Spotlighting ZEL by Donna Jo Napoli

Welcome to A Week of Rapunzel in celebration of our favorite long-haired heroine...
not to mention the launch of Marissa Meyer's CRESS!
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Three books inspired me to fall in love with fairy tales after I'd "outgrown" them:

ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine, WICKED by Gregory Maguire, and ZEL by Donna Jo Napoli.

Someday, I'd like to meet all three of these authors and tell them how much they inspired and changed me. I actually almost met Donna Jo Napoli at ALA Mid-Winter this past weekend and I'm kicking myself that I wasn't just a little faster! I went to the Simon &B Schuster booth looking for an ARC of her new book STORM and was told that I'd just missed meeting the author, who'd been visiting the booth. I was really sad! But it was also kind of amazing to know that I was probably still breathing her air! I wish I could have asked her for her perspective on Rapunzel  to share with you all now!


During A Week of Cinder(ella), I talked about my love affair with ELLA ENCHANTED and the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore.

Today, I want to talk about ZEL.

Both ZEL and WICKED are unique in that they both give us a villain's perspective. While the latter is not a fairy tale, but a classic novel retelling, I still classify it as getting me back into reading this genre of retellings.

These two books, in particular, made me want to know more about villains. I started having my own ideas for books featuring villains. Villains suddenly became infinitely more interesting to me. Who are they, who were they, what motivates them? I'm intrigued by movies like the upcoming Maleficent that seek to delve into a characters past and find that turning point that makes them evil. Right now, I'm reading SOLD FOR ENDLESS RUE by Madeleine E. Robins, which you'll hear more about later this week, and it also features a "villain's" perspective.

ZEL, of course, is told from three POVs, not one, but the fact that we could see the villain's motivations completely and utterly fascinated me.

Why did the witch lock Rapunzel away? Was it for something sinister, or was she just...scared? By seeing Mother's perspective in ZEL, she becomes so much more human, and the classic tell becomes a multi-faceted, fuller story. I love and appreciate that Napoli did this!

It's been years since I read this book, but my copy is staring woefully up at me from my bedside table, beaten and worn, but well-loved, asking me to remember. I'm scared to read it again and see if my opinion of this book changes, but I'm also eager to re-unite with it and see again what made me fall back in love with fairy tales! I hope to do so this week in celebration of CRESS!

Have you ever had a book or a movie or something to that effect make a huge impact on you and change the way you viewed things in the future?

These books really shaped who I would eventually become, and I remember them fondly for that (and so much more) to this day!


  1. I read Zel at the very beginning of January for my first time and boy did I fall in love with the novel. I found it so very complex and like you I appreciated the Villan's perspective and dark elements added to the story. I think this Rapunzel retelling followed the original story best, but add so much to the tale.

    1. I agree! I'm fascinated with her perspective. It's been fun seeing new books from her POV this year, but nothing is as special as that first one!

  2. I read this last year! It was a wonderful, intelligent in depth read! Zel is a winner. I don't own it, but this is a must for my home library.

    1. Yes! That should be one of your 2014 purchases! *cheers you on* I'm really eager to read it again!

  3. I read this last year! It was a wonderful, intelligent in depth read! Zel is a winner. I don't own it, but this is a must for my home library.

  4. I have never read Zel, though Napoli was my first introduction to fairy tale retellings (I really loved Beast back in the day, though it has been years). This review and all these enthusiastic comments made me want to pick it up!


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