Liz Braswell's Twisted Tales
Updated: Dec 20, 2021
My absolute favorite books to read are those that are twists on fairytales (or classics like Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland). I cannot get enough of them. Perhaps that is why I chose to write in the same category. I have mentioned some of my favorites before Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles, Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories and even Liz Braswell's As Old As Time included in the mix.
Today, I thought I would elaborate on Liz Braswell's books having just read another of her Twisted Tales. Liz Braswell (along with two other authors) writes twisted fairytale books, usually with a name that is a play on a song from the Disney movie (As Old As Time, Go The Distance, Once Upon a Dream, etc.) and twists the stories with one general "what if" line such as "what if Wendy first traveled to Neverland with Captain Hook?"
The first thing that is really noticeable with her books is that they are incredibly Disney. By that I simply mean, they don't seem to have to deal with any copyright issues. "Disney" is printed on the front and I do think she has some kind of publishing deal with Disney somehow (I don't know how that works: if Disney has a publishing company or is partnered with her publishing company). In the books I have read, she has used names, places, and events specifically from the Disney movies (as opposed to the original stories) as well as lines from the songs and movies. It gives it a certain magical feel and appeals to Disney fans but it certainly is something only she (or, I suppose, anyone else with the same kind of contract) would be able to do. I do find it really interesting how she is able to take a Disney plot, twist something, and then tell a very similar story but with new elements, more developed characters, and a writing style that both stays true to the original (cartoon) movie and, at the same time, is darker and appeals to a wider audience.
This doesn't mean I like everything about all the books of her's that I have read, however. And I will further elaborate on what I have and haven't enjoyed about the three books I have read below:
As Old As Time:
This book caught my eye for reasons that will go unmentioned at this time. I had never read Liz Braswell's books before but I enjoyed most fairytale twists that I read and it seemed to be good quality, published by a good company and had an exciting blurb so I bought it (full price as well, though with a Barnes and Noble gift card if I remember correctly). I really enjoyed it. If I were to describe it in one sentence it is the book that the cartoon movie of Belle was adapted from. Of course, the book came after the movie and it is not the book the movie was adapted from but if you think of how most book-movie adaptions lose the best parts of the book, you realize that this sentence captures the gist of this book. The book is slightly more elaborate than the movie, slightly more exciting, and slightly darker. It is aimed at an older audience (and achieves that aim). But when you boil it all down, the book still tells the same story in a very similar style to the movie (I feel). This, I think, is actually Braswell's strength. I love this book. I will re-read it at some point before I move on to writing Belle's story but I am aware that it will be a more challenging read because I will need to take notes. Her book inspires me, challenges me to push deeper, and also makes me realize when my book plotline is too similar to the Disney one. 10/10 would recommend to lovers of Disney, fairytale twist fans, and Beauty and the Beast enthusiasts.
Once Upon a Dream:
I think I got this book for free but chose it because it was another one of Liz Braswell's "Twisted Tales." I enjoyed the first one so much that I guess I thought this one would be just as good (though I admittedly do not enjoy the original story of Sleeping Beauty nearly as much as that of Beauty and the Beast). I have begun this book three times. I have never finished it. It still sits on my shelf dedicated to books I have started but not finished (a shelf within the section of shelves dedicated to unread books). While I think the original story could be part of the problem (Braswell's strength of sticking to the original plot and writing style becomes her downfall here) I also think she chose a "what if" that didn't really work for her. I don't recall much of what happened in the book (only that it was boring enough for me to not want to trudge through it any longer) but I do think the fact that sleeping beauty is asleep the entire time (but, I think, still the main character of the story) probably doesn't help her case. The book doesn't make me discount all of Braswell's books. In fact, I still would like to try a number of them out, but it does make me realize that she is not a perfect writer and that not all of her books are 10/10 amazing.
I finished this book about 20 minutes ago. I spent about 4 days reading the 504 pages in the book. That should tell you something: it was good enough for me to want to read it pretty quick (though currently, I have little else to do so if it had been just a tad better, I might have read it in 2 or 3 days).
The most impressive thing about the book was the writing style. As I said, I have found Braswell's writing style to match the original story that she is twisting which was even more true with Unbirthday. The style in which she wrote was wonderfully and brilliantly like Carroll's and it was impressive to read a YA chapter book written in the style of Carroll but telling a new perspective to the story (granted, more of a later perspective rather than twisting the original story).
While the story itself was interesting (Alice trying to save Wonderland from a crazed Queen of Hearts and England from a terrible politician at the same time) I did feel that there were a few issues with it. The first being that it was unnecessarily long. Braswell kept flipping between England and Wonderland and while, in some ways, both stories were interesting, the flip-flopping didn't quite make sense to me. On top of that, if the two stories were so important to include, there was a whole lot more that could have been excluded. For instance: some of the strange scenes in Wonderland that didn't really seem to contribute to the story as a whole. While each scene in England seemed to be there for a particular reason and necessary for the story to move along, there were a lot of confusing scenes in Wonderland where it seemed the only point was to have Alice be in Wonderland a little longer to have her working towards some goal a little longer though the reader didn't quite know what that goal was. There was a lot of internal dialogue that was happening that seemed to be a large portion of the reason she was there but the dialogue seemed to go nowhere and seemed to not really help her out and she didn't really seem to solve everything from the internal dialogue in the end, but rather pull the solution from what the other characters had been saying to her all along.
It was as if, in trying to write like Carroll, the author also put in too much Nonsense that she no longer had any idea how to sort out. So she just left it to sit in there, leaving the book feeling unedited like a first draft manuscript in many places (a very good first draft manuscript that was very fun to read but a first draft never the less). In fact, in one place, there was even a duplicated paragraph for no apparent reason.
That being said, it was still a good book and as a (HUGE) fan of Alice in Wonderland (my 18th birthday was a Wonderland tea party), I would recommend it to fairytale twist lovers, Wonderland-ians, and anyone who needs to replenish their Nonsense tank.