3 out of 5 Stars
After seeing the new Beauty and the Beast movie, I went off on a bit of a fairy tale kick. I discovered this book on one of our many book store explorations and had to pick it up.
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.
Okay, okay… I will admit that I’m a bit of a fairy tale snob, so my review might be a little bit harsh. I love fairy tale re-tellings and Beauty and the Beast is one of my all time favorites, making me a tough critic. This book had a rough start for me. The first section follows EXACTLY along with the Disney classic, sometimes quoting the movie word for word, which I found rather annoying. The beginning was slightly redeemed by the fact that the boring parts were interspersed with flashbacks to Belle’s mother, giving insight into a kingdom wrought with harsh prejudices and plague.
After slogging through the beginning section, the book definitely picked up. Instead of falling in love with Beast to break the curse, as in the original version, Belle accidentally triggers the fulfillment of the curse, trapping the Beast and all of his servants in the castle. This forces the Beast and Belle to work together to find other solutions. By researching the history of a forgotten kingdom, they must unravel the mystery before the darkness in the castle consumes them.
There was some great interplay in this story between the characters, especially noticeable in the friendship between Beast and Belle, touching on the fact that both have dealt with loneliness, cut off from normal society by magic and eccentricity. The novel paints a lot of the characters in shades of grey, giving many familiar faces a slightly darker side while partially redeeming the usual villains.
Overall, the story was very smooth and easy to follow, making this a super quick read. The descriptions were excellent, creating a world that was both magical and relatable, while also being kind of creepy. The scenery is gloomier, filled with nastier creatures and hidden enchantments that give insights into the history of the curse while also sending a shiver down the reader’s spine.
Although this book begins with the typical Disney elements, it is not for children. The novel touches on several mature topics including hate crimes, torture, and the stigma against mental illness. Before the curse, the kingdom was separated by prejudices between magic and non-magic people, rising tensions and sparking violence around the city. Braswell did an excellent job building a world that was wonderful and beautiful, then tearing it apart with hate and death, a scenario that felt very terrible and all too real. It lives up to the title “A Twisted Tale.”
Overall I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It took me a while to get into the story, but once it got going, it was a very enjoyable book. If you’re looking for a slightly darker retelling of your classic fairy tales, give this one a shot!