Let’s travel back in time to the simpler days when one’s biggest worry was rewinding the VHS tape after watching a favorite Disney film. A personal favorite movie growing up was the 1997 feature length animated film Hercules.
(Tap image to read more book reviews on Goodreads)
From the vivacious divine muses to the sarcastic villain Hades, this movie was a true masterpiece leaving fans craving for more of the ‘wonder boy’ splendor. We were lucky enough to get some features of the beloved mythological characters throughout the years with various minor appearances in television shows and short movies, but nothing quite quenched our thirst for more ‘Herculade’. It was not until April 6, 2021, that our pleas to the Hellenistic gods were answered; Jen Calonita was favored by Calliope the muses of epic poetry to continue the tales from the 1997 animated legend with ‘Go the Distance’ a Disney Twisted Tales novel.
Let me start with a heart felt thank you to Jen; you have made my inner child squeal with ineffable joy. This book brought nothing but happiness, even on the day I unintentionally bought it. This must be one of the best bookstore blunders that have yet to occur. I was leisurely visiting a local bookstore to pass the time on April 2 with no intention of buying anything. While strolling down the isle I was stunned at the sight of what was casually sitting on the shelf. I rubbed me eyes and randomly blurted out “What are those?!”
The fates must have looked upon me favourably that day because what I saw was ‘Go the Distance’ waiting on the shelf four days earlier then the expected release date. This must have been a mistake in shelving so before someone changed their mind, I scooped up the book and went straight to the cashier. There was something almost magical about this unexpected find and I was more than excited to bring it home. It took a few months before I decided to pick it up but in December of 2021, I slide the book off my shelf and prepared to go the distance.
I thought this novel was well structured with the necessary flash back chapters needed to get a better understanding of Meg along with to the surprise romance nobody expected to occur. I have read a few of the twisted tale novels before and most of them had me cringing at their need to be different. The only other Twisted Tale novel that I enjoyed was the Beauty & the Beast: Tale as Old as Time edition. What makes this novel better then the other Twisted Tales novels is the plot setting. Unlike the other novels which retell the whole Disney tale in the different light which changes the outcome, Go the Distance picks up right where the animated movie left off.
This book literally picks up right where the movie left off and boy does it twist the original tale. We are accustomed to a happy Disney ending with the two love birds being able to live freely together after all the labours Hercules went through. Well guess what … Zeusy was ready to steal away our familiar happy ending. When good ‘ol Herk asked to live on earth with the fan favorite sassy Meg, papa Zeus was like “I don’t think so”.
At this exact moment imagine an unexpected skip in the VHS tape leaving the TV screen frozen. Hold your chariots, if Zeus just said no then how in the three realms of Hades are the two love birds going to live happily ever after? This is where the twist in the tale comes along; while Hercules is arguing with his father like a regular eighteen-year-old, Hera glides her way on over to Meg. While Meg is internally freaking out and listening in on the latest Mt. Olympus gossip (remember this note) Hera approaches like a shady drug dealer, offering Meg immortality if she completes a quest in ten days. First of all, poor Meg has some trust issues when it comes to making deals with gods but like her first encounter, she is willing to make the needed sacrifice. Oh boy, how the tables have turned from the original legend. Zeus refuses to allow Herk to give up his hard-earned divinity so now Megara must complete her own labors to be able to join her boo and live on Mount Olympus as a goddess.
Fellow readers this is the point where spoilers would come into effect so, please be careful if you chose to read below. I will not go into too much detail but there will be enough information to spoil any surprises you might encounter while reading the novel.
Meg first labour has her traveling to an island off the coast of mainland Greece to retrieve the lost flute of Athena. She is accompanied by the trusty flying stead Pegasus to venture to a remote island to find this flute which happens to be in the layer of an Empusa. If you want to get a better understanding of this unique creature listen to the Ancient History Fangirl podcast episode Ancient Vampires. Long story short Meg was able to defeat the ghastly creature with her life to spare and gets frantically flown to Phil’s house. Both Meg and Peg are in rough shape and Phil is forced to heal them back to health. Once healed Meg is frantic to get back on the mission because her time is ticking away. She explains her ordeals with Phil and while doing so Athena emerges with Megs next labour and believe me this one was a hard pill to swallow.
