Tag Archives: Rapunzel

Rapunzel’s Revenge (Graphic Novel)

Authors: Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

Illustrator: Nathan Hale

My rating: 3.5 of 5

For most of her childhood, Rapunzel lives a life of luxury with her mother, Mother Gothel–only she mustn’t ever look over the massive “garden wall” surrounding her home, she mustn’t question her mother, and she mustn’t mention her odd memory-like dreams. But on her twelfth birthday, Rapunzel just can’t contain herself anymore. She uses her impressive lasso skills (taught her by one of Mother Gothel’s guards, a kind man by the name of Mason) to climb the wall–only to find a world of desolation and slavery, which she soon finds is controlled by her mother . . . or, well, the person she thought was her mother. It turns out, she was taken from her real mother when she was just a little kid, and her actual mother is a slave in the mines now. In an attempt to control Rapunzel, Mother Gothel has her imprisoned in a tall tree that she’s created with her growth magic. But Rapunzel’s not one to sit demurely waiting for a rescuer, nor is she one to leave her real family in trouble.

I’ve seen some pretty interesting retellings before, but Rapunzel’s Revenge has got to be one of the most interesting and frankly bizarre to come my way in quite some time. It’s a western fantasy/weird west remix of the tale, complete with deserts, lassos, and outlaws–but with magic, too! And it’s not just a straight-up Rapunzel retelling, either; you’ve got Jack and the Beanstalk, for sure, and certain elements from a handful of other classic fairy tales. It’s pretty crazy, really, but in an interesting way. Rapunzel is an excellent example of the modernized empowered “princess,” a girl who’s smart and determined and takes matters into her own hands. Stubborn and kind of awkward, too, with enough personality to make her a sympathetic character, not just a modern stereotype. Her friend Jack makes a nice counterpart, with both of them challenging each other, forcing character growth and revealing character traits to the reader. As for the plot itself, it’s mostly a big rescue journey/adventure from the point where Rapunzel rescues herself and meets Jack–and it’s at this point that the western elements really start to show. It wasn’t the greatest plot ever, but a solid middle-grade story, still, plus a creative outtake on the whole retelling thing. The art is honestly not my style, but it works well enough for the story and I don’t have anything objectively negative to say about it–it’s just not what I prefer for graphic novels personally. I’m not sure I’d recommend Rapunzel’s Revenge for everyone, but if you like graphic novels and are interested in a quirky retelling with a strong female lead, it’s a story you just might enjoy.


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Author: Donna Jo Napoli

Zel and Mother live quite happily together in their quiet Swiss alm, mostly isolated from people yet satisfied with each other’s nearness. Still, Zel loves the time twice a year that they go into the town–then she gets to talk to many people, eat treats, and see all sorts of interesting things. On her thirteenth birthday, they go into town together, Zel and Mother. And while they are there, Zel meets a boy–a young Count though she doesn’t know that–who catches her interest and won’t let it go, even after they leave town to return the the quiet alm. When she finds out about Zel’s interest in the boy, Mother panics. She must protect Zel, keep Zel with her, even if it means hiding Zel away in a tower all by herself to do so.

Zel is a fascinating, somewhat horrifying retelling of the classic story of Rapunzel. Napoli’s depictions of the characters is achingly deep, psychologically and emotionally raw. Mother in particular is a clear picture of how crazy people can become when they make one thing alone important to themselves–honestly, she’s really scary even though she initially seems pleasant and sweet. Zel herself is a lovely character, innocent and sweet, yet with a wisdom and understanding that comes of being ill used and moving past that. And of course, the young Count is the hero riding in to save the day–complete with climbing Zel’s hair to get to her tower room–yet he has more depth than your typical “Prince Charming” depictions. In addition to the character development, I do have to praise Napoli’s work on the historical setting–it is fascinating to have a fairy tale retelling set convincingly in Switzerland during the mid-1500s, and the blend of fantasy and history is perfect. While not for everyone, for those ready for a psychologically intense story, Zel is a well-executed, illuminating fairy-tale retelling

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