The A Twisted Tale series by Disney reimagines iconic animated films with a dark twist – what if Alice never saved Wonderland? What if Jafar kidnapped Aladdin and left him in the Cave of Wonders with his lamp? The most recent instalment in the series is based on the 2010 Disney film Tangled. Rapunzel’s hair is silver in this rendition, and instead of supernatural gold hair that heals and restores, it drains life.
What Once Was Mine — a scary title that derives from the healing chant Rapunzel sings in the movie — is written by Liz Braswell, a veteran of the Twisted Tale novels — is inspired by Tangled, but the life-draining hair isn’t the only twist. Rapunzel is imprisoned for the kingdom’s safety, and when she escapes, she teams up with wanted rogue Flynn Rider and a new character, Gina, a would-be outlaw.
What Once Was Mine: A Twisted Tale hits shelves on Sept. 7. Check out an exclusive excerpt of the book below:
“Well, turning nineteen means that I’m an adult. By any definition,” Rapunzel continued, standing up as straight as she could. “Grown up, and responsible, and … things.
“Which brings me to my next point: Every year during my birthday week there are those floating lights in the sky.”
“What?” Gothel asked, sounding honestly confused (or as though she was expertly feigning confusion).
“You know.” She grabbed her mother by the hand and led her over to the painting she had made years ago, when she first started noticing the yearly regularity of the lights. It wasn’t a technically sophisticated piece: just pretty golden orbs with faint auras rising up into a night sky.
“Every year at this time, the mysterious glowing things float up into the sky in the west. This year it should be especially bright because it’s a new moon tonight, which means the sky will still be pretty dark a few days from now, and —”
“And you want me to watch them with you, dear,” Gothel said, making a moue of her lips and squeezing Rapunzel’s hands. “How very sweet. But —”
“No, I want to go see them. Myself. Ourselves.” Silence fell over the room, which was also suddenly dim and dusky as a dramatic cloud took the opportunity to pass in front of the sun. The two women stared at each other, both silent: one, now that she had finally spit out the words, with a pregnant pause of hope. The other with disbelief.
Gothel pulled her hands out of Rapunzel’s. She spoke flatly.
“You know you can’t. Why are you even asking.”
“But, Mother,” Rapunzel said, trying not to wheedle or whine. “I’m older now. I can control myself. I won’t see anyone or anything else. I won’t touch anything. You’ll come with me. You’ll take me there and you’ll make sure I don’t—”
“That you don’t kill anyone else, like your own mother and father?” Gothel hissed.
Rapunzel deflated like a tower that had an inferno raging through it a moment before. Everything burned out; the soot, smoke, and heat sucked themselves back into wherever a fire’s energy came from. Ashes clogged her nose; her body felt fragile, sapped of its inner structure.
“Mother,” she pleaded weakly, looking at the ground.
“Mother indeed,” Gothel said — but what she meant by that was unclear.
This was what Rapunzel had lived with for nineteen years. The silent secret that destroyed her inside when she wasn’t strong enough to stop it. The thing that took all the color from her already tiny world, the light from the faraway sun, the small amount of air her lungs used.
Rapunzel was locked in a tower because she was a murderer.
Her beautiful, treasonous hair had killed her birth parents just after she was born, in a moment of infant rage.
The hair that she now bound, braided, knotted, and tangled with charms to keep under control.
She couldn’t even cut it off; to do so would be her death.
So there it was: endless sparkling braids of it, knotted up with charms and wishes, reminding her every day of why she was imprisoned. How she couldn’t be allowed to hurt anyone else again.
“Look what I brought, for your birthday,” Gothel said coldly, reaching down and opening up the giant basket she had brought.
Rapunzel miserably leaned over, guessing what it was, afraid of what she would find.
A fat, beautiful old chicken, her egg-laying time now passed. A yard bird of mixed feathers and heritage. The hen looked up at her, blinked in the light, but didn’t make a sound.
“I was going to wring her neck myself,” Gothel went on. “Because I know how squeamish my precious, tower-dwelling princess is. But I think maybe it’s time for another lesson on why you are in this tower.”
“No …” Rapunzel begged.
“Do it,” Gothel ordered. “You need to do it. You need to remember just why you’re here.”
As if the girl with the silver hair could ever forget.
The woman took her daughter by the arm and steered her over to the armoire, slamming the basket onto a table there harder than was necessary — or nice. The chicken squawked quietly.
Rapunzel began to cry.
She reached into the basket to stroke the bird, unsure if that was a terrible lie or a final kindness. Murmuring softly, she picked up the thing that was to be dinner. What a wonderful pet the old hen would have made—
—but one look at Gothel’s large, cold, set eyes made Rapunzel forget even the idea of asking.
She drooped, listlessly taking a single small braid out of its knot. She laid it across the chicken’s neck.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
She closed her eyes and reached out with her voice, humming a sad little nonsense song. Her mind went blank. She felt an icy blackness coursing from her head down her hair to its tips, like freezing water down a chute. Her silver hair pulsed with an unnatural glow, throwing little shadows everywhere they shouldn’t have been.
The bird relaxed … entirely. Its feet changed color first; its eyes rolled up into its head.
“Do you see that?” Gothel whispered.
“Yes, Mother,” Rapunzel said dully.
“Do you understand why you can never leave this tower?”
Gothel shook her head. She took the dead chicken in one hand and patted Rapunzel’s cheek with the other.
“Darling, you know I’m only doing this for your own good. You’re too dangerous to be around other people. You’ll hurt them.”
“You’ll see, you know I’m right.” She paused, her eyes narrowing.
“Mother knows best.”