- 369 pages
- July 2022 release
- Soft fantasy
- Coming of Age
- Fairytale Re-telling
- Historical Fiction
The Book of Gothel takes place in Germany, 1156—before modern medicine, when women with medicinal remedies were considered witches. Though you might have heard of Mother Gothel as the villainous witch in Rapunzel’s story, few have dared to tell the mother’s story. The Book of Gothel does just this, written from the witch’s perspective.
Young Haelewise has been an outsider her entire life. With her frizzy dark hair, her strange eyes, and fainting spells that come on suddenly, the town has deemed her an outcast from birth. Her only solace, from a village that has shunned her, comes from her mother’s stories of ancient towers, men wearing the skins of wolves, and witches. Yet, when her mother dies and Haelewise is left with nothing but her mother’s garden and mysterious fruit, she has no choice but to set out into the scary, but exciting, world her mother has told her of.
Haelewise hopes to venture to a safe place, a tower her mother has spoken of many times, wishful that the old witch that lives there might take her on as an apprentice and keep her from death by stoning at the hands of the townsfolk. Yet, as Haelewise ventures into the woods, she leaves the only world she’s ever known and embarks on a greater adventure than she could have ever asked for.
With relatively few reviews posted on both Goodreads and Amazon, I didn’t have high hopes for The Book of Gothel. Yet, book reviews like GrimDarkMagazine have raved about the story, and I absolutely HAD to get my hands on a copy of this book to figure out if this might be the greatest gem of my reading year (you’ll want to keep reading this review, for sure *hint hint*).
Originally, I had requested this book from my library, hoping to add it to my growing TBR list for this fall. Yet, curious about the storyline, I started reading the first few pages to get a gist of the book–and I immediately couldn’t put it down.
The Book of Gothel is intensely captivating from the very first page. It has incredible imagery that readers can easily fall into, and it reads much like a child’s story might–though it IS written for adults. I found myself reminiscing of the bedtime stories my mom used to read to me when I was younger, and perhaps that was exactly McMyne’s intention. After all, Haelewise relies on stories from her own mother to pull her through her darkest moments.
One thing I absolutely loved about this book was Haelewise’s resilience. As far as fictional characters go, I have read very few books with characters are determined to make something of themselves as Haelewise. In fact, the only book I’ve found that I’ve read that matches this height is Madeline Miller’s Circe (you can read that review by clicking here). Haelewise suffers unimaginable loss in her family and she has no allies in her life–yet, she continues on with hope, time and time again.
Another thing I really loved about this book was McMyne’s ability to pull the reader into the story. I truly felt like I was part of Haelewise as she described Sister Hildegard’s convent, and Kunegunde’s tower. McMyne has an incredibly unique voice that I think most readers will identify with. I’m not a fantasy reader by any means, and I was very quickly pulled into the storyline of The Book of Gothel.
While die-hard fans of Rapunzel will find this adaptation lacking the famed maiden with the red hair, I can guarantee there’s no lack of princesses. The Book of Gothel is filled with Kings, Queens, Knights, Witches, you name it, even if it does stray from the fairytale that most readers have heard many times.
It’s impossible not to love The Book of Gothel. There is a reason this book is so highly rated, even if it doesn’t have the quantity of reviews it deserves.
I can already tell this is going to be one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Though, I’ve decided to deduct a half of a star for the ending of this book. While I think The Book of Gothel is incredible (and honestly, it’s nearly perfect), I didn’t love the ending. While I won’t spoil it for readers, I think Haelewise deserved a different ending than what she got, given all of her childhood adventures (I’ll leave it at that).
If you haven’t ordered this book for your bookshelf yet, you’ll want to–The Book of Gothel is a comfort book that I can see a lot of readers turning to this fall. You can order your copy on Amazon by clicking here.