Wednesday, October 5, 2016

As Old as Time - Liz Braswell

Title: As Old as Time
Author: Liz Braswell
Publisher: Disney Press, 2016 (Hardcover)
Length: 484 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Started: October 3, 2016
Finished: October 4, 2016

From the inside cover:

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 when Belle touches the Beast's enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind-images of the mother she believed 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.

I'm a huge Beauty and the Beast fan, I will read anything relating to it: classic fairy tale, Disney version, modern retelling, fan fiction, you name it. So of course, I had to read this one, especially since it is a reimagining of the Disney version, and quite a bit darker too.

This version establishes that there are magical beings in the world that are referred to as les charmantes, and though before they managed to coexist with regular humans, now tensions are beginning to appear. The story begins with Maurice meeting Belle's mother, Rosalind, one of the les charmantes; an enchantress able to change her appearance at will. As Maurice and Rosalind marry and eventually have Belle, their friends become the target of violence against the les charmantes that is encouraged by the king and queen, and their population begins to dwindle. In addition, a vast-spreading sickness breaks out all over the kingdom, which further incites violence against the les charmantes. In frustration to save her people, Rosalind curses the young, now orphaned prince of the kingdom, and suddenly disappears shortly afterwards. To protect Maurice and Belle, Rosalind arranged a spell that, if something were to happen to her, would make regular humans forget all details of the les charmantes, so Belle has no memory of her mother. The details of the Disney movie remain the same until Belle discovers the Beast's rose in the West Wing, then deviate when in this story Belle actually does touch the rose (flooding her mind with images of her mother cursing the Beast) and it disintegrates, exacting the curse immediately. Belle and the Beast then work together to try to uncover who Belle's mother actually is, and if there is a way for the curse to be lifted.

Okay first off, the plot line with magical humans living in seventeenth-century France is unrealistic, but then I remember the whole fairy tale is an exercise in suspension of disbelief, so upon reexamination it is a clever way to explain the enchantress from the original. I feel like Belle is a bit too weepy in this version and altogether not as strong of a character as she was in the film. The Beast comes around a little too quickly (granted they are under a slight bit of pressure to figure things out before the castle becomes engulfed in spider webs and traps them all), but I did appreciate the character development for Mrs. Potts (and the addition of her husband as a character). The romance between Belle and the Beast goes from comrades helping each other to affectionate kisses rather quickly, and the build-up scenes from the film that really establish their relationship aren't really present here, but instead of a substitution there isn't much build-up at all. The story becomes a bit dark towards the end involving the asylum, but not in any off-putting way. The ending is a bit contrived and lacks closure as well, which was disappointing.

If you're a fan, this deserves a read, but borrow it from the library. Sadly, there are better adaptations out there.

Thoughts on the cover:
An imposing image with a nice colour scheme, but nothing really amazing.

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