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ZEL by Donna Jo Napoli Kirkus Star


by Donna Jo Napoli

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-525-45612-0
Publisher: Dutton

A passionate, painful elaboration of the story of Rapunzel, from the author who did the same for Hansel and Gretel in The Magic Circle (1993). Here again, the "witch" is the tragic figure: A woman unable to bear children but unable to exist without a child sells her soul for an eldritch power over all plants, bullies her terrified neighbors into giving up their newborn daughter, and spirits her away to a remote Swiss farm. Lovingly nurtured, Zel grows into a joyful, creative child, wholeheartedly devoted to the only mother she knows until she meets Konrad on a rare visit to town. Brutally torn between love and need, the witch imprisons Zel, and watches in anguish as the child's sanity begins to slip away with the seasons. Writing in present tense, using three alternating points of view, Napoli (Jimmy, The Pickpocket of the Palace, 1995, etc.) makes each incident immediate, each character's needs and longings sharply felt. She adheres closely to the traditional plot and, to a story already abrim with symbol and metaphor, she adds even more. This rich, complex reading may require an adult's sensibility and level of experience to absorb fully, but it powerfully renders the tale's inherent terror and tragedy. (Folklore. 12+)