The Book of Gothel

The witch has her say about the story of Rapunzel in The Book of Gothel, the layered historical fantasy debut from Mary McMyne. Haelewise has suffered fainting spells since her childhood; her mother tries every remedy she knows to cure them, even allowing her father to take her for repeated exorcisms. No matter how much talent Haelewise shows as an apprentice midwife to her mother, the rest of the village fears her, even considering her skills to be cause for more suspicion. She finds, not long after her mother's death, that she is no longer safe in her village. She sets off in search of a tower, one from her mother's stories, in which only women can find refuge. But along with the tower she discovers a secret sisterhood, which she will need for traveling to convents and castles to keep safe.

McMyne skillfully combines folklore and history with prose that showcases her work as a poet. Although she takes the fairy tale "Rapunzel" as a source, she has crafted it into a world all her own, featuring historical figures such as Hildegard of Bingen, grounded in its own stories and religions--and with just enough detail. This story is complete, but if McMyne wanted to write more about Haelewise's life or a book from the perspective of another resident of the tower, she would have ample room to explore further.

Readers who enjoyed Circe by Madeline Miller, Wicked by Gregory Maguire and the Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana L. Paxson will be well-pleased. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library

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