Right off the bat, I have to say that so far this is tied as my favorite Twisted Tale book alongside Belle’s story. I just love Belle so much and thought the twist was creative and fit her character and background. I’ll admit that Mulan is not one of my favorite Disney Princesses. I’ve learned to like her more as an adult because of her strength and independence and feministic quality and love for family and desire to protect them, things that as an adult I value. But as a kid I just thought Mushu was funny and the story was pretty good. My childhood friend will passionately argue that Mulan should under no circumstances even be included as a Disney Princesses. She wasn’t born a princess, she didn’t marry a prince. It’s really funny to get her going on that. But this book was really good! It’s the first book in the series not written by Liz Braswell.
I really enjoy Elizabeth Lim’s style of writing. Th problem I had with Aurora’s story and even Jasmine’s at certain times was that the dialogue felt too modern teenagery for me. It took me out of the story that was supposed to have happened centuries ago. I didn’t feel that way with Reflection at all. I felt the author had a good grasp on Mulan and the supporting to characters and she presented them throughout the story true to their Disney movie counterparts, cartoon and live-action. One thing I noticed people complained about a lot with the first three books in the series was that the entire first 25% was just a novelization of the Disney cartoon movie rather than being a unique story. They didn’t like that. I personally didn’t mind that. I loved the movies and the novelizations are just another way to enjoy them but in Reflection it seems they took the constructive criticism and adjusted for it because within the first chapter we were into the Twisted Tale part of the story. On that note, I felt a little jarred in the beginning because we are thrown into the battle with Shaun-Yu at the mountain right away. I would be lost if I hadn’t seen both Mulan movies. But then again, they write these Twisted Tales on the assumption that if you’re reading it it’s because you saw and enjoyed the movies.
I think the reason I loved this story so much more than the others is because of the cultural mythology the twist was founded in. Chang is wounded in battle and dying. Mulan goes to the Chinese culture’s version of the underworld to bring his soul back before he dies forever. I LOVE mythology but unfortunately don’t know a lot about Chinese mythology so I felt I was learning as I was reading. Mulan travels down into Diyu, which is the Chinese’s version of Hell and Purgatory combined. Everyone who dies goes there for judgement. The people who were good in life are only there for a short while before they go to heaven or are reincarnated and sent back to earth if King Yama, leader of the underworld, thinks they can do more good there. The time you spend in Diyu is proportionate to the good or bad you did in your life. The ones who did bad things are sent further into Diyu to different levels that each present a different and creative style of torture. It’s very interesting stuff!
The characters of Reflection were really good too. Of course there was Mulan and Chang, the main characters. Chang is mostly in ghost form but Lim did a good job of bringing him to life (haha, get it?) with her descriptions and natural dialogue. There were a lot of new characters too that I felt were really great! They interacted with the classic characters perfectly and fit right into the story seamlessly. There was Shi-Shi, the Li family guardian who travels into Diyu with Mulan to bring Shang Li back. King Yama, the leader of the underworld, though he isn’t in the story a whole lot. The one I loved most was the Lady of Forgetfulness. Her backstory is great and she was a perfect compliment to Mulan.
I even enjoyed the story as a kind of spooky Halloween read since I read it in October. It was filled with ghosts and demons and danger and adventure. I highly recommend this story!