THE MAGIC CIRCLE by Donna Jo Napoli


Age Range: 11 & up
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The author of The Prince in the Pond (1992) leaps from that comic take on "The Frog Prince" to a dark, deeply thoughtful novel whose gifted, driven, and wholly sympathetic protagonist is Hansel and Gretel's witch. The hunchback known as "Ugly One" is a midwife who becomes a healer when she learns to draw, with a blessed object, a magic circle that cannot be invaded by the devil's minions; from safely within it, she can command them to leave their victims. But the demons eventually trick her with a ring she hopes to give her beloved daughter, now of an age to marry. Now the sorceress who has commanded devils becomes a witch subject to their demands; still, with great care, she avoids the potent temptation to devour a child, which would complete her damnation. Hansel and Gretel's arrival, in the novel's last pages, is a cruel test; with extraordinary artistry, Napoli shapes a conclusion in which the witch finds redemption by collaborating with a clever Gretel, who senses the meaning of her fiery death. Writing in a beautifully honed first-person present and summoning splendid imagery well grounded in folklore, psychology, and the natural world, Napoli delves into the mind and heart of a fascinating figure embodying Faust and Marguerite in one--a nurturer and lover of true beauty whose inner being is never truly corrupted by the dangerous knowledge she dares to exert on others' behalf. Richly poetic yet accessible and immediate; pungent and wise; mesmerizing. Splendid jacket by the Dillons. (Fiction. 11+)
Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-525-45127-7
Page count: 118pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993


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