The Book of Gothel

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

Haelewise has always lived under the shadow of her mother, Hedda—a woman who will do anything to keep her daughter protected. For with her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her medieval 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.

Then, Hedda dies, and Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother used to speak of—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 unlocks a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles behind the world Haelewise has always known…

I was so intrigued by the blurb of this book as I absolutely love both fairytale retellings and villain origin stories. This book sounded like it would fulfil both of those tropes and I was excited. However, I feel like the blurb lied to me a little. Or perhaps I misunderstood and expected there to be more about Haelewise being a witch and more references to Rupunzel. However, Rupunzel didn’t appear until about 85% through the book and it was a very ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moment. This was more of a historical fiction novel with some magical elements as opposed to a retelling/origin story. I am not generally a big fan of historical fiction set in our world so the limited amount of magic and fairytale elements left me feeling a little disappointed.

I have to say that Haelewise was one of the most infuriating protagonists that I’ve read about in a wee while. She had zero sense of self preservation and just wanted everyone to trust her. She instantly trusted strangers and would tell them her secrets in the hope that they would share theirs…this was a logic that I just couldn’t fathom. She also seemed incapable of understanding very basic instructions. Haelewise made some really odd choices which resulted in her being in more danger than she was already in. I appreciate that she was 17 but a. She’d been through a lot in her young life and at the beginning of the book, she seemed more mature and b. This book took place in the 12th century so I would have expected her to have been less huffy when things didn’t go her way.

I really enjoyed the sense of rebellion among the women. I liked the tower and the purpose of the tower as well as the magic of the area of Gothel. I would have loved to have known a bit more about The Mother.

This was an ok book, as historical fiction, it was enjoyable enough. If you like historical fiction then this may be for you. If you’re looking for a Rupunzel/Mother Gothel origin story, this wasn’t it.

There were some sexy times in this book that made me queasy. One of the participants had been in a cell for at least a month and definitely wasn’t bathing during that time. It gave me the ick. Especially as they washed the next day!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review

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