Tag Archives: Disney

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater: A Review

Off all the Official Disney Princesses, Merida is the one I flip flop the most about in terms of how much I enjoy the character. Usually, I can say that I’ll either be neutral about some (ex. Snow White, and Cinderella), I have some I dislike (ex. Aurora), and a number that I enjoy (ex. Mulan, Jasmine, Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle, and Tiana). However, with Merida, she’ll hit one of those three depending on the day.

I like Brave as a movie and it was nice to see a princess in a similar vein to Mulan in terms of skills and marriage not being an essential part of their story. (Side note: Yes, Mulan 2 exists, but the first Mulan movie didn’t have a romantic subplot for her and I didn’t think a second movie was needed. However, we did get a sequel that was flawed, but confirmed the ambiguity of Shang and Mulan’s relationship at the end of the first). Brave also had some really good music. I also found her appearance in the series Once Upon a Time neat, if underused/underdeveloped. What I disliked was elements of the character and the conflict between her and her mother. On the one hand, I get why she would be frustrated, but on the other, it feels off and/or whiney at times in execution. And while I do like the idea of a mother and daughter learning to understand and respect their differences, it was kind of Merida’s fault that her mom turned into a bear. Not intentionally, and I can see how this can be a critique for some. That said, I can excuse it to a degree since it isn’t a bad concept on paper. It’s just the execution that I guess that I have issue with.

That said, most days I am just neutral about the character, though if you asked, I’m not sure where I would put her when ranking the Official Disney Princesses. If you like her, that’s cool, if not, that is also fine.

Anyways, much like a handful of other books I’ve been drawn to, Braverly by Maggie Stiefvater was one I found through my local library. The cover was eye catching and the blurb was what made me want to give it a try. I’ll admit, while I have seen Maggie Stiefvater’s book in passing, I wouldn’t say that they caught my attention. I think with this being an expansion on Brave, which I thought was neat, and the fact I enjoying the Twisted Tales series was a factor in what drew me to this.

As always: Mild Spoilers Ahead. I do try to avoid spoiling as much as possible, but this is a warning for any plot point that may come up in the review.

Synopsis

When an unexpected being of chaos enters the DunBroch home, Merida is given a year to make a change or else her kingdom and family will fall. With the help from the Cailleach, her family, and her friend Lessie, Merida must voyage to the other Kingdoms to make a change, as well as working with her family for this change. It’s a race against time and it’s up to Merida to find a way to protect her loved ones and stop the oncoming destruction.

Positives

The concept itself was a really neat one and I liked how it continued on after Brave. It gave Merida and her family some development that the movie didn’t get to touch on. It was also interesting to see how the triplets have grown since Brave and have developed differing personalities. Each one, though still having some similar appearances on account of being triplets, has their own individuality.

I also enjoyed how this story explored and expanded on the Celtic folklore aspect of Brave through the Cailleach and Feradach. The will-o-wisps from Brave are a part of Scottish folklore (variations of them may appear in Irish folklore as well). Cailleach is a figure who appears in Gaelic/Celtic (ie. Irish, Scottish, etc.) lore who appears as an old lady or hag and is considered and ancestral figure who is associated with weather and winter. While Feradach plays a role of a deity of chaos. I think these add to the world as well as expand on some of Scotland’s lore.

The story itself, if a little basic, is good. It feels like a natural follow up to Brave.

Critiques

Though the characters have kept their evolution from Brave, I do feel like some of the characters could have used a little more development. Some characters felt a little bit more developed than others. And sometimes, it felt like scenes and interactions treaded on a similar issue form the movie.

Out of all the characters, Lessie is the one I feel could have used a bit more development. I would have liked to get a little more background and development on her. She, much like Cailleach and Feradach, was a character introduced in this book and wasn’t in Brave. But unlike the other two characters, I do feel like she could have gotten a little more development. For instance, her marriage. We are given very little about her marriage and husband to be. Readers know she planned to get married, but ultimately called it off. From there, she’s helping out as much as possible with Merida and her quest.

I wasn’t really that thrilled with some of the banter between Merida and her mother. Specifically in one scene that kind of references the movie.

Conclusion

Over all I would give this book an eight out of ten. I loved the atmosphere and incorporation of Scottish lore and it was a nice way to continue Merida’s story after Brave. I do feel that certain scenes were a bit different and some characters got more development, however. If you are looking for a continuation of Brave or want a neat YA fantasy read, I would recommend it.

