Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

by Donna Jo Napoli
Fairy Tale
227 pages
published: 1998
4 of 5 starts

I was entirely unfamiliar with "whole" story of Repunzel before this book. My memory of it this fairy tale went something like: girl in tower, throw down your hair, ride off with the prince. I was stunned and enthralled with this book.

What I loved:
  • The beautiful, lyrical language. Though the meaning of the words was often dark or scary or even horrifying, the beauty of the writing itself often softened the blow. And when the story wasn't blatantly dark, the language made me forget it was ever dark and I started floating away to LaLa Land. (There would be a crash later!)
  • The setting was lovely, quaint, medieval, and all that good stuff.
  • The intricacy of the plot.
  • The view into all the characters. The chapter would alternate among the Mother, Zel, and the prince.
  • The insight into a truly insane woman. Sometimes I could almost get her point, almost sympathize with her. It was disturbing. In a good way. (Or maybe I'm just morbid.)
  • Watching Zel go crazy from solitary confinement. Very interesting. And it felt very real.
  • The happy ending.
Now, this book was not one that will be read over and over. It won't ever be one of my favorites. It wasn't a clutch-it-to-my-chest-and-savor-it book. It was dark, creepy, violent, and frankly, insane. It involved soul selling, manipulations, betrayal, madness, filthiness, and even sex. I wouldn't recommend it lightly or let my daughter read it for quite a long time.

But it was a fascinating character study and an intriguing retelling.

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