Reflection: A Twisted Tale by Elizabeth Lim – GENRE: YA
(stick around until the end for an exclusive author interview with Elizabeth Lim)
I was so happy to get REFLECTION: A TWISTED TALE in the mail (courtesy of Disney Hyperion), because Mulan is my all-time favorite Disney movie!
I had never read any of the Twisted Tale books before this, so at first I thought, “Hmm, we’re going to the Underworld? Are Hades and Megara going to show up?” NO. This is not a combination of Mulan and Hercules (thank goodness!)…that would be a pretty strange mixture of Disney movies.
The book centers around Mulan having to rescue Shang from the Underworld – called Diyu - after he was wounded in battle. I love the beginning of the story, because it starts where Mulan and the warriors are fighting the Huns on the side of the snowy mountain. The action plays out exactly like the movie, with some added dialogue, until we find out that it is Shang who is struck by Shan-Yu (the Hun). That was a great twist for me, and I really enjoyed the suspense of the first few chapters.
By this point, General Li has already died, and he comes back as a ghost to ask Mulan (Ping) to go down to Diyu to rescue Shang. General Li assigns Mulan his family guardian, a stone lion called ShiShi, to accompany her to Diyu. I must admit I was a little sad that Mushu wasn’t going with Mulan. Throughout my reading of REFLECTION, I kept waiting for Mushu to pop up somewhere and join her; alas, he never did. I did feel that the story needed a bit more comedic relief to intermediate between Mulan’s internal struggles, the gloominess of Diyu, and ShiShi’s sarcasm, and I think Mushu could have provided that. ShiShi is a great character, though, and the whole time I was reading REFLECTION, I kept imagining his voice as a combination of Alan Rickman and Liam Neeson.
An aspect of REFLECTION I loved was the fact that we get to meet some of Mulan’s ancestors. Even though one of them performs less than admirably (no spoilers here), they are hilarious characters. At this point, Mulan has found Shang and he is traveling with her to reach the 100th level (the escape to the mortal world). I enjoyed Shang’s reactions as he interacted with Mulan’s ancestors, even when he becomes suspicious of Mulan as the ancestors reveal that they didn’t know Fa Zhou had a son.
Mulan and Shang must avoid being tricked by Meng Po, a demigoddess who is trying to send Shang on to the mortal world in a new soul, making him forget all memories of his previous life. She sends demons and disguises herself in order to try and capture them. While I enjoyed learning about Meng Po and her interesting character, I found the parts where she tried to trick Mulan (especially the fox scene) predictable, as well as ShiShi’s “death” scene. (I am very glad ShiShi did come back, though).
My favorite part in the book was when Mulan decided to reveal herself to Shang as not being Ping. Reading her thoughts leading up to and after that scene was so intriguing, as well as being beautifully written.
Shang, Mulan, and ShiShi face many perils along the way, and each action scene was unique and interesting. The Chamber of Mirrors was my favorite action scene, where Mulan grapples with understanding who she truly is by having to choose her real self from among her many reflections (a great nod to the moment in the movie where she sees herself in the many mirrors).
REFLECTION focuses on the importance of being yourself, despite the consequences that could stem from it. All in all, I loved the book. Hardcore Disney fans will find some lines from the movie used throughout the story, and the characters of Mulan and Shang perfectly captured by author Elizabeth Lim. While some parts were predictable, they were still entertaining and captured the spirit of Mulan. I couldn’t help humming the theme music from the movie while I was reading REFLECTION; this is a book I will re-read when I’m in the mood for more Disney, and I highly recommend it to anyone searching for a continuation of a timeless Disney classic.
I give REFLECTION 4.5 stars out of 5.
Author Interview with Elizabeth Lim
1. How did you get the idea for SPIN THE DAWN, your upcoming novel?
EL: While brainstorming with ideas for the book that would eventually become SPIN THE DAWN, I knew I wanted to write a fantasy inspired by some of the lesser-known fairy tales my parents used to tell me when I was a kid, such as the Chinese folktale "The Weaver and the Cowherd" and the French tale "Donkeyskin." Family is a huge theme in the book, and my main character Maia is somewhat of an homage to my grandmother, who worked as a seamstress when she was first moved to America.
2. What made you want to start writing?
EL: I started out writing fanfiction for Sailor Moon and Star Wars when I was in middle school, and attempted my first original novel in high school...which probably contains every writerly mistake one can make! I didn't know at the time that I'd become an author, but I loved the craft of putting a story down on paper, of editing and tightening and polishing, and I guess that love stayed with me until I was an adult ready to tackle another novel, and one brave enough to seek publication.
3. If you could live in one fictional world, where would it be?
EL: I'm gonna go with Thedas (Dragon Age)
4. Which fictional character do you most identify with?
EL: Liesel Meminger from THE BOOK THIEF. I'm always a sucker for characters who love to read, and Liesel's inner strength is one I so admire. As for the fictional character probably most like me, I'd have to say Mei Lu from Gloria Chao's AMERICAN PANDA. You'll have to read it to see why!
5. Name a Disney song that is always stuck in your head.
EL: Poor Unfortunate Souls 🙃
6. How long did it take you to complete SPIN THE DAWN? Are there plans for any sequels in the future?
EL: SPIN THE DAWN took me about a year to write and revise. My motto is to draft quickly and revise patiently and mindfully. There is a sequel scheduled for 2020, and possibly a few companion books...
7. If you could give advice to aspiring young authors, what would it be?
EL: Don't be a perfectionist from the get-go. Learn to embrace the crappy first draft. I find it's a lot more helpful to have the foundation laid out for the story and build up from there, than to only have a few perfect pages and no map of where the rest of book is headed.
8. List three adjectives that describe your personality:
EL: Creative, Over-analytical, Disciplined 😏
9. Favorite book/book series?
EL: Ella Enchanted/Anne of Green Gables series
10. Can you let the readers know what your new book is about in 100 words or less?
EL: To provide for her family, 17-year-old Maia Tamarin disguises herself as a boy to compete for the position of imperial tailor. Her task to sew three magical gowns of the sun, moon, and stars leads her on an adventure of romance and danger in SPIN THE DAWN, a Chinese-inspired fantasy set along a re-imaged Silk Road. It'll be released with Knopf Books for Young Readers in mid-2019!
11. If you could have one Disney sidekick, who would it be?
EL: Hmm…it'd be a tie between Mushu and Sebastian. Mushu makes me laugh, and Sebastian's got a symphony of fish to fill my world with music. Tough call!
Wow, SPIN THE DAWN sounds incredible! I am really looking forward to reading that book. Elizabeth’s advice to young authors really hit home with me. I’m the type of girl who will not budge off a page until every grammatical error, misspelling, and page layout error is fixed. Why? It just drives me crazy to move on knowing there are mistakes! I guess I need to listen to Elizabeth and maybe I’ll get more than three pages typed in an hour. 😊 My music nerd side freaked out after learning that she is an award-winning composer whose scores have been featured on television, movies, and video games. This woman is amazing, and if you don’t follow her on Twitter, you need to do so immediately. (@lizlim).
Thank you so much for reading my review of REFLECTION and the author interview with Elizabeth Lim. If you liked this article, please consider leaving a comment and following me on Twitter! (@HogwartsGrad_7). All support is greatly appreciated!