I have read many Rapunzel retellings by now and I have loved them all. Each novel had a different aspect to add to the original fairy tale. There will be minor spoilers in this post, but overall it should be okay to read even if you haven't read the novels. I want to compare the novels to the original tale and tell which elements I really liked.
Rapunzel Untangled is really the novel that took off this idea. I read this in May of 2013 and I fell in love with Cindy C. Bennett's retelling of Rapunzel and I knew I wanted to feature this book in a month long event of Rapunzel. I loved how she took specific elements of the original fairy tale and twisted them to make the tale more modern. Such as Rapunzel had a computer and facebook account although she was trapped in the tower. She didn't understand the internet quite enough to figure out how much more was outside her tower. The only thing I wish Cindy C. Bennett cut was the insta-love, but that is prevalent in the original fairy tale and I guess after being trapped in a tower for so many years you would have a twisted sense of what love is. My favorite part of Rapunzel Untangled was the dark elements she added to the story. Disney makes every fairy tale happy, but most of the original fairy tales have some very dark elements and authors have to decide if they are going to use those elements or not. Cindy C. Bennett decided to use the dark elements to her advantage and ended up creating the most intense ending I have seen in a Rapunzel retelling. It was like the ending of Tangled except much more intense.
I had seen many negative reviews of Towering before I ever got my hands on the novel. I tried to not let it sway my opinion. I fell in love with Towering. It wasn't quite as great as Rapunzel Untangled, but I still thought it was a great retelling. Towering was more of a mystery. Wyatt comes to stay with this old lady and he finds the mystery of Danielle, her dead daughter, and the granddaughter who was trapped in a tower. That's Rachel, our Rapunzel, and she dreams of a life outside of the tower like Rapunzel from Disney's Tangled. Danielle's journals had to be my favorite part of the novel although they didn't continue for long. Towering was not a straight Rapunzel retelling, but more so the elements sprinkled into the novel. I think the mystery and suspense added a lot to the novel. Rachel's long golden hair is of course part of the story. I could have lived without the instant love between Wyatt and Rachel. As I mentioned before Rapunzel is a princess that needs to be rescued and that was true for Rachel. This one unlike Rapunzel Untangled was a very light fairy tale retelling. I felt the ending was a bit too abrupt and would have preferred a bit more development, but overall loved the novel.
The Bald Rapunzel what a brilliant retelling by Cameron Dokey. It was the first book I have read in the Once Upon a Time series and I can't wait to read more. I think the story could have used a bit more development, but it was in all honesty had many elements from the original tale. The two before mentioned nothing about the Lettuce or Herb Rapunzel, but this book does. In the Grimm Fairy Tale Rapunzel is not locked away until she is 12, but in many of the retellings, Tangled included, Rapunzel is locked away when she is a baby. Everything in Rapunzel's life in Golden is normal until she turns 16 then she has two days to save Rue (our true Rapunzel) who has been locked in a tower. Rapunzel's childhood was very well developed in this novel. Melisande is not evil. We can tell that she truly loves Rapunzel. That is so different from every Gothel that I had read so far. She raised Rapunzel as her own and protected her from the children's cruel words. My favorite part about Golden is that that love story between Rapunzel and Harry developed over time. He didn't just one day come pound on her window and ask him to marry her. They were friends for many years before they ever fell in love. The Instant love was more with Rue than it was with Rapunzel. I think Rue's character could have been more finely developed, but overall I think Cameron Dokey did an amazing job with Golden.
Next to Ella Enchanted, Zel is a fairy tale retelling I get shocked expressions not to have read. I finally read it in January 2014 and yes I'm sad I didn't read this one when I was a bit younger. I enjoyed Zel so much. It returned back to the dark fairy tale roots that I fall in love with every time. Zel and Golden compared together quite nicely. They both had very well developed childhood and were locked up in latter life. After so many years of being free it is hard for Zel to understand her mother locking her in the tower. The mother loves Zel so much that she is selfish and never wants to lose Zel to marriage. The prince aimelessly wanders around for years blind looking for Zel. I thought the prince was the ode to the original tale the most. I think his passion for Zel, shown so much through the lengths he was willing to go through to find her. The prince could have married anybody he wanted to yet he was in love with Zel. Being locked in that tower changes Zel and that is a part I believe so many authors are afraid to show. She went from being an innocent 13 year old girl to a bitter 15 year old. She was mad, didn't understand, and bored. The only unrealistic part of Zel is how she gets pregnant and has twins by the time Count Konrad finds her. She heals Konrad's blindness with her tears. I think that is where Disney's Tangled might have got the idea for the magical healing tears and even the hair since Rapunzel's hair is most of the time only a climbing tool why can't it have the power to heal as Zel healed Konrad's blindness.
I wrote a lengthy Discussion post on The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon so I won't go too far in depth here. I'm so happy I had the chance to read this novel and share it during A Month of Rapunzel. It is just simply fantastic. This fairy tale retelling explores what happens when Rapunzel grows up, marries the prince, and becomes Snow White's step mother. A huge theme of this novel was jealously and selfishness. Two themes that are prevalent within the Grimm tale. Rapunzel buried her own son while Snow White got to live a lavish life and be healthy and happy. Her own son did not live so Rapunzel was terribly jealous of Snow White. She believed that her son should be alive and well and the rightful air to the throne. This one was completely original idea with bits of Snow White's tale and Rapunzel's tale. The themes in this novel really got to me. I was in love with every aspect of this novel and wrote a lengthy review and discussion post to say so. I can't wait to read more from this author. I think Carolyn Turgeon explored the feelings that the princess doesn't always live happily ever after when she gets married to the prince. There is still struggles to go through and that is what makes The Fairest of Them All so unique.
So many people have fallen in love with Cress and I was happy to be among them. As my sister put it this was a very hard book to move on from and I agree. The fairy tale elements of this story were so rich and it was such a character driven novel. Deb did a guest post about the elements of Rapunzel in the story so I will only touched on them briefly. I saw moments of Tangled mixed into this story, but there were also parts that reminded me of Zel such as Captain Carswell Thorne becoming blind. Although this one didn't have a happily ever after like Zel did. I think Cress's character was niave, quirky, and an overall awesome Rapunzel. I fell in love with her instantly as I knew I would and continued to be amazed at her bravery throughout the novel. Cress may have needed to be rescued from her satellite, but she proved throughout the rest of the novel that she was capable of making her own decisions and standing on her own too feet. Marissa Meyer loves to create strong female characters and Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder are all great examples of the triumphs women will go through to get what they want and need.
I had so much fun reading all these different Rapunzel retellings. They all had something different to author. I didn't ever feeling like I was just reading the same story over and over again. It is really hard to pick a favorite so I won't. I will just recommend that you read all of them. Of course I am only one person and I was not able to read every Rapunzel telling for this month of Rapunzel so I will have a post coming up about the Rapunzel retellings I missed reading and recommend you guys to check out.