Given my love of reading, it always felt like I should like Belle and Beauty and the Beast much more than I did. Maybe it was timing, since I saw it when I had started transitioning to life action mostly and didn’t want to watch kids’ stuff. Maybe it’s simply that I hated the color yellow at that age. Either way, it’s never been one of my favorite Disney stories or even fairy tales.
However! I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this one even more than Stepsister. It starts by following the same plot points of the Beauty and the Beast tale – missing mother, inventor father, bookish Belle that does not want to marry Gaston, and as in other versions, Belle ends up the Beast’s prisoner to save her father. However, interspersed with all this are the flashback chapters set more than two decades before, in a kingdom in which magical creatures live with humans. Not all is good in this kingdom, though, as violence against the magical creatures is rising, the result of growing fears and intolerance (very much like Wicked – the musical since I prefer to pretend the novel doesn’t exist). In this charged environment, a young woman/enchantress, Rosalind, and a young man, Maurice, fall in love even as they are scared and disillusioned at the way the world around them is changing.
It doesn’t take too long for Belle and the Beast to realize that the enchantress who cursed him is also her mother, a figure of whom Belle has only vague memories. And yet, as the novel progresses, she begins to think there is more there that she should remember. As Belle and the Beast try to figure out how to break his curse (because she certainly isn’t planning on falling in love with him), the novel also explores how the home Belle grew up in is so very lacking in magic, and what could have possibly driven her mother to curse a child the way she did. And then disappear.
I quite enjoyed this one – I haven’t checked out any of the other novels that have the “A Twisted Tale” label, but will definitely consider checking them out in the future, especially since at least two of them are written by the same author. They are twists on the Disney versions of the fairy tales rather than the Grimm or original versions which seems oddly ironic written out – Disney sanitized and took some of the darkness from older fairy tales and is now publishing novels with dark twists on their versions …