As Old as Time: A Twisted Tale by Liz Braswell is one of the most unexpected fairy tale retellings I’ve seen in a long time. I wasn’t sure if it would be written for someone much younger, but I was mistaken. This was the perfect read for someone like me: I love Beauty and the Beast and have always wished that the Disney movie went further. I wanted more lore, more magic, and more of Belle being a strong and driven character. This novel gave me all of that and so much more.
First thing I’ll touch on is character. In this novel, we see Belle grow beyond her Disney movie portrayal and become a true hero in the Disney sense of the word. To me, this means that Belle didn’t require any saving and instead saved not only herself but the people around her. The character of Belle’s mother, Rosalind, was a complex character that was easy to fall in love with. Even Maurice had a more filled-out character that added more to the story. The only character I felt myself not liking was the Beast. But here’s the thing: his character makes more sense in this book. If you had been cursed at the age of 11, without parents, and now without human adults around at all, wouldn’t you still act like that spoiled 11-year-old? Just because I don’t like spoiled 11-year-old characters doesn’t mean this wasn’t well thought through and well done.
Next in my mind would be plot. The plot of this book is amazing, throwing twists and turns in at every opportunity. There were a couple of points that I found predictable, but the unexpected nature of the plot made me question if those events would happen as predicted. The plot started off mysterious, became the familiar plot of the Disney movie, and then swerved off into the boonies on an amazing adventure before coming back onto itself and tying everything together. I can’t stand unanswered questions; but I found myself question-less at the end of this story.
The final big point I want to touch on is fairy tale retellings as a genre. I took a couple courses on fairy tales and children’s literature during my undergrad and fell in love with both the content of fairy tales and their unique ability to be molded into anything. I have an urge to write one or two, but I have an even stronger want to read them. Some of the ones I’ve read have been okay, and some have been amazing. I believe that this is because fairy tales become stronger and more meaningful when they are twisted and morphed before being compared to their originals. I believe that the comparison is a vital step. Beauty and the Beast was a strange and creepy tale in all its original forms. When Disney made it into an animated film, it swung too far to the other end of the pendulum for my liking. Though it is a favourite of mine, it lost a good amount of its interesting bits to the “princess movie” aesthetic (though admittedly not as much as many other Disney retellings). As Old as Time is a true retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
On this note, I’ll tell you why I gave this novel the rating of 4 out of 5 stars. I found no objections to the plot, characters, and dialogue in the novel and in fact found them well-built and interesting. I only recall one grammar mistake in the entire novel. As Old as Time would be a great read for anyone aged 14 and older who craves “adventure in the great, wide somewhere” and, just like Belle, uses books as their portal to get to that somewhere.
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