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Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo writes some of the most intense fairy tale retellings out there-- simple stories become imbued with pscyhological meaning and are dizzyingly turned on their heads. She's usually marketed as a YA, but many of her books deserve the attention of adults. They're usually told in first person narrative, which lends them a vibrancy and immediacy.


Zel is a Rapunzel retelling, sympathetic to the evil witch's point of view. She is a childless woman who sells her soul to obtain a daughter, and then cannot bear to let her go to a mortal...she locks Zel in a tower, and Zel nearly goes mad. While there is a happy ending, most of Zel is very, very dark and intense; recommended only for people 14 and up.


This is a retelling of the Hansel and Gretel myth from the evil witch's point of view. The sypathies are clearly with the usual antagonist, who fights against the demons who urge her to eat the children.


This is retelling of the Greek siren story-- women who lure sailors to their deaths with beautiful songs. Sirena and her sisters are promised immortality if they lure mortals to them. Sirena is reluctant to do so, but when a half-drowned sailor lands upon her island, she discovers what it is to truly love. I found this one to be less compelling, and sort of shrugged off the ending that was supposed to be a tear-jerker.


I found this retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin myth to be somewhat disappointing. While the usually evil Rumpelstiltskin is given a plausible motive and a reason for his deformity, many of the other characters come across as somewhat unbelievable. Saskia, the main character, marries the greedy king a little too easily; nor is the king ever made a likable person. Initially promising, but around the middle of the book, it just started to follow the usual story much too closely and was robbed of its power by the trite ending. Oh well.


This is a retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk myth, and much more successful than Spinners. After Jack's father disappears into the clouds, Jack goes a little crazy. He is determined to find his way into the clouds, but when he does, nothing is as it seems. Why does the seductive giant's wife eerily shadow Jack's mother, and her monstrous husband his father? And the magical objects he takes from the clouds are transformed into the ordinary, but they still allow him to cure himself and gain his true desires. BEAST

I can't quite decide if I'm just getting sick of Napoli's style, or if her writing is getting worse. I didn't really care for Beast at all, although it does retell one of my favorite fairy tales. The insertion of foreign words is awkward, I never really felt for the characters, and the whole thing just doesn't work very well.

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