As Old As Time by Liz Braswell
Published September 2016
Genre(s): YA, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
“Life is a strange mixture of all of these genres, she mused, and it doesn’t have nearly as neat and happy an ending as you often get in books.”
Summary (from Goodreads)
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 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.
I never thought I’d rate a Beauty and the Beast retelling below 3 stars. But to tell the truth, I should have seen this coming after recently reading Once Upon a Dream by the same author. I think I really dislike Braswell’s writing. Her characters fall a bit flat and her use of capitalization is annoying.
Belle has, by far, always been my favorite princess. As such, Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite fairytales.
This one, however… was kinda bad…
There were three things that made me really dislike this. I won’t go into details to avoid spoiling anything.
- Maurice and Rosalind’s entire story.
This story is told using dual timelines.
- Belle’s perspective “current” day
- Maurice and Rosalind when they met up continued until shortly after Belle is born
I don’t mind dual timelines. I thought being able to see the Enchantress’s side of the story would be interesting and new, and being able to have Maurice’s perspective on everything could be really neat.
But it was so, so boring. I couldn’t get into the story at all. There was a lot of switching between the two timelines, and I barely had an interest in hald of it. Also Maurice is far from the lovable, if not a tad bit crazy, Maurice that we see in the Disney film.
And let’s not even get into Rosalind’s behavior. I mean, was the goal to make us hate the enchantress AKA BELLE’S MOTHER? Because it worked.
I’m all for conceited villains, especially Disney-style. I’ve never particularly liked Gaston, but in the recent live action Beauty and the Beast film, he had a backstory and a purpose and reasons for his actions. I was hoping for something similar.
“Well, his books are dangerous!” Gaston persisted. “They turned you into what you are – a foolish girl who doesn’t want to marry me! Me, Gaston! Every girl in the village wants to marry me! And, also, they’re a fire hazard…”
The author took Gaston and made him literally the worst character I have read in a long time. He gets nothing. Barely any “screen time” outside of when he’s acting like an idiotic jerk near the beginning, which already makes him look extremely childish and stupid. And then he comes back near the end and, again, I can’t say for spoilers, but if I ever had a “I want to throw this book across the room” moment, this was it, hands down.
- The later part of the story that, well…didn’t really belong in the story
It involves an asylum, weird happenings, and is this even a Beauty and the Beast retelling at this point? No? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
A few things I did enjoy about this story:
- The chapter names
- It touches on Stockholm syndrome and other problematic themes present in the Disney Beauty and the Beast story
- This is a darker fairy tale, so mistreatment, asylums, and deaths are all going on, and it pushes the story forward and answers a lot of questions we might have had about Belle’s and the beast’s past.
- As far as events and Belle’s thoughts/actions go, it’s much more on the realistic side as opposed to the “perfect female role model” Disney’s Belle tries to be. However, that does mean a lot of the kindness Belle is known for is no longer present. But it makes Belle more relatable. It also makes Belle really annoying and rude sometimes…which is probably not a good thing.
- The ending was actually better than I thought it would be.
This book greatly differs from the Disney tale we’re used to, but even so, it’s very much on the predictable side, as well as more on the boring, drawn out side. There are a few cute and lovable moments, our original cast of characters all show up, and Belle’s less than perfect responses to her situation was a very welcomed change. It’s possible those who have enjoyed the other Twisted Tale books might enjoy this one, but I would suggest going for another novel if you’re looking for an enjoyable Beauty and the Beast retelling.