Yep, it’s another Twisted Tales book, so far one of my favourite ever series. I really hope these books keep coming, because I will definitely keep reading. And the next cover has just been revealed – Unbirthday, an Alice in Wonderland tale. So far my favourite is Reflection, but I think this takes the second top spot. Which I’m pretty sure is what I said about Straight on ‘Till Morning too, but Elizabeth Lim is such a fantastic writer, it’s hard not to fall in love with her books.
The thing is, Lim is excellent at writing couples. It’s easy to feel like characters are in love in one of her books, even while other forces keep them apart.
In So This is Love, Cinderella is not able to try on the glass slipper, and the duke rides away from her home without even knowing she’s there. Unable to remain with her step-mother, Cinderella flees, and ends up working in – of all places – the castle.
But meeting the prince isn’t as easy as it seems, and Cinderella soon decides to try and make a life for herself with her new job and new friends. But she’s still determined to help her fairy godmother, and in doing so she unravels a conspiracy that threatens everything.
When this series works well, it’s clear the author knows these characters inside and out. After all, they’re taking the core elements of whatever character it is, and putting them in a new situation. And these are characters many people love, which means the expectations are high. Lim did brilliantly with Mulan in Reflection, and So This Is Love is another example of how well she knows and how much she loves Disney.
Cinderella feels very much like the character we know from the original story, but like in many of these tales she has that little bit more agency. As optimistic as she tries to remain, she knows deep down she is unhappy, though she never lets this leave a mark, continuing to do her job as best she can, even when it seems like everything is against her.
As for the scenes which do take place between Cinderella and the prince, Lim really keeps the reader on edge. For every warm, happy feeling a scene gives, the rug is soon yanked out as the reader realises it cannot all go as hoped. And the characters are fantastic – completely and utterly engaging, meaning it is easier to connect to the characters and feel what we’re supposed to.
I could really go on and on and on about what a good writer Elizabeth Lim is, but seriously, if you haven’t already, do check out Reflection and/or So This Is Love, and while you’re at, pick up Spin the Dawn too because they are all awesome.
So This Is Love is another fantastic addition to the Twisted Tales series, by a brilliant writer, once more keeping the core of the characters while putting them in a new and interesting situation. Definitely one for Disney fans to check out!
As soon as I finished Sarah Pinborough’s Poison, I knew I needed the next two books in the series in my life as soon as possible. I am a complete sucker for fairy tale retellings, and although the first book wasn’t amazing enough to blow my mind (I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads), it got me invested in this world enough I wanted more.
Charm is a retelling of Cinderella, and in it we find the usual trappings of the familiar tale; there’s Cinders nasty step-mother and her two ugly (though more plain here) stepsisters, a handsome prince, Buttons the servant, and a mouse. As with Poison though, the beauty lies in the finer details and how, exactly, Pinborough twists the tale.
In this, Cinderella isn’t just a sweet, downtrodden girl. Her father is alive, and her stepmother isn’t necessarily abusive towards Cinders, but more neglectful, focusing on her daughters and trying to enable them to have the sort of life she gave up. One of the sisters is already married by the time the story starts, to an Earl, and through them the stepmother and remaining sister get invitations to the balls held at the castle.
This book is a continuation of the first one, so spoilers following for Poison.
In the Snow White retelling, Snow married the prince, but between the wedding and their happily ever after, he used the piece of apple – ground up into her drink – to poison her again, and make her the beautiful, silent wife he had originally wished for.
Many of the elements laid out in Poison are returned to here. The mouse has a familiar-to-readers scar, which gives some very er, entertaining if creepy moments when Cinderella interacts with the mouse. We see the return of the queen, and discover Cinderella’s beloved prince is hiding a dark secret of some sort.
I really like the way Pinborough plays with the characters, how the women involved have more agency, and the focus really is more on them than the prince sweeping in to save the day. We see an actual relationship between Cinderella and her sister, we delve more into her stepmother’s past, and we get a more solid understanding behind the motivations of the characters.
‘Evil’ characters become more sympathetic, and ‘good’ characters are shown to have shades of grey, instead of existing purely as wonderful beacons of light. Cinderella herself is a selfish child, so desperate to leave her family she ignores what is right in front of her.
