“Stop calling her that witch. She’s Witch,” Rapunzel insists; she enjoys her easy life in a tower—and Witch’s frequent, apparently loving, visits—until Jack Beanstalker tricks Rapunzel into leaving.
Rapunzel knows that she possesses something called “innocence” that is important to Witch, and the text deftly translates that into naïveté, keeping things middle-grade–appropriate. Rapunzel’s love for Witch is Jack’s leverage for involving the braid-laden teen in what becomes an intricate quest. Orchestrated by the fairy Glyph, Jack and Rapunzel find themselves on a joint journey, with multiple goals. The novel does not miss a beat in creating Tyme, a beautifully described world with a seamless fusion of magical and nonmagical beings, scenery and objects. Although there are dark, suspenseful moments and some acts of violence, there is also plenty of humor, including a frog’s wine-influenced exploits and Jack’s clumsy attempts to explain pregnancy to Rapunzel. The playful use of Ubiquitous products—acorns that temporarily change into whatever one has paid for—is a pleasing nod to the author’s stated admiration of Harry Potter. The characters are refreshingly three-dimensional, helping readers empathize with Rapunzel as she wrestles with universal feelings of love and betrayal—and priming readers of fairy tales to anticipate such novels as Wicked.
Readers will be eager for more episodes of the intrepid team of Rapunzel and Jack. (map) (Fantasy. 10-14)