Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Review: Reflection (Twisted Tales #4)

Release Date: March 27. 2018
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Disney Press
Length: 400 pages
Source: Gifted ARC

What if Mulan had to travel to the Underworld?

When Captain Shang is mortally wounded by Shan Yu in battle, Mulan must travel to the Underworld, Diyu, in order to save him from certain death. But King Yama, the ruler of Diyu, is not willing to give Shang up easily. With the help of Shang's great lion guardian ShiShi, Mulan must traverse Diyu to find Shang's spirit, face harrowing obstacles, and leave by sunrise--or become King Yama's prisoner forever. Moreover, Mulan is still disguised as the soldier called Ping, wrestling with the decision to reveal her true identity to her closest friend. Will Mulan be able to save Shang before it's too late? Will he ever be able to trust her again? Or will she lose him--and be lost in the Underworld--forever?



Protagonist: After Shang takes a fatal blow meant for her, Mulan, a young woman who pretended to be a man to enter into the army to spare her ailing father from certain death, Mulan needs to go into the underworld, Diyu, in order to bring him back. That is easier said than done. Mulan is still masquerading as Ping since she's going after Shang who doesn't yet know her identity and if anyone finds out she could be put to death. This book does a lot to really flesh out Mulan's character, in fact, I would say that who Mulan is, is a huge part of the overall story. I really loved delving into who Mulan is at her core, seeing some more backstory and giving her character the time she needs to grow, whereas the movie sort of throws montages and songs at you to denote character growth and camaraderie among the soldiers, here we get a deeper look into Mulan's character and who she decides to become.

Romance: Much like with Mulan's character I felt the romance here wasn't nearly as rushed as it was in the movie. In fact, it almost felt like they threw in the whole Mulan/Shang pairing as an afterthought since it's a Disney movie and needs to have a romance. Here things are taken at a slower pace. I mean, there's still a time limit to get out of Diyu by, but still the time is taken to not only solidify the bond between Shang and "Ping" that was sort of hand waved in the movie until that point, but also the romantic tension is really drawn out, in a satisfying way, and when time comes for a romance to officially blossom, it feels earned and a part of the journey instead of just tacked on the end.

World Building: So when it comes to the world building I'm pretty split. On the one hand, I love the world of Diyu that the author has included in this story. Every moment, even the lighter ones, had a small bit of dread tied to it as their time was running out, the settings and places they visited were so vibrant and alive, or in some cases were sharp and pointy, or even filled with death and despair, hey, it is the underworld after all. This was such a fun adventure to see these two characters on, with the company of a very vain lion guardian from the Li family named ShiShi. Here's the thing though, while it was a fun and exciting adventure, other than Mulan and Shang, none of the other characters from the movie were seen that much, they didn't have a role to play in the story and it was hard to view this as a Twisted Tale, especially in comparison to the other installments in this series, because this twist felt like a bit too much of a stretch.

Predictability: This was a bit of an uncomfortable time going into this book because, well, this series has never had a different author before, that on top of a story that takes place almost entirely in Diyu, somewhere not even touched on or mentioned in the movie, going into this story felt a lot like going into a dark room. Everything was new, I didn't know how anything was going to go, other than some vague and vast predictions that are pretty standard expectations going into any novel. With that I found a great many moments in this story to be full of twists and turns, there are a few moments where things are easy to pick up on, but the reasoning behind those things are really where the surprises are in store. Though I will say there wasn't anything too shocking, and nothing really shook me like in other installments in this series.

Ending: This ending it too idyllic for me. I mean, there's no other way to get around it. I loved the final climax, I felt it really hammered home a lot of the messages for this book and really fit with story already written, it was the perfect way to push onward towards the end, but, and I hate that I keep bringing it up, in the other installments in this series, there are always some consequences that give the ending that extra level of gravity, almost as if there were some harder consequences for straying from the story, whereas here well, it's a good ending and a great story, I was just sort of hoping for something a bit less idyllic.


I seriously debated about this with myself for a while, I mean, this was such a fun adventure and I don't regret reading this book at all, in fact, I'll probably reread it someday, but I was hoping for a story that felt like it flowed from the movie better and an ending that held more weight.


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