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The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne – ARC Review!

Everyone knows the story of Rapunzel in the tower, but do you know the tale of the witch who put her there?

Enter a world of dark magic, mysterious woods and evil princes. This is the truth they never wanted you to know, as only a witch might tell it.

With her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her village, and her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, of an ancient tower cloaked in mist where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.

But when her mother dies, Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the tower of legend-a place called Gothel, where Haelewise meets a wise woman willing to take her under her wing.

But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the Church strives to keep hidden. A secret that reveals a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles behind the world Haelewise has always known.

Haelewise has spent her life shunned by her village, her strange eyes and fainting spells convincing them she was cursed by the devil, infected by a demon. Her only solace lies in her mother and the stories she tells her about Princes in wolf skins and Princess stealing witches, Little did Haelewise know just how true these stories were. When her mother died, not knowing what to do with herself, Haelewise goes in search of the tower of Gothel where she hopes to become an apprentice, but Gothel isn’t wholly the sanctuary she expected, and Haelewise quickly becomes embroiled in a story bigger then her, one filled with Princesses, evil and true love, without the happy ending. Haelewise may not know it yet, but she is to become the villain of this story, but for now she is determined to do whats right, save those she loves, right the wrongs that have been done and bring down the true villain.

Haelewise is a character I just instantly fell in love with. A girl living a simple, if not slightly different life, All she wants is to be normal, to marry, have children, take over her mothers midwife practice, But fate has other plans in store. She is a girl who knows loss, who has been abused both physically and emotionally, a girl who simply wants somewhere to belong. Her story is not a happy one, yet it is filled with love, family, friendship all the same. She is a girl resigned to her fate, dealing with the hand life gave her, but she will not rest till her story has been told, the truth of it, not the tale that has been passed down in generations showing her as the villain, but the one where she forgoes her own happy ending to save a child surely to die otherwise.

McMyne gives us a standout cast of side characters; Matthaus, the boy Haelewise loves but is destined never to truly have, Mother Gothel, the women who lives in the tower when Haelewise goes to seek refuge, Prince Ulrich, the wolf in man form who is the true villain of her story, as well as many, many more. Some may only stay for a matter of pages, sentences sometimes, but they all play a pivotal part in telling Haelewise’s true story. I especially loved the inclusion of the female characters, Frederika, Ursilda & Beatrice, women fighting against the tyranny of men and religion, trying to bring the Mother back into the world. Their small acts of defiance helped Haelewise on her journey and she wouldn’t have had a story to tell without them.

Can I just start off by saying I’m loving this outbreak of retelling’s showing the, usually female, villain in a different light. How they weren’t evil, simply misunderstood, villains of circumstance, or a need to vilify anything different. McMyne takes the story of Haelewise, Mother Gothel, and tell the story of a woman who was forced to become a villain to protect those she loved. She brilliantly brings to light the plight of women throughout history, how they were limited in their roles, forced to stay within the roles society expected of them, and if they strayed even a little, were seen as different, cursed, evil, thanks in large part to the Church. She shows how the Church shunned anything that threatened their rule, control over the people, and showed it as evil.

I will admit to being slightly thrown with the first chapter, with it’s modern characters and setting, but by the end I couldn’t help but praise the authors choice to write the story as she did. It added a deeper emotional element to the tale and made sure I finished the book with bittersweet tears in my eyes, The Book of Gothel is a story that both meanders through Haelewises life, but also moves at a pace that makes it nearly impossible to put down. McMyne’s writing style ensures this reads like a fable of old & I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.

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