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The Magic Circle

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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  924 ratings  ·  95 reviews
After learning sorcery to become a healer, a good-hearted woman is turned into a witch by evil spirits and she fights their power until her encounter with Hansel and Gretel years later.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published June 1st 1995 by Puffin Books (first published June 1st 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,840)
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Eden
Ugly one is what she has been called for a long time. She does not consider herself beautiful; she is hunchbacked and one such as her could not be beautiful. She is a midwife, the best one you can get, and a mother to Asa; her beautiful daughter.
But Bala tells her that she can become a healer. She can save people and children from devils. She believes this is God's calling for her and listens closely to Bala and does what Bala tells her.

For nine years she was a healer, for nine years she command
...more
Leanna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris
At the heart of any "Hansel and Gretel" story is the idea of the witch, who is always linked to the stepmother. In many ways, the fairy tale is about women. The father is controlled by the stepmother, the witch has a major role, and while Hansel does seem active in the beginning of the story, it is Gretel who saves Hansel at the end. In this story, the women are front and center. It is true that the character of the stepmother is notable in her non-physical presence, but the character of Bala se ...more
Amanda
This book certainly doesn't put witchcraft into a bright light -- in this book, witchcraft is of the devil, and sorcery is of god. Strange, huh?

It had a very interesting twist on the folktale of Hansel and Gretel. You definitely sympathize with the witch, being forced to serve the devils and all. I really love the ending -- nice surprise.

I've got one question, where did she get the pots and pans? She made her cottage --that I can believe, but did she make her pots and pans? I suppose she stole
...more
Jade Arthur
Although the story moves very fast since it's mostly told in actions and thoughts, it was odd comparing it to its inspiration Hansel and Gretel. This version, as many do, reinvents the villain, turning her into a sympathetic woman who makes a deal with devils in order to save her daughter. Through this, she becomes a witch and it's ultimately the devils taking over her mind that make her want to eat the children; she tries to fight against the impulse to devour them. If this is any indication, t ...more
Alex
The last chapter was the best... I was very disappointed in the beginning, had it not been that it is only 118 pages long... I don't think I would have been able to finish it. I didn't like the writing style. Although I did like the story between the main character and her daughter. It would have been nice to know what happened to the daughter - after giving birth... but they way the story was told - there was no way of knowing. I also didn't like all the mentioning of God... it would have been ...more
Alicia
This book was written from the perspective of the witch from the story of hansel and gretel. What would cause a woman to end up living alone in a candy house and wanting to eat children? This story tries to trace that story back to the beginning.

It was interesting, albeit rather dark and slightly demented.
Kiki
Story: I really enjoyed this short novella. It just shows to us that there is a story for the antagonists and we, as fellow writers, should take good care of the development of our little villains.

This story was a quick read and is imaginative and creative. I enjoyed reading it.

Structure: First person did not suit this story very well. It could have been written in third person and still be able to see what was happening to "Ugly One". Most of the other characters are not very well developed a
...more
Emily
An interesting twist on a classic children's story. The story of Hansel and Gretel from the witches perspective. You can read it in one sitting. I don't know why but I love it and have read it several times since I was a kid.
Christie
Not sure how this ended up on the Best Fairytale Retellings list. It was okay. Read it in a single sitting. I summarized the story to Tim and he thought it was kind of odd as well.
Stitches Not Glue
Anyone who likes stories such as Wicked should give this book a shot! It's a short, fast-paced read, but it isn't shallow. I would have enjoyed it had it been given a bit more length, maybe gone a bit more into the intricacies of the characters, but what was there is enough, especially as it's based on a fairly sparse fairy tale.

This is Hansel and Gretel with the witch at the center of the story, and she isn't so bad as we're normally led to believe ... now if we could only apply that lesson to
...more
Skall18
worst book i have ever read in my life
Katy Wilmotte
This book is essentially a re-telling of Hansel and Gretel from the witch's point of view. If you thought it was impossible to make that child-eating hag a likable, sympathetic character, then you are wrong because in truth Ugly One is just a tender-hearted hunchback being oppressed by the devils she once controlled- the price that came for her love of beauty.
Everything about this slender little novel is excellent: the characterization, the plot, the detail rich prose that is both swift enough t
...more
Alicia Stevens
The Magic Circle is the retelling of the famous fairy-tale Hansel and Gretel, but from the Witch's perspective (although you aren't even aware of it until you are more than half way into the book and Hansel and Gretel are introduced).

The witch is a hunchback who is referred to as "Ugly One" and whose life is centered around her beautiful daughter Asa. Ugly One's neighbor, Bala, convinces her to be more than a simple midwife, she convinces her to be a healer by chasing devils away.

Being tricked
...more
Sydney
horriblr
Raissa
Finally finished it. What took me so long is this is the book I keep in my handbag for reading when I go out. And I hardly ever go out or get a chance to read when I do.

It's an interesting retelling of Hansel and Gretel, with the witch made a sympathetic character. The author had to stretch to do that, brave of her but resulted in some rather contrived aspects. Did she have to stick so closely to the description of the Brothers Grimm of a humpbacked, ugly, nearly blind witch?

Romances in Donna J
...more
Bridget R. Wilson
Ugly One, Mother, Ugly Sorceress, Witch, Old Woman, Mother.

