Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book Review: Rapunzel's Revenge (Graphic Novel)

Title: Rapunzel's Revenge
Author: Shannon and Dean Hale
Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fairy Tale, Fantasy
My Rating: ****
Age Group: 12+

Summary -
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Rapunzel who was raised by Mother Gothel in a grand, beautiful villa, surrounded by the woman's growth-magic. But the villa was encircled by a great wall, and Rapunzel, being curious, wanted to see over that wall, even though Mother Gothel had forbidden it. One day, Rapunzel found a way to the top of the wall and saw that Mother Gothel's villa was surrounded by death and ugliness.
Enraged by the girl's inquisitiveness, Mother Gothel imprisons her in a tree, and for four years, Rapunzel remains in the tower with only her thoughts as company.

Rapunzel escapes. After years of imprisonment, her hair has grown long... and she is able to use it as a lasso. Her time in the tree has changed her in other ways as well; she is now quite willing to do whatever it takes to bring down the tyrannical reign of Mother Gothel and free the poor slaves under her rule. With the help of thieving Jack and his pet goose, she's ready to take on her arch-nemesis.

The Bad -
- Mother Gothel is a thoroughly bad villain, who uses threats and violence to keep the people under control.
- Rapunzel's travels lead her into many violent adventures, and we see images of wild dogs, run-away buffalo, bad guys being conked out, guns waved at people, frightening outlaws, and various other images of the Wild (with a great emphasis on wild) West.
- As the story is set in a Wild West setting, we hear various Western exclamations (nothing too bad), and several scenes contain swearing (off-scene) that Rapunzel reprimands the characters for.
- Jack is an incorrigible thief, and while Rapunzel adamantly refuses to willingly participate in the thieving directly, she is often forced by circumstances to go along with Jack, though she insists that they pay back whoever they wronged later.
- Jack makes underwear jokes, especially after Rapunzel is forced to go around in (extremely conservative) underclothes.
- While planning an attack, Jack suggests that Rapunzel uses her feminine wiles and "do a sultry little dance" to distract the bad guys. Rapunzel immediately vetoes the plan, and mockingly brings it up later in the story.
- Jack has a female admirer who makes a few (rather veiled) advances.
- Mother Gothel learned growth-magic from a witch-doctorish man, who tells Rapunzel that Gothel's power comes from a sort of totem. This is never fully explained.
- Jack sees a couple kissing, and gets it into his head to kiss Rapunzel. He succeeds at the end of the story, saying that he has been "dying to steal" the kiss for a long time.

The Good -
- Rapunzel had a good upbringing, and she expects to see good in everyone. She's disappointed by the ugliness of the people in the world around her, and wants them all to stop being greedy and nasty.
- While maintaining a jokingly-teasing relationship with Jack, Rapunzel manages to actually begin to care for him as a good friend, and often risks her safety for Jack. Jack does the same for Rapunzel.
- During all their adventures, Rapunzel and Jack never forget their ultimate goal: to defeat Gothel and free the people.

My Conclusion -
I am not a big fan of graphic novels, and it is rare when I actually am able to enjoy one. I picked up Rapunzel because I had read the author's other books, and I expected it to be at least diverting, if not particularly good.
I wasn't completely wrong, but I underestimated the book just a bit. While the illustrations and the narration certainly lacked polish, the story itself was quite a different take on the classic fairy tale than I was accustomed to. It was clever and interesting, if rough. I suppose putting any fairy tale in the Wild West is going to get rather unexpected results; and while many scenes were more violent than they really needed to be because of the setting change, it certainly gave a new spin to an old story.
Erring on the side of caution, I'm putting the age range at 12+, but I think (if you parents out there don't mind wading through a graphic novel) that it could be given to younger children depending on the maturity of the reader.

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