As with Poison, Pinborough presents the original fairy tale with intriguing twists and added elements, creating a whole new fantasy world with effective worldbuilding and morally grey characters, rather than the pure good vs evil we’re used to in these stories. It makes for an intriguing, entertaining read, and I can’t wait to get started on Beauty, the final book of the series.
Welcome to day three of my Disney blog themed posts, during which I will be in both Disneyland AND Walt Disney Studios. Exciting times. I am also now officially thirty, which is odd cause in my head I’m still somewhere in my early 20s. Today I’m going to talk about one of my favourite book series, and don’t forget you can enter my Twitter giveaway to win any Disney themed book of your choice – details at the end!
Twisted Tales are a series of books, written by three different authors. Each book tackles a Disney film, inserting a twist into the story we know and love – A Whole New World asks ‘What if Aladdin never found the lamp?’ Reflection – ‘What if Mulan had to travel to the underworld?’ Mirror, Mirror – ‘What if the Evil Queen poisoned the prince?’ etc. There are currently seven books in the series, with two more coming out soon.
This is probably my current favourite book series, and it’s introduced me to three fantastic authors. Each book is skillfully written and thought out, with the characters we love, yet giving them just enough changes to make the story feel fresh and exciting. And so far, the choices for stories has been really good, with a focus mainly on the princesses, but exploring a couple of others as well.
The only released one I haven’t yet read (at the time of writing) is Conceal, Don’t Feel/Let It Go (it seems to have a different title everywhere I look), which is focused on Frozen. I’ve been saving it for my Disney trip, so perhaps by the time you read this, I might have read it. Either way, look out for my review!
The three authors are Liz Braswell, Elizabeth Lim, and Jen Calonita. Each have their own distinctive writing style, yet still feel like they match the stories really well. And it’s clear from the writing and characters how much love they have for these tales – Elizabeth Lim recently released Spin the Dawn (my review is here), a Mulan retelling, which is definitely worth checking out. Not to mention Reflection is currently my favourite of this series.
But this is the kind of series where everyone has their own favourite,. There are three of us in work who get every book, as soon as it comes out, and we each prefer different ones. Overall, the series has proved imaginative, with interesting stories about the characters and adding further depths to these worlds.
In some, the book is set in the middle of the film, either changing the outcome of the rest of the story – as in A Whole New World – or giving more weight to middle-scenes, the book taking place in a contained moment which feels like it could fit easily into the classic animated film, such as Reflection. In others, the twist comes right at the very end of the film, giving us a chance to see what happens to the heroes if they don’t actually win, as in Part of Your World, which explores what happens to the kingdoms under and above the sea, if Ursula actually won.
If you are a Disney fan, I cannot recommend this series highly enough. With talented authors telling fantastic stories, this series really does add a lot to classic animated films, and I can’t wait to see what comes out next, after Elizabeth Lim tackle’s Cinderella and Liz Braswell takes on Peter Pan.
The Series, In Order
A Whole New World – Liz Braswell – What if Aladdin never found the lamp?
Once Upon a Dream – Liz Braswell – What if the sleeping beauty never woke up?
As Old as Time – Liz Braswell – What if Belle’s mother cursed the beast?
Reflection – Elizabeth Lim – What if Mulan had to travel to the underworld?
Part of Your World – Liz Braswell – What if Ariel had never defeated Ursula?
Mirror, Mirror – Jen Calonita – What if the Evil Queen poisoned the prince?
Conceal, Don’t Feel/Let It Go – Jen Calonita – What if Anna and Elsa never knew each other?
So This Is Love? – Elizabeth Lim – What if Cinderella never tried on the glass slipper?
Straight on Till Morning – Liz Braswell – What if Wendy first travelled to Neverland with Captain Hook?
I am currently hosting a Disney book themed giveaway on Twitter. Just follow that link, make sure you’re following me on there, and retweet. You could, if you so wanted, pick any of the fantastic Twisted Tales books, or Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn. Good luck!
Anyone who has spent any time following me on Twitter probably knows by now that I love Disney. Disney films bring a lot of comfort to me, I was lucky enough to spend my fifth birthday in Walt Disney World, and I’ll be spending my 30th at Disneyland Paris, because I am, indeed, a very lucky woman. And, let’s face it, Disney villains are freaking awesome, otherwise we wouldn’t have had a whole spin off dedicated to Maleficent.
But how to sort them into a top 5? It feels like there are so many different directions this could go. Top most stylish? Top 5 best songs? Top deserve-their-own-live-action-film?