Meg is now tasked with retrieving the lost soul of the women whom Megs ex-boyfriend left her for.
If you are unsure, Meg originally sold her soul to Hades to save her dying boyfriend. While Meg was in the shackles of Hades power, her previous boyfriend ran off with some other chick. I don’t know about you but if I was tasked with bring back the lover of my ex I would say ‘No thanks, this sounds like their problem’. Meg is not happy, but she is willing to swallow this pill if it meant that she would be one step closer to live with Herk. I don’t want to go into crazy detail, but Meg confronts her ex only to find out that he did not leave her intentionally. While Meg was busy doing Hades deeds business, Hades tricked her into thinking she was only gone for a week running his errands when Meg was gone for two years. Her ex searched for Meg for two years with no luck and eventually found another woman. Meg was tricked by Hades and lived her life afterward with newfound self doubt and hate. Once all the miscommunication was cleared it was obvious that Meg now had to journey back to the place Hercules just saved her from, the underworld.
As we know, people only go to the underworld for one reason: death. Meg is alive and well but must get to the land of the dead to complete her quest. The recent fight with the titans caused a mess on earth leaving random passages open into the underworld. Meg followed one of the new passages which flowed right into the depth of Hell. While traveling down the eventful river to hell Meg got into a little confrontation with on of Hercules old nemesis the Stymphalian birds. Matters got messy with these blood thirsty birds, but Meg was determined to fight them off. Even as it was obvious, she was losing the battle Meg was all like “I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day”.
Out of nowhere Hercules comes in to save the day and this was not a pleasant moment for Meg and her boo. She basically told everyone to leave her alone she had everything under control and to stop bidding into her mission. Harsh words were shared, and Meg continued on with her quest leaving behind the rest of her support team.
Skipping over a few areas in the book straight to the underworld. Remember in the Hercules movie when Hades was thrown into the river of souls and his two minions were like:
Panic: "He's not gonna be happy when he gets out of there!"
Pain: "You mean, IF he gets out of there!"
Panic: "If...if is good."
Spoiler alert, Hades did make it out and is now in the clutches of the most power entity to mortals and gods: the power of love. Earlier on I mentioned that Meg was listening into some Mt. Olympus gossip which happened to be about the disappearance of Persephone. If you are a fan of Greek mythology, I have an idea where this is going, Persephone is hiding away in the underworld with her forbidden lover Hades. Imagine the animated Disney villain all mushy and cute with the goddess of spring, it paints a very interesting picture.
While Meg is trying to locate the soul of the lost female, she unintentionally helps the stowaway goddess with some gardening tips which saves her butt once Hades captures Meg for trespassing in the land of the dead. While Meg is in a hot pot with her former employer Hera is summoned to help in the situation. Instead of Meg being selfish and asking for the Queen of the gods to help herself out she offers up her favour to Persephone and Hades so that their forbidden love can become official and that can live happily ever after. This selfless act reminds me of something Zeus said in the original animated film, “For a true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” Meg ability to empathize not only changed the fate of Hades and Persephone but she was also successful in helping her ex-boyfriend get reconnected with his new wife. I skipped over many important parts of the story, but this is my version of a book review, if you want to know the full story read the book.
Megara was able to complete all her labours, but she completed them too late for her given time frame. Sad to think she went through all this physical and emotional trauma just to be denied her true happiness. The selfless acts she practiced during her quest did not go unnoticed and she was granted immortality and got the live happily ever after with her wonder boy Herk as the divine power couple of Olympus.
If you are a Disney fan and love the story of Disney’s version of Hercules, then you will not regret picking up this novel. I hope to help share some of the imaginative magic from one Disney fan to the next.