Goodreads: Rapunzel’s Revenge
Series: Rapunzel’s Revenge #1
Rapunzel grew up in the shadow of Mother Gothel’s high garden walls, never realizing that beyond them lay a land stripped of greenery and a mine full of enslaved workers. The day she discovers the truth is the day she vows to rescue her birth mother from the mines and to exact her revenge on the woman who kidnapped her. Unfortunately, such vows mean imprisonment in a magical tower. Only after Rapunzel rescues herself and learns how to strip Gothel of her powers can she fulfill her vow and bring freedom to an oppressed land.
Rapunzel’s Revenge begins promisingly as a retold fairy tale, promising plenty of “girl power” from the start. In this version, Rapunzel will not wait passively to be rescued but will bust herself out of prison and then rampage across the lands, whipping outlaws into submission with her braids and ending an oppressive power structure that has created a great disparity in wealth between Gothel and her supporters and basically everyone else. Does the book have an agenda? Yes, it does–but it’s still kind of fun.
I love seeing how authors transform well-known tales and make them their own, and Rapunzel’s Revenge is no exception. A Western-style “Rapunzel” is certainly new to me and I appreciated it, even though the Western slang sometimes got corny and no one ever explained why Rapunzel speaks like the peasants with all their analogies to corn and cattle, rather than like the upper-class Gothel who raised her. I guess we’re just supposed to enjoy watching Rapunzel smack people around with her hair, but that only raised questions of its own.
The book contains a panel showing that during her time in the tower, Rapunzel practiced using her braids like ropes and maybe did some gymnastics. However, once she frees herself from the tower, Rapunzel is some sort of braid-wielding machine who is constantly surprised at her own abilities. “I’ve never done that before!” she exclaims. “Or that!” “Or that!” “My goodness, how is it that I am able to knock over all these people like bowling pins when half of them are trained killers and I’m just some girl fresh from a tower? I don’t know, but it sure is convenient!” Is having the character voice the readers’ surprised supposed to make them suspend their disbelief more? Is that a valid narrative strategy? I have my doubts.
I also was a little put-off by the obvious role inversions. Rapunzel in this tale does all the villain-whacking while her companion Jack just rides around behind her so he can voice admiration at her feats. It’s no longer considered great storyteller (by most people) to insert a girl character just so she can sit around and admire the hero, but I suggest that just flipping the roles to make a statement does little service to the narrative. What would be really progressive would be a girl-boy team working together as equals to accomplish a goal. Then maybe I could feel like Jack really had a character and I could be more invested in him.
The plot itself was a little uneven. Most of the beginning reads like a video game, with the protagonists bouncing aimlessly from town to town and receiving at each place a mini quest they had to complete before receiving some sort of item that would help them continue on their main quest. The main quest is to get back to Gothel’s and somehow exact revenge. How is not specified because Rapunzel and Jack actually have no plan until a random character (part of a mini quest) reveals that Gothel might have a “totem” that gives her magic and, if destroyed, would end Gothel’s career as…some sort of unspecified ruler over some sort of unspecified…nation?… land parcel?…Western territory? Politics drive a lot of the plot, but they’re still apparently not important enough to be explained in any detail.
The plot and character development were, in my opinion, lacking in this book, but the chance to see a version of Rapunzel going around as a sort of avenger was fun and light enough that I read the book in one sitting. I intend to pick up the sequel one day just to see where the Hales take this particular story. I just hope that we see more in-depth world building and some character development, especially for Jack.