Friday, June 23, 2017

REVIEW: As Old As Time by Liz Braswell (Twisted Tale #3)

As Old As Time
Author: Liz Braswell
Publisher: Disney Press
Genre: YA Fantasy

2/5 stars
PG: for some violence, some disturbing images, and for politics that turn people violently against a specific class of people

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.

The Review:
What sounded great in concept was disappointing in execution. The 'what if' twist of this tale wound up throwing off the entire chemistry of the story, without infusing it with enough chemistry of its own to carry itself.

As Old As Time did not work for four big reasons:

1. At its core, this is not a Beauty and the Beast story -twisted, retelling, or otherwise. This is Beauty and the Enchantress. The ‘what if’ twist of this story puts Belle’s mother as the Enchantress, which is an interesting idea and could be a very good story on its own, but it completely changes the dynamic of what is supposed to be a Beauty and the Beast story. Belle’s entire focus in this version is learning about her mother while the Beast is just ...there. He is ultimately a clue in the mystery of the Enchantress for Belle and serves little other purpose.

2. There is very little chemistry between Belle and the Beast, and what chemistry there is fairly screams ‘besties’, not romantic interest. This is in no way a love story, even though the characters somehow wind up falling in love somewhere along the way. I also felt both of them -and a lot of the other characters- were portrayed uncharacteristically.

3. Braswell tries too hard to fit this into a real world context, rather than letting the Disney version of the story exist in its own world. She did the same thing with Once Upon A Dream, which I had very mixed feelings about there, but it’s much more pronounced here and it really does not work for me. The story necessitates explaining magic plausibly in a historical context long after belief in magic had largely faded; an Enchantress who can go around cursing castles and princes; and why that magic is no longer the norm in Belle's world -all within a very short time frame. If this had been an original story by Braswell I would have liked it more, because I did find the changes she made interesting, but I didn't like them in the context of the existing tale or the time period it resides in.

4. Braswell at once tried to keep almost religiously true to the original while doing something completely different at the same time. What is left is a weird mesh of original content that gives way to conversations and situations pulled directly from the film, duplicated almost word-for-word and then peppered with inexplicable inconsistencies as Braswell tries to fit them into the context of her story.
For example, when Belle feigns interest in the library to slip past Lumiere and Cogsworth to investigate the West Wing: in the movie, they're merrily fooled into thinking she's right behind them; in the book, Cogsworth and Lumiere see right through her deception, but nothing in the situation changes to excuse the inconsistency. The moment is exactly the same as in the movie, but the characters' reactions change regardless.
Maybe I'm being nit-picky, but this happens continually throughout the story. It really bugged me. It feels like Braswell twisted her retelling into knots trying to fit it into the mold of the original, instead of vice versa, and the result is very unnatural and jarring. Much of the story feels forced, most of the character interactions are awkward, and the story takes on the darker flavor of a tragedy that pushes the light-hearted tone of these beloved characters completely off kilter.

In the end, it's one redeeming quality is in creating an interesting character in Rosalind, Belle's mother, but I felt that she too fell victim to the forced nature of the story; again, if this had been an original story -or even a Twisted Tale that took more liberties- I probably would have liked it better.

Unfortunately, I think this will prove to be my last foray into Braswell's Twisted Tales. I've read all three for intriguing twists and -while Once Upon A Dream was the best of the bunch, and a story I still think Braswell did a pretty good job with- the series as a whole has been mostly disappointing so far.

Check out my reviews for the rest of the series!
#2 Once Upon A Dream 

Have you read any of the Twisted Tales?


  1. I'm not familiar w/ the Twisted Tales but yeah this one sounds kinda iffy. I agree that if you're going to try and explain the magic in a real world way then that's probably not going to work with a story as magic- infused as this one. And sounds like she didn't really use Beast here as anything more than a plot device. Sorry this one was disappointing!

    1. Thanks! At least there are a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings out there I can sink my teeth into, but I've had trouble finishing two out of three in this series, and that's not a good track record. :P