She'd been called many names in her life. Everything she did, whether good or evil, was for love. She loved her daughter so much. That love caused her to go from being a simple midwife into a sorceress. When the demons stopped obeying her and commanded her to obey them, she agreed only to save her daughter. She remembered the fairy tale land a young boy had told her about. There she fled. For nine years, she lived in solitude. She avoide
...more
Rachel Parker
This book is a retelling of the story of Hansel and Gretel, but you would never know it in the beginning of the book. It starts with a woman called the Ugly One who is the towns midwife. She is a hunchback so no one really wants to be around her but her skills in midwifery are very well known. She has a daughter named Asa who is very smart and beautiful. A neighbor suggests that she would make a lot more money if she was not only able to deliver babies, but cast out demons from people. She decid ...more
Jackie
The Magic Circle is a retelling of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. The Old Hag listens to an acquaintance and seeks to become a sorceress to heal the sick and dying. All she has to do is stay within the magic circle and the demons cannot get her...yet, one day, she is lured outside the circle and becomes a witch. She tries to gather all her strength and resists the urge to eat human flesh or more specifically the flesh of little children. She lives out in the enchanted forest by herself and ea ...more
Geraldine Orlik
This book takes readers to the begins of the witch from Hansel & Gretel. It's told from the witches point of view, who was not always a witch but a healing sorceress and midwife. At first she is pure of thought and heart, but one day while performing a healing within the magic circle she filled with pride and losses her abilities to summon demons to her beck and call and comes to realize that now they can summon her. Thus she is turned into a witch that demons forever taunt with their voices ...more
Janice
Jul 27, 2014 Janice rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
An interesting perspective on this old children's tale! The cover says that the author did much research, and I was very interested in how she used that research in writing this story. I'm now interested in a story in this girl and what she is like as an adult, given this experience. Maybe the author will write that story some time.
Kristine Kouba
Plot Summary - The Magic Circle tells a witch's point of view, her name is the Ugly One. The story is based off of/tied into Hansel and Gretel. The book talked about magic, witches, demons, jewels, and the sorceress. I couldn't follow the book too well and it didn't interest me at all.

Main Characters - the Ugly One - the witch, lives alone in the woods, hears voices in her head. The voices tell her to eat Hansel and Gretel when the witch ecounters the children. Used to be happy and had a daughte
...more
Bill
This is a retelling of a well-known fairy tale but you could easily read the book until you were 2/3 of the way through without knowing which one because it gives you the background to the witch - a woman who is wise, powerful, loving and who, through a single mistake (or is it how she is misunderstood by society),ends up in the grip of evil forces.

The book is written simply enough to read out loud to young children and for school-age children to read on their own. However, it is powerful enoug
...more
Erin McDonnell-Jones
A very quick read. The storyline was almost too fantastical when I began the story, and the Hansel/Gretel connection didn't appear until the last two-thirds of the story.
Cherylann
This is really more of a 3.5 star review. Napoli does wonderful retellings of fairy tales. I enjoy reading her novels for this reason. I didn't love the Magic Circle. In the Magic Circle, Napoli tells the story of Hansel and Gretel. The tale is told from the Witch's point of view. The reader learns how she becomes a witch and what really happens in the cottage with Hansel and Gretel. I didn't find the characters as developed in other Napoli novels. While it was a quick read because it's such a s ...more
Eunice Kim
I think I read this ~5 times when I was younger.
Briana
Mar 22, 2013 Briana added it
Shelves: 13-25
This is a retelling of the story of Hansel and Gretel. However is focuses on the life of the witch and how she came to be so. She starts out as a mid wife, who then becomes a healer, but is tricked and becomes a slave to the spirits she once used to heal. She tries all she can to fight these evil spirits and to not succumb to their powers
This was an interesting read. I found the retelling from the witches side intriguing. It was a short read and read fairly quickly. It wasn't one of my favorites
...more
Christina
This was a good book (despite my stingy three-star rating), but rather disturbing as well. A re-telling of Hansel and Gretel from the witch's perspective, it is a painful glimpse at medieval religion and superstition, as well as how schizophrenia may have manifest itself in that age. The back cover states: "To write this book, Napoli immersed herself in the history, art and religion of medieval Europe, which she found overwhelming and frightening." Indeed.
Jessica Jensen
This is an AMAZING re-telling of the story of Hanzel and Gretel. Napoli manages to strike nothing out of the story... but instead by weaving her own story through the one we all grew up with she completely changes your perspective on the story. I guarantee you will feel very differently about the story you grew up with if you read this one. If you like story re-tellings along the lines of Wicked you'll enjoy this short afternoon read.
Bobby Parker
This book is the story of Hansel and Gretel through the perspective of the witch. It starts out talking about a woman who wanted to become a sorcerous in order to serve God and help people against demons. One day she doesn't take enough caution and is caught in the trap of a demon.

I thought this book was interesting. Not really my cu of tea but I thought it was interesting to take that perspective on a fairy tale.
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Into the Forest: Magic Circle - Spoiler Free 6 12 Sep 24, 2010 01:58PM  
Into the Forest: Magic Circle - Spoiler Discussion 4 12 Sep 23, 2010 01:34PM  
Into the Forest: Magic Circle - Fairy Tale Transformation Talk 4 20 Sep 23, 2010 11:43AM  
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From her website:

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's and YA fiction.

Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread.

At various times her house and yard have been filled with dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to
...more
More about Donna Jo Napoli...
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“Or, in truth, eventually, though I still noticed, the callouses on my spirit prevented wounds (p.75).” 1 likes
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