I usually adore fairytale retellings. I think that there is so much that can be done in that department, a pool of endless creativity, if the author dares enough. And I definitely think Mary McMyne was quite bold to dare tell the story of one very villainous, greedy, selfish woman—Gothel, who kidnaps Rapunzel and keeps her isolates from life – true love, true family, true joy, true magic. The older I grew, the less I bought these one-dimensional characters; the less prone I was to believe that people could really be just one thing, without any redeemable qualities. It’s very, very rare I meet someone who is purely evil, so I was quite excited to see what Mary McMyne had in store regarding Mother Gothel’s past and how she came to become Rapunzel’s kidnapper.
I would say I connected to Haelewise (Mother Gothel) pretty fast. It could be that I was able to quickly relate to someone whose mother was so strong but whose father barely paid attention to her, and when he did, it was usually to demean, dismiss, insult, or otherwise attack Haelewise’s heart and spirit, when all she wanted was to be loved, valued and appreciated. She thought maybe she would find that comfort in her best friend, whom she was in love with and who felt the same way about her, but he couldn’t provide that comfort for very long or in a consistent manner. Haelewise’s story is a sad one, because she is different from other girls her age, not just because of her mother’s tragic death and unique skills, but because of her own rather peculiar abilities that others don’t understand and are afraid of. It’s also a sad tale because there are quite a few people who don’t want her to succeed, to grow into her powers, to be the strong and confident woman that the readers knows she is destined to become.
Though as much as I felt connected to Haelewise, I am not a fan of historical fiction, and there was more of that than magic in this book. There are certainly fantasy elements and some magical scenes, but they are drowned in the large amount of descriptions which are never my favourite parts. For me, the more straight-forward, the better. Or if you’re going to say a lot, at least say something meaningful that adds to the scene rather than something simply to fill up pages, which is how it felt sometimes or how it tends to feel with historical fiction for me most times. As much as I appreciated Haelewise’s openness and having such easy access to her thoughts, at times I felt as though she could have kept some thoughts to herself or focused on the “bigger picture’’ than daydreams, worries or little details.
This book will be worth it to you if, unlike me, you do enjoy historical fiction quite a bit, and you enjoy stories whose strongest element is by far the main character.
Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review! On sale July 26th!