Reflection: A Twisted Tale

The Twisted Tales series is a series that takes beloved Disney classics and gives it a spin with a single question. It currently has twelve books out ranging from several princess movies like Aladdin, Frozen, and the Little Mermaid (among others) as well as other Disney movies like Alice and Wonderland and Peter Pan, and has a thirteenth novel based on the 2009 Princess and the Frog movie coming out in September. They are an interesting what if type story on Disney movies, and I don’t believe they plan on stopping anytime soon (there isn’t anything expected after Almost There, but I’m sure the series will continue after Almost There, and I have heard a rumors about a Pinocchio book).

of the twelve books currently published, I have read three of them: Go the Distance (What if Meg Had to Become a Greek God?), What Once was Mine (What if Rapunzel’s Mother Drank a Potion from the Wrong Flower?), and the topic of this review, Reflection (What if Mulan Had to Travel to the Underworld?). I also have A Whole New World (Aladdin), Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid), Tale as Old as Time (Beauty and the Beast), and Almost There (Princess and the Frog) on my To-Read list.

Out of the three I’ve read, I’d say Reflection is my favorite. Not only because it’s based on one of my favorite Disney movies and my favorite Disney princess, but because I found it the more interesting of the three. However, I do love how Go the Distance explores the Hades-Persephone dynamic. It’s a lighter toned take on the myth, and fits the tone Disney would probably take with it, had they done so.

Synopsis

Picking up after the battle with the Huns, Shang is mortally wounded. The only way to save him is if “Ping” goes to the underworld, Diyu, to bring his soul back. While King Yama, the king of Diyu, is not willing to release Shang’s soul without a fight, Mulan is on limited time. With help from ShiShi, Shang’s great lion guardian, she goes deeper into Diyu to find Shang, and with the secret that she is actually a woman slowly coming to light, trust is called into question.

Will Mulan be able to save Shang? Will trust be restored? Will everyone get out in one piece, or will they be lost in Diyu forever?

Positives

The concept of this story was really interesting to me. Shang being mortally wounded instead of Mulan is an interesting spin on the fight in the mountain. And her going to Diyu to save Shang is a concept that I feel works and adds a nice extended fantasy element to the story.

While I am not as knowledgeable about Chinese mythology and folklore, I do think there is accuracy in Reflection. However, I’m sure anyone more familiar with Chinese folklore and mythology can confirm how accurate exactly better than I could. The most I know is aspects of Journey to the West, which is a well known tale and was what Dragon Ball took inspiration from (which, fun fact, has a character named King Yemma in it’s sequel series, who appears to be inspired by King Yama, who makes an appearance here).

I also like how when Shang learns that Ping is a woman named Mulan, I did like how it wasn’t immediately resolved. There was time to reflect on the trust that was broken and there was some work involved when forgiving Mulan. Because while I know Mulan’s reasons for lying were honorable, being for her father’s well being and safety, the bond Shang and the other soldiers had with Ping would certainly be called into question when it’s revealed that Ping isn’t actually Ping. So not glossing over it was good.

I also kind of liked how it addressed the Great Stone Dragon bit from the beginning of the movie. As I’m sure you may know, assuming you’ve seen the 1998 animated movie, The Fa family has a stone dragon on their property, referred to as the Great Stone Dragon by the ancestors. And when asked to awaken him, Mushu accidently breaks the statue.

In Reflection ShiShi, who is Shang’s family (animal) guardian, was familiar with the Fa family and their family guardian. Which just so happened to be the Great Stone Dragon. This gets brought up because ShiShi is perplexed by the small size of Mushu and expecting the Fa family’s guardian to be bigger and fiercer.

Critiques

It has been a while since I have read the book, so I can’t remember if I had any flaws upon my initial read, unlike some books I’ve recently reviewed. However, I do plan on rereading it so I can log it on Goodreads, so I may find something I missed. That said, I wouldn’t say it was flawless. If I had to think of anything, it might have felt a bit formulaic. It took chances and explored some interesting concepts, though.

Conclusion

I would give this book an eighty five percent. Out of the Twisted Tales stories I’ve read, this was probably one of the better ones. At least in my opinion. It was a neat way to approach Mulan’s story. It was interesting to see how they addressed the underworld aspect with elements from Chinese lore.

It was also cool to see how they addressed Mulan’s whole secret and the revelation that Ping was, in fact, a woman. As well as addressing one or two elements from the 1998 movie that never really got much discussion. And while maybe not a perfect story, if you enjoy Mulan, I would certainly say it is worth the read.