Book Review: “Zel”

 “Zel” by Donna Jo Napoli

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fairy Tale Retelling

GoodreadsSource: Library

Summary from Goodreads:

High in the mountains, Zel lives with her mother, who insists they have all they need — for they have each other. Zel’s life is peaceful and protected — until a chance encounter changes everything. When she meets a beautiful young prince at the market one day, she is profoundly moved by new emotions. But Zel’s mother sees the future unfolding — and she will do the unspeakable to prevent Zel from leaving her…



It was a pretty faithful retelling. The original fairy tale is pretty short so it’s a good spring board for a story. Napoli does put her own twists on the story but it really works.

I like the 3 narrators. It definitely gave the story some more strength. To a certain extent it made all of the characters pretty sympathetic. By fleshing out the characters, you actually feel for all of them. You would think that Mother would be a pretty unsympathetic character but I did feel bad for her. All she wanted was to be a mother. Back in the 1500s, there weren’t a whole lot of options if you can’t have a child naturally though. She is being selfish for wanting Zel all to herself but I see where she’s coming from. The dark magic aspect of her story strays from the fairy tale but it definitely adds a bit of flavor to the story.

Zel is pretty likeable. She is quite sheltered but does try to rebel against mother a bit. I was able to sympathize with her. The poor thing went from having very little contact to the outside world to NO contact with the outside world. I could feel her unraveling. Now I understand why she falls for the Prince so quickly. I don’t think she would have did the insta-love thing if they met under normal circumstances.

Konrad’s story is the biggest new addition to the story. I greatly appreciated hearing his story. He’s no longer just a random guy who stumbled across Rapunzel and decide to save her. He’s her true love and has spent 2 years searching looking for her. It’s a nice additional layer to a fairy tale.

The bottom line? It’s a solid retelling!

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: “Zel”

  1. This sounds really interesting. I just placed a hold on it at the library. Rapunzel isn’t a favorite fairytale of mine, but I think I should try out some retellings. I do love the illustrations in Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, though. Have you ever read that? It’s a picture book.

    I’m really loving this project that you started, Alison! I have always loved retellings, and now I am learning about lots of others. 🙂

    • I can’t wait to hear what you think of the book! I haven’t tried that one yet.

      I’m glad you’re loving the project too, Quinn! It’s really nice to have the work split up so one person doesn’t have to read everything. 🙂

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