I’ve pondered this, and I’ve come to a conclusion.
This list will be my top 5 most frightening villains – from an adult’s perspective. The darkest villains. Sure, Maleficent can turn into a dragon, and the Evil Queen is terrifying when she transforms into an old hag, but have you ever stopped to think about the villains who are actually abusive? Or sing about, well, rape?
Top 5 Terrifying Disney Villains
Lotso, the pink cuddly bear from Toy Story 3, is evil. He twists the minds of those around him, convinces them they’re unwanted, unloved, and only he can give their lives purpose. And he tries to destroy anyone who tries to escape, or who doesn’t fall in line. Lotso is a cult leader; one intent on clinging to power, anyway he can.
2. Lady Tremaine
Ahh, Lady Tremaine, the widow with two daughters who remarries and then, after the death of her second husband, enforces a strict life of servitude on Cinderella. I’ve seen the argument that Tremaine is a grieving widow, but plenty of people grieve without inflicting child abuse on those under their care. And that’s not to mention the way she treats her daughters – yep, they don’t get out lightly either. She forces them to dress a certain way, to act a certain way, all with the aim of finding a rich husband. She uses her daughters, step- and bio, just to try and better her own life, rather than ensuring her daughters are able to live full, happy lives. She’s selfish and abusive, and if Cinderella was set now, social workers would be knocking down their door before the Fairy Godmother could say bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.
3. Judge Claude Frollo
Frollo is a villain who, as I get older, gets worse and worse. There’s so much more to him than I thought as a kid, because quite frankly, so much of his character went straight over my head. For starters, he’s a religious fanatic – he doesn’t follow Christ’s teachings, but uses God and Christianity as a shield for his own actions, positioning himself as a champion of good and using religion as an excuse to enact his own evil, cruel policies. He threatens people. He’s the reason Quasimodo’s mother dies in the first place, as he chases her down and onto the steps of the cathedral (though seriously, where was the archdeacon when she was banging on the doors asking to be let in?) and he almost DROWNS A DAMN BABY. He convinces Quasimodo he cares for him, keeps him locked up and warns him against going outside. Like Mother Gothel, Frollo’s power over our hero is only there because the hero loves them back, because Quasimodo and Rapunzel love the people who claim to be their parents. And on top of that, HE FULL ON WANTS TO RAPE ESMERALDA. Hellfire is one of the most underrated, terrifying Disney songs, where Frollo basically states that if he cannot have her, no one can. Manipulative and abusive, Frollo feels sometimes way too realistic, with the kind of attitude, belief and power that combined, make him a very dangerous man indeed.
Seriously, this guy. He targets the sisters, and only goes for Anna because he can instantly see how vulnerable she is, how easy it would be to win her over. He manipulates her, and right at the crucial moment, breaks her poor heart (and probably half the audience’s, too!). And yes, there are fantastic parallels between Hans in Frozen and Littlefinger in Game of Thrones, and not just because THAT moment feels so eerily similar. But Hans is the kind of guy who lures you with his looks, who acts like a nice guy while he’s drip feeding abuse into your ear. Let’s face it, if he and Anna HAD married, it wouldn’t take long before her self-esteem was at all time low and she had no one to turn to but him. He’s more than willing to kill Elsa, not because he thinks she poses a threat, but simply because he wants the kingdom all for himself. What an arsehole.
Okay, here me out.
Zira is the antagonist for the sequel to Lion King, aka the big bad of Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. She’s a devoted follower of Scar, and as such, sets up her son, Kovu, raising him with the goal of Kovu killing Simba, then taking the pride for himself. Though of course he’d be little more than a puppet king, with Zira as the main power. Zira makes the list because not only is she hellbent on revenge, she is more than willing to use her children to achieve her goal. In some respects, she does care for them – she is honestly upset when one dies – but like Lady Tremaine, there are elements of abuse in the way she treats them, and she is happy to manipulate them in order to achieve her goals. Again, she doesn’t want to see Kovu as alpha male so he can have a better life, she wants it so she can have the power.
And ‘My Lullaby’ is an absolutely awesome song, and a brilliant follow up to Scar’s ‘Be Prepared’.
So there we have it, 5 Disney villains. What are your thoughts? Are there any particular Disney villains you love to hate, or ones you think are downright evil?