SPOILER WARNING: It is impossible to talk about these books, based on the upcoming Walt Disney Pictures film Maleficent, without revealing some key aspects of the story. If you would like to go to the theater knowing only what is in the trailer, I highly recommend you don't read this article.
If you grew up watching Disney movies, than you know the story of Sleeping Beauty and of its demonic villain, Maleficent. You know that the evil fairy, scorned at not being invited to the christening of baby Aurora, cast a powerful curse over the innocent child. And you know that once the curse was enacted, she pulled out all the stops to prevent anybody from waking the pretty princess.
Forget what you know. On May 30th, Disney’s latest live-action fairy tale will hit theaters starring Angelina Jolie as one of the greatest Disney villains of all time in Maleficent. A month prior on April 29th, two books will be available to young readers that tell two different versions of this new twist on an old classic, both of which written by Disney junior novelization adapter extraordinaire, Elizabeth Rudnick.
The first book is appropriately called Maleficent and is being advertised as “A deluxe novelization.” The hardcover book matches the size and style of Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino, which put the Wicked twist on the Evil Queen from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The edges of the pages are black and at 259 pages of double-spaced text, the story is a quick read based on the screenplay by Linda Woolverton.
The book tells the story of a kingdom torn apart. Humans live near the palace of King Henry, who leads his people against nature and seeks to destroy it for personal gain. The fair folk live in harmony with nature in the Moors, a magical place full of things the humans deem wealthy, such as jewels. The faeries who live there are lead by two human sized faeries named Hermia and Lysander, who have a dream of a peaceful relationship with the humans. Shortly after the birth of their daughter, they try to reason with the cruel king and end up paying for it with their lives.
Orphaned as an infant, their daughter Maleficent is raised by the faeries and grows into a young woman. Contrary to her people, she takes after her parents in her belief that humans can be good and that they can all live harmoniously together. When she meets a charming young man named Steffan, she falls in love with him and believes he loves her in return. But her belief in humanity is crushed when her love betrays her, reducing Maleficent to a shell of her former self.
Heartbroken, Maleficent leaves the Moors and takes solace in an abandoned castle. She eventually returns to discover that humans have been harvesting it in her absence, so she builds a wall of thorns around it and vows to protect it. Returning to the human kingdom, she discovers that Steffan has married, became king, had a daughter, and that three of the fairies have abandoned the moors and moved into the castle.
Infiltrating the child’s christening, Maleficent watches in horror as Thistlewit, Knotgrass and Flittle bestow gifts upon the child. With anger coursing through her heart, Maleficent steps forward and bestows her own gift on the child, a curse that she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday and fall into a sleeping death. Steffan begs her to undo the curse and laughing, Maleficent adds an amendment that she can be awoken by true love’s kiss, which Maleficent knows doesn’t exist.
This is only the beginning. Maleficent is an exciting twist on the Sleeping Beauty story that kept me interested throughout. If the film is as good as the screenplay on which this novelization is adapted, then it’s sure to become an instant classic for many Disney fans. Disney’s marketing material recommends this book for ages ten to fourteen. It’s a quick read for an adult, but if you find that you can’t wait to learn this version of the story until the film is released on May 30th, you won’t be disappointed by this adaptation.
Aimed at a slightly younger audience, the second book is titled The Curse of Maleficent: The Tale of a Sleeping Beauty and is the same story told from the point-of-view of other characters. Disney recommends this for ages eight to twelve and the book features illustrations by Nicholas Kole. This hardcover book is a little taller than the other novelization and a little shorter at 219 pages with double-space font.
The first part of the book is told by a fairy named Robin, who was Maleficent's first friend when she was a young girl. Robin watched her grow up beautifully and worried about her belief that humans and fairies could coexist. He suspects that Maleficent has started a romantic relationship with a human named Steffan and when she disappears from the Moors, Robin has no choice but to believe the rumors he hears about her.
The second part of the book is told by Thistlewit, who moved into King Stefan's castle along with Knotgrass and Flittle when Maleficent left the Moors. After she returned and cursed baby Aurora, Steffan forced them to disguise themselves as humans and move into the forest to raise the princess. They are incredibly frustrated with their task, not knowing anything about raising a baby. Miraculously, the child thrives under their neglectful watch.
The third part follows Aurora's story. Throughout her childhood, she had seen a horned-shadow watching over her accompanied by a raven. She was curious about the forest around her and nature in general and her curiosity routinely lead her to a thorn wall that she believed was guarding something. One evening while out for a walk, she mysteriously found herself on the other side of the wall in a magical land full of beauty and tiny fairies. It was there that she came face-to-face with the mysterious horned-shadow, believing it to be her fairy godmother.
As her sixteenth birthday approached, she had her heart set on moving to the Moors to live with the fairies. She met a handsome stranger named Phillip shortly before discovering the secret of her past, feeling betrayed by the fairy she had come to trust upon discovering the curse that is about to place her in a death-like sleep.
The Curse of Maleficent: The Tale of a Sleeping Beauty is a fun retelling of the story of the film, but for reading value Maleficent is the better of the two books. Furthermore, due to the nature of who is telling the story in The Curse of Maleficent, there are parts of the story that will be confusing if you haven't seen the film or read the novelization first. It's clearly intended as more of a companion piece than a stand-alone book.
While I enjoyed The Curse of Maleficent, I was hoping it would divert from the story a little bit to reveal more about the characters other than Maleficent. It offers a little more insight into the three fairies and Aurora, but not as much as I was expecting. It can also be accused of false advertising as the title and description make it sound like it's fully Aurora's tale. Since two other characters tell their stories preceding Aurora's birth, it takes over a third of the pages before Aurora begins to share her story.
Bottom Line - Maleficent: 4.5 out of 5 spindles of a spinning wheel
Bottom Line - The Curse of Maleficent: 3 out of 5 spindles of a spinning wheel