The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne

Published on November 14, 2022

The Book of Gothel Book Cover. A long red braid of hair hangs out of a single window on a stone tower. Set against a repeating backdrop of greenery and flowers.

Reviewed by Samantha Calderone

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

Haelewise has hoped to live a life like her mother, Hedda, as a well-known midwife with a family of her own one day. Hedda has done everything she can to protect her daughter from being turned into an outcast due to her unusual fainting spells and her piercing black eyes. As Haelewise grew, she found it harder to fit in and keep her fainting spells at bay. Her only solace was the friend she found in the tailor’s son, and the stories her mother told her about children-stealing witches and princes in wolf skins.

However, when her mother falls ill, Haelewise’s father, along with the people of her village, seem to believe it is because of her. After her mother passes, a series of events lead to Haelewise being deemed a heretic and witch by people in her village, which forces her to flee.

Seeking the only place she can think of that would offer her safety, Haelewise goes to the place from her mother’s stories, a sanctuary for women, the Tower of Gothel. Upon her arrival, Haelewise not only learns more about her mother’s life and beliefs, but she also begins to study the old ways under the guidance of the current Mother Gothel. When a young woman, Rika, arrives at the tower seeking refuge, Haelewise is sucked into a world of princes and princesses, as well as plots of murder and revenge.

The story of Haelewise consists of a series of events that led up to her becoming the Mother Gothel many people have heard of today. The novel is bursting with enchanting scenery, magic and a mother’s unconditional love. Having faced such hardship, Haelewise is a product of her upbringing, but she does everything in her power to make things right, making her the true hero of this story. McMyne has created a realistic backstory for Mother Gothel through Haelewise, one that may leave reader’s questioning if she was not the true hero of Rapunzel’s story all along.

This novel is Mary McMyne’s debut novel and may leave readers with a thirst for more fairy tale prequels and retellings.

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐




Tagged as: