable job as a bartender working for a kind woman who owns the local tavern. But suddenly one day, Adelaide’s safe harbor is invaded by a witch with hypnotic, burning eyes, who transports Ada to the desert Kingdom of Cahraman and threatens dire harm to Bonnie and her father at the hands of a terrible beast if Ada does not, in a timely manner, retrieve a mysterious oil lamp for her from within a palace on the highest hill of a glitteringly beautiful, walled city. The witch instantly, through magic, dresses Ada as a wealthy princess and, also by magic, provides her with an invitation to a formal competition within the palace for the hand of the Crown Prince of this kingdom, Cyaxares of the House of Sharmash. What she doesn’t provide, unfortunately, is a full description of the lamp and directions for where, in the gigantic palace, it might be found.
This quaintly humorous retelling of the fairy tale, “Aladdin,” is written in a rather “campy” style. It is not as extreme in its campiness as the historical parodies, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and Mel Brooks’s, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” but more in the realm of the comically surreal 1960’s TV show, “Gilligan’s Island.” The form that “campy” takes in this fantasy is that the author offers comic twists to the traditional milieu of the sword-and-sorcery, fantasy subgenre. S&S is set in a magical world which perpetually, across thousands of years, never evolves beyond the primitive technology, transportation, and misogynistic social mores that existed in the Middle Ages in Europe. The author cheekily tosses into this low-tech S&S world anachronistically advanced technology from various, later periods of Western civilization, including: flush toilets, bicycles, gaslights and trains. In addition, most of the dialogue is heavily larded with 21st Century American slang, and the story employs an extensive homage to the popular, long-running, recent-day reality show, “The Bachelor.”
Ada is a strong, active heroine. Her romantic interest, Cyrus, is sweet guy, and there is enjoyable repartee between him and Ada. Ada also becomes close friends with two fellow, young female contestants for the hand of the prince. They are each, in her own way, as whacky as Ada, adding to the comedic elements of the story. There are many comic moments within the various stages of the win-the-prince contest as well.
Note that this is Book 1 of a three-book series about Ada and, as such, it does not stand alone. To get the full benefit of Ada’s story, it is crucial to read all three books.
Overall, this is a fun, G-rated, magical adventure which is suitable for all ages.
I rate this book as follows:
Romantic Hero: 4
Romance Plot: 4
Aladdin Plot: 4
Bachelor Plot: 4