{Review/Giveaway} AS OLD AS TIME: A TWISTED TALE by Liz Braswell

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O P E N I N G   H O O K:

As Old as Time: A Twisted Tale (A Twisted Tale, #3)
ONCE UPON A TIME in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle. Although he had everything his heart desired, the Prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. 

But then, one winter's night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single blood-red rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the Prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away — although she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for true beauty is found within. And when he dismissed her again, the old woman's ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress.

The Prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart. As punishment she transformed him into a hideous beast and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there.

"You have until the eve of your twenty-first birthday to become as beautiful on the inside as you were on the outside. If you do not learn to love another — and be loved in return — by the time the last petal of this rose falls, you, your castle, and all within, will be cursed and forgotten forever."

Ashamed of his monstrous form, the Beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. 

As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope — for who could ever learn to love a beast?
(Pages 3-4, Us Hardcover Edition)

 "It was one person," Cogsworth said patiently, "who had to watch as her people were . . . harassed and hunted down. In her own twisted way she was doing what she thought was right to protect them and save what was the rest of the kingdom. And you cannot blame an entire group for the actions of one."


The hook for this story is familiar, and that's one of the things I loved the most about AS OLD AS TIME: A TWISTED TALE. There were so many familiar scenes and ideals from the Beauty and the Beast that I grew up with, but they were expanded upon, given more depth and emotion, shifted into a story that was a little bit more grown up than the animated film, but still accessible to a wide range of readers. It's appropriate for teens, mature philosophy and undertones of a more grown up nature, but at the same time violence, romance and language is completely PG and I could easily see this book being more than appropriate for a fifth or sixth grade reader as well.  When you think about a Disney movie, there's less time to tell a story in visual format, and most of the time intense emotional opportunities are foregone and sort of shifted into a swift montage scene set to cheerful music and an upbeat song.

I liked Liz Braswell's retelling so much because it took us through raw emotion, moments where the Beast was frustrated and ashamed by his form and in his inability to function like the human he once was. The transformed staff of the castle; Cogsoworth, Mrs. Potts, they are the same in character but there is something more to them, moments of somber grief, of fear for their futures. Belle is her brilliant, adventurous, bookish self but she is often confused, doubtful of her own abilities and where she fits into a world. This exploration of familiar characters, this ability to see nooks and crannies of their beings . . . it's a beautiful gift and one I was extremely grateful for, bringing them to life in a way all the colored animation in the world could not.

As soon as you get past the opening hook, the story begins to bubble over with change. It is not just Belle's story that is being told, after all; the question glaring at you from the cover of the book is WHAT IF BELLE'S MOTHER CURSED THE BEAST? Two parallel stories get told, a dip in the past that shows her father Maurice, her mother Rosalind, the life they lead and how it linked to the Beast's story and Belle's current situation. The flashes back in time are perfect, because much of the general storyline in Belle's present is similar to the original and on it's own it might have felt a bit slow, a tad boring. But what Braswell does is give you the fresh storyline of Belle's parents, a different village were the magically gifted "les charmantes" lived in happiness with the "normal" townspeople . . . until they didn't, to balance out the more familiar scenes in the book until the plot begins to run its own course. Not that I didn't enjoy the present chapters, being in Belle's head was a joy and Braswell gave us such a real and human narrative, filled with sarcasm and doubt and hesitation. The dialogue present felt like real conversations it felt like I had walked in on, and that gave the story a breadth of emotion.

Things get good a little less than halfway through the story, when Belle touches the enchanted rose in the West Wing. Past and present storylines collide as she sees a vision of her mother, realizes that her missing maternal influence was the one who had cursed the castle. Everything changes as the rose disintegrates, because Belle has accidentally completed the curse, a fantastically haunting scene occurring where spiderwebs begin to cover the castle. How in the world does a fairytale resolve itself after an upset like that? The answer is they take a different path. Beast and Belle team up, this time with intention on both sides to find answers about her mother and break the curse. There are awkward moments, intensely frustrating moments, but as they begin to form answers the bond that starts to form between the pair feels more real to me than the movie romance ever did.

I won't spoil where the storyline goes from there, but I will say the idea of blame is present throughout the plot. Who deserves blame, who gets to decide why and when and how a perceived villain is punished? Was the Beast the villain for being spoiled and selfish, or was the enchantress in the wrong for punishing an entire castle full of innocent bystanders because she thought the eleven year old Prince needed a fairytale version of a Nanny 911 intervention? Can you blame an entire collection of people for the action of one? And when a society, a collection of peoples begin that domino affect of blaming one side and then the other is there any way to stop it? The fairytale here is as old as time, but so are some of the sadder, darker themes; of judgement, of fear and hatred, of finger pointing and punishing and the realization that all parties have contributed to a sad story. Can the Beast and Belle break the curse, can they find answers and also a confidence in their sense of self? Can they heal a land that has broken into something unrecognizable? If you want answers you'll have to get a copy of AS OLD AS TIME: A TWISTED TALE by Liz Braswell and read for yourself.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The cover lets you know this ain't your momma's fairytale. Though I'll say that the cover itself is a little darker than the way the story within presents itself. You've got familiar images; the beast, the castle, the rose protected by glass, but there's an addition of the village below which plays an important part in the storyline. Overall the cover is eye catching and curiosity inducing.
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Liz Braswell
Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Publisher: Disney Press
Received: Purchased

What if Belle's mother cursed the Beast?

Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father's reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle's mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern.

But Belle touches the Beast's enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making.


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