As those of you who follow my blog may know, I’ve been on a bit of a fairy tale retelling kick as of late, beginning in January with the Ravenspire series by C.J. Redwine, continuing with “Heartless” by Marissa Meyer and now, ending with the Twisted Tale Series by Liz Braswell.
As a child of the 90s, I grew up loving the classic Disney princesses: Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine and Snow White. While browsing the new releases section of Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago, a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” published by Disney caught my eye. The cover sucked me in immediately – “What if Belle’s Mother Cursed the Beast?” I picked the book up, added it to my pile, went home and finished it in one sitting. Just as I was about to write the review for it, I discovered that it was part of an entire series of twisted retellings featuring all of my favorite Disney princesses. This prompted me to do something a little bit different, and I’ve decided to review all three books at once.
“A Whole New World” is the first book in the Twisted Tale series. As you may have guessed by looking at the cover, it is a retelling of Aladdin and Jasmine’s story with one difference – “What if Aladdin had never found the lamp?” To me, this was the most interesting “what if” scenario of the three; before even beginning the book, my mind was racing trying to imagine what would change if Jafar had stolen the lamp from Aladdin in the beginning. The answer is simple: everything. Everything changed when Jafar stole the lamp and left Aladdin to die. With Jafar in control of the Genie, he becomes all powerful from the start, forcing Aladdin and Jasmine to form a rebellion in an effort to win their city back. I loved how their story was told. Braswell didn’t focus heavily on the romance, she chose to highlight Jafar’s insanity instead. With Jafar defying the laws of magic to create an army of the undead, how can Aladdin and Jasmine possibly fight back? Jafar was a fantastically twisted villain and I adored the darkness his madness brought to the tale.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Unfortunately, the second book in the Twisted Tale series was a complete miss for me. “Once Upon A Dream” was the first book in a long long while that I was unable to finish. I got to page 245 out of 440 and just couldn’t do it anymore. Although the premise of the novel was interesting —”What if Sleeping Beauty never woke up?”— I don’t feel that it was executed well. Aurora was extremely difficult to connect with and to me just seemed incredibly self absorbed and vapid. She constantly mentioned the effect her looks had on people, and while I understand that she is Sleeping Beauty, it got frustrating after 150 pages or so. The book also lacked action, and although there were a few fast-paced scenes, they were immediately followed by chapters upon chapters of Aurora crying and whining about how hard and confusing her life was. The only thing that kept me reading was Prince Philip, as he was constantly optimistic, upbeat and utterly charming.
My Rating: 2/5 Stars – Did Not Finish
“As Old As Time” was hands down, without a doubt the best book in the series. Now, I’ll admit, Belle has always been my favorite Disney princess (I mean come on, she’s an avid reader, she loves France, she’s a little bit of an outsider, it’s kind of obvious why I love her). However, my love of Belle is not the only reason that this book is my favorite Twisted Tale thus far. In this tale, Braswell asks, “What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast?” Now, right off the bat, this may not seem like such a huge change. Belle’s mother was never around so what does it matter if she happened to be the enchantress the Beast turned away when he was a young, selfish Prince? Once you get into the book, you realize that it makes a huge difference. Belle doesn’t remember her mother because she and the rest of the kingdom were spelled to forget she ever existed. “As Old As Time” features flashbacks into Maurice’s past, showing how he met Belle’s mother, how they fell in love and decided to get married, and what lead to the death of the Prince’s parents and his subsequent cursing. It also tells a more believable version of the love story between Beauty and the Beast. I couldn’t get enough of their courtship, and it felt more genuine to me than it did in the movie. As an added bonus, the villain of “As Old As Time” isn’t who you’d expect it to be. I’ll admit, the ending came as a bit of a shock to me.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
My Takeaway: While I enjoyed Liz Braswell’s Aladdin retelling, and loved her Beauty and the Beast retelling, the tale of Sleeping Beauty fell short of my expectations and I was unable to finish it. Given my fondness for Braswell’s writing style, and the other two books in the series, I may give “Once Upon A Dream” another chance in the future. For now, my rating of the series averages out to about 3.5 — I highly recommend the first and third books, but suggest maybe skipping the second.