The thirteenth book in the Disney Twisted Tales series, Almost There asks the question: What if Tiana Made a Deal that Changed Everything? A question that this novel looks to answer.
When I first heard that this book was coming out, I was intrigued. Though 2009’s Princess and the Frog didn’t catch my interest when it was initially released, it is one that I have revisited and really enjoy. The art and music were really good and the direction it took the story was interesting. This is also the movie that introduced us to Tiana, Disney’s first black princess. All and all, I would say that The Princess and the Frog was a solid movie and deserves the appreciation and enjoyment it has received in the years since its release.
Almost There is the thirteenth book in the Twisted Tales line and was the one I had the most curiosity for after the last two books. Go the Distance was a nice one and What Once Was Mine wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I read it (loved the concept, wasn’t fond of certain decisions). And while I had an inkling for what they might have gone with in terms of twisting the story (Tiana taking the deal), how it was executed was neat.
And having just recently finished the book, I thought it was time to review it. Note: I will try to avoid as many spoilers as possible, but as always, Possible Spoilers Ahead.
The story begins with a few scenes from Tiana’s past. A lot of it being about her father and establishing moments from the movie and built off of it. Readers then jump to the present where Tiana makes a deal with Dr. Facilier that will give her her father back in exchange for an elixir his friends from the other side want her to use.
When she agrees, with one little detail missed, she gets what she had always wanted. Her friends safety, her own restaurant and her father. However, when eerie things begin to change. And when Dr. Facilier comes back a year later to collect and follow upon that missed detail, Tiana finds herself thrown into a world of trouble, and it’s up to her, Charlotte, and Naveen to reverse what the Shadow Man created.
What I thought was really good about this book had to do with the story, some of the characters, and the setting. It was also interesting to see how it worked off of the established connection Tiana had with her father and their love for cooking. It was also really nice to see these two bonding and how it eventually dealt with Tiana’s love for her father and the grief that comes along with it.
For the story, the direction they went with made sense. I did speculate that Tiana would take the offer Dr. Facilier gave her, but where such an offer would go, I wasn’t sure. That said, it does feel like a logical direction for it to go the way it did, and I think it was executed well for the most part.
As for characters, I did enjoy how this story developed Charlotte a bit more. While Charlotte would be a sort of iconic character in the movie, she only had so many scenes. Here, readers get to see more of her and Tiana’s friendship and Charlotte having some development. Naveen also got a little development too. Like him reflecting on possibly going back to Maldonia after receiving an invitation back, and what that would mean for him. Of course, Tiana got quite a bit of development as the protagonist, which includes how she handles Facilier and the restaurant. As well as how she approaches Naveen now that everyone is back to “normal”.
The setting of the story is also pretty neat too. It still takes place in 1920’s New Orleans which is nice. And while holding onto the music, food, and character the movie had while set in this time period, it does have a moment where it seems to address (if only in an implication sense) about the climate at the time in regards to race. While the movie has that scene with Tiana and the investors at Charlotte’s party with how they present her not getting the building she had her sights set on, Almost There has a scene involving Charlotte and Tiana at a clothing store where one of the workers states Tiana isn’t allowed to shop there (Charlotte does try to defend Tiana in this situation to her best ability while Tiana doesn’t want to start a conflict because of it).
As for negatives, while I wouldn’t want to say it feels like it is formulaic, but I suppose the ending could have been a little different. On the one hand, I did like how it was a sort of psyche out. On the other, I kind of saw something a little different (like Facilier “running out of time”). But that’s just me.
One other thing I think they could have done was more scenes with Mama Odie. They do go to see her, but I feel like there could have been more scenes with her. Especially since there was a whole scene with Charlotte being perplexed that everyone but her knew who Mama Odie was. I just felt they could have done more with it.
I would probably give this book a 4.25 out of 5 stars. It’s certainly one of my favorite of the Twisted Tales series and I love how it approached the story. From the characters to how it addressed the plot and setting. I only wish they had done one or two things differently.
The next book in the series is one I heard might be a possibility. That being a Pinocchio set book. The title is When You Wish Upon a Star and is written by Elizabeth Lim, who previously wrote the Mulan Twisted Tale Reflection. When You Wish Upon a Star will focus on the Blue Fairy and asks: What if the Blue Fairy wasn’t Supposed to Help Pinocchio? and is expected to be released on April 4th 2023.