Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Month of Rapunzel: Book Review: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon (no spoilers)

Book: The Fairest of Them All
Author: Carolyn Turgeon
Publication: August 6th, 2013
Source: Local Library
Read: January 20th-January 26th, 2014
Summary (From Goodreads):
What if Rapunzel was Snow White’s evil stepmother? From the author of Godmother and Mermaid, The Fairest of Them All explores what happens when fairy tale heroines grow up and don’t live happily ever after.

 Living in an enchanted forest, Rapunzel spends her days tending a mystical garden with her adoptive mother, Mathena. A witch, Mathena was banished from court because of her magic powers, though the women from the kingdom still seek her advice and herbal remedies. She waits, biding her time to exact revenge against those who betrayed her.

 One day Rapunzel’s beautiful voice and long golden locks captivate a young prince hunting in the forest nearby. Overcome, he climbs her hair up to her chamber and they fall into each other’s arms. But their afternoon of passion is fleeting, and the prince must return to his kingdom, as he is betrothed to another.

 Now king, he marries his intended to bring peace to his kingdom. They have a stunning daughter named Snow White. Yet the king is haunted by his memories of Rapunzel, and after the mysterious death of his wife, realizes he is free to marry the woman he never stopped longing for. In hopes of also replacing the mother of his beloved daughter, the king makes Rapunzel his queen.

 But when Mathena’s wedding gift of an ancient mirror begins speaking to her, Rapunzel falls under its evil spell, and the king begins to realize that Rapunzel is not the beautiful, kind woman he dreamed of

My Thoughts:

The fairest of them all has become one of the most complex retellings I have read. The story all begins when Rapunzel is 17. Mathena Gothel, her adoptive mother and Rapunzel have been living deep in the forest healing people with the magical herbs from their garden. Rapunzel was trapped in the tower because Mathena wanted to hide her from prince Josef, but with a girl so beautiful and fair the prince couldn't stay away. 

Usually Rapunzel in herself is a pretty simplistic character. Usually she is wildly naive and very quick to fall in love. One of the reasons I loved this novel is because this Rapunzel is different. She in herself was evil, but she didn't mean to be evil. Kind of like Elsa from Disney's Frozen. Rapunzel in herself was selfish, but at the same time she was willing to help the kingdom. Rapunzel made me fall in love with The Fairest of Them. I loved her character at the beginning, but as the novel went on I wasn't always sure that her motives were in the right place. She does have a conscience, which isn't something we always find in Snow White's evil step mother. This author definetly twisted my feelings about Rapunzel whether I should love her character or not like her character. I think I was somewhere inbetween throughout the book. 

Mother Gothel, Mathena was also very complex in this novel. She wasn't really evil. Yes, she took Rapunzel and hid with her in the woods, but she only locked Rapunzel up for a brief time. One thing that was really different about Mathena is that she was the one that gave Rapunzel her escape. She only wanted to keep her there until a certain time. Mathena taught Rapunzel everything she knew and taught Rapunzel to revel in her beauty. Mathena didn't have any selfish reasons to hold Rapunzel hostile as most of the Gothel's do. 

Then there was Prince Josef who later became King Josef. I really wanted to fall in love with Josef, but his selfish personality always made me keep away from him a little bit. 

Snow White was beautiful as always. The author was able to bring Snow White's character to life because she had real feelings that a person would have when they get a new mother shortly after their own has died. She was fair and kind to all. I loved her character and how her character changed as she grew. I felt some of her reactions to Rapunzel to be quite surprising. 

I think Carolyn Turgeon did a brilliant job of combining the classic tale of Rapunzel and Snow White together. She had to twists Rapunzel's character to give her the qualities of Snow White's evil step mother. The mirror has always been a defining part of Snow White's fairytale and the mirror was an important element in this novel. The mirror creates the lesson in this story to show that beauty is important, but it can be dangerous when beauty becomes everything. Rapunzel's hair felt everybody's emotions and saw into their heart which is a key component of the original tale. 

I do think that the ending could have been more developed, but I did love the ending. I think Snow White's character could have been fleshed out more towards the end, but I think there was some key lessons and themes to be learned from this story. Beauty is not everything, being kind to people will take you far in life, and true love will always find a way.  I really want to talk about this book with somebody. It is one of my favorite fairy tale retellings I have read. This character driven novel is an amazing Rapunzel retelling and has made me want to read more books by this wonderful author. 


  1. This sounds like a fantastic book. I really didn't realize how many Rapunzel retelling there are!! How neat that there is both Rapunzel and Snow White in the same book!!! I bet this is a fun read.

    1. This one was a great read. I highly recommend it. Probably the most complex fairy tale retelling I have read. The themes in this novel were so rich. There are actually quite a few Rapunzel retellings. So many that with over a year of planning I still was not able to read all of them.

  2. I didn't know there were so many Rapzunel retellings though I have read one 'Tower in the Woods' by Tara Quan that I loved. Great review!

    1. I haven't read that one. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. I will most definitely have to pick it up. It sounded really great to me when i heard about it months ago but didn't manage to snag a copy.

    I know that feeling of wanting to talk to someone else about it that has read it and having no one!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I definitely recommend this book. I hope you enjoy.


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