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3.60  ·  Rating details ·  6,833 ratings  ·  432 reviews
High in the mountains, Zel lives with her mother, who insists they have all they need -- for they have each other. Zel's life is peaceful and protected -- until a chance encounter changes everything. When she meets a beautiful young prince at the market one day, she is profoundly moved by new emotions. But Zel's mother sees the future unfolding -- and she will do the unspe ...more
Paperback, 227 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by Puffin Books (first published September 1st 1996)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,833 ratings  ·  432 reviews

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☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Warining: lots of things here are dreadfully messed up. I don't think the result is fitting for kids, any kids, and many adults. ...more
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
A few years back, I went on a big reading binge with fairytale retellings. All were somewhat brief and young adult. But the shortest, darkest take was definitely this one. Napoli did an excellent job of really developing the limited cast of the classic Rapunzel while staying pretty true to the given motives in the original and giving us a very rich setting. I read books in a very visual way, so when I can imagine a full cinematic concept for what I'm reading, I consider the book a success.

”We will be together.

Mother and Zel.


Synopsis: Women don’t often regret their choice of pregnancy cravings, but a young Swiss mother no doubt does when Mother Gothel comes and takes her infant to raise as her own.

All Hail the Queen of Retellings: Fairytale retellings have always been super popular, but ever since the YA boom started in the mid-to-late 2000s, there’s been a resurgence of them. While most people are quick to name authors such as Marissa Meyer as
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
This story is deep and melancholy and left me feeling depressed. Some graphic scenes are rather disturbing, and the sex scene kind of ruined it for me (bumped the book into a more mature category than is appropriate for its audience).
Mar 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-ya
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara Saif
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Zel was a grim and yet interesting take on Rapunzel. It was a barely 300 page book but it packed a lot and ended in a satisfying way. I liked the way Mother was portrayed and how realistic Rapunzel's mental state was written. I found three things weird though: Konrad's obsession, which started immediately and should have had a sound reason, Rapunzel's hair (ironic, I know), I think it couldn't have taxed Mother much to use her arts for getting to and from the tower once each day. Rapunzel's hair ...more
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The oldest versions of fairy tales tend to be horrifying for those of us who were raised on Walt Disney's magic. I love the sweet happily ever after tales Disney tells, but the original tales are also very appealing. One fairy tale that was always disturbing to me is the story Rapunzel. The idea that a mother (adopted or otherwise) would lock her child in a tower for years is always horrifying. "Zel" does an excellent job showing the love then betrayal that kind of relationship would have to hav ...more
Mar 18, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: young-adult
Ew, what a worthless book, the main character was so annoying I didn't care that she was locked up in her tower, and I found some of the things she did simply disgraceful. I would never recommend this book. ...more
May 24, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: second-half
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Eh, I mean this is basically the re-telling of the classic fairytale, Rapunzel. That's all it was really. I didn't go into this book with high expectations so I wasn't really disappointed. Maybe fairy tales just aren't my thing I don't know. I mean I did like this book it certainly was good and a captivating story, but it just kind of seemed to drag on.

Like Konrad sets out to find Rapunzel for days. Comes back and is unsuccessful. Rapunzel goes crazy, talks to animals, and describes her thought
Zel is a story/a retelling of Rapunzel and it's really good. I'd say it's is one of the finest novels I have read but since I'm yet to do a lot of retellings, I can't say it but Donna Jo Napoli's retelling sounds just right.

It's set in the Swiss Alp and is told by 3 characters: Zel (Rapunzel), her mother, and Konrad (The young Count). This is about a mother who loves her daughter so much that she can't bear the thought of losing her to anyone or anything and this mother is a witch.

Since many o
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I don't know how Napoli can take such a familiar tale (Rapunzel) and turn it into a book I end up staying all night to read because I can't put it down!!! She not only weaves it into a realistic setting (16th century Switzerland), but she handles all sorts of issues in depth - the danger of human longing, the psychological effects of imprisonment, the joy of young love, etc. It also kindly shares alternative perspectives of it all. Haunting and breathtaking, this psychological masterpiece is a M ...more
Jan 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: extremely-bad-ya
Let me sum this book up in one word:


My 14-year-old sister loves fairy tales, so I buy her pretty much every fairy tale book I can get my hands on. I found Zel as well as one of Napoli's other books, Beast, at a secondhand store and let me just say that I am glad I didn't pay full price for either of them.

My sister tried to read Zel several times and ended up skimming it. She told me to sell it back and that she wanted to like it, but the writing was weird. This should have deterred
This started out badly, and I only stuck with it past the first few pages because it is so short. I know that it is YA, or supposed to be, but this book has an identity crisis.

The writing feels incredibly juvenile, simplistic to the point of feeling like it was written by a teen rather than just for teens. (This is my first Napoli book, but I almost choked on my drink when I saw that Napoli "teaches linguistics" according to the blurb at the back of the book.) The sentences are like something I
Heidi Stewart
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
I've been wondering lately if fairy tale retellings just aren't for me. As much as I liked this book, it didn't captivate me in the way I felt it should, and I can find no fault in the novel to suggest why. So I can only assume in some way this story just wasn't for me. And then I think of how much I love "Ella Enchanted" ... maybe I just need the right kind of retelling?

Zel is a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale and follows the dark Brother's Grimm version - the one where the prince sleeps w
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mlis, 2009
what i wrote for class

I think it's a very dark tale on what it means to be an adolescent, a story of the deepest betrayal. I found it far creepier than Coraline, as Zel's mother turns into the other mother before her very eyes without any warning. I know we've spoken about absentee parents in previous weeks, but I can't quite recall if I've been in a thread that touched on bad parenting. It was difficult to read their interactions once Zel was in the tower, to realize that the mother was so inte
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
I picked this up because it was on the "recommended" list at the back of one of Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's anthologies - and I'm very glad I did!
It's a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, set in the 1500's in Switzerland. While Napoli does not take out the more fantastic/magical elements of the story, she very much emphasizes the psychological elements of the story: the witch who demands a baby girl in return for the theft of her lettuce is not simply evil, but clings to her "adopted" da
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A dark, well-written retelling.

The story doesn’t have much humor or humanity to it, but the relationship between Rapunzel and her mother is clearer and the backstories to many of the original tale’s elements are good.

The style is somewhat poetic, and this can get a little annoying at times. You also get to know the mother character more than Zel or Konrad. Still, a rich, delicate work overall.
Feb 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wonderful retelling of Rapunzel from one of my favourite writers, like, evah! The role of the witch-mother figure in Napoli's fairy tale retellings is always fascinating and revealing. In Zel, the question of mother love and guilt is at the heart of the drama, and I also love how Napoli explores the psychological effects of imprisonment on Rapunzel. ...more
On my second read (after what, 15, 16 years?) it's just as good as the first time, they don't make em like that any more, mumble mumble good ole days harumph.

2016 Reading Challenge: "a book based on a fairy tale" ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite books ever. Great storytelling.
Sarah TheAromaofBooks
Jul 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
This retelling of Rapunzel was probably one of the strangest, creepiest, most bizarre fairy tale retellings I have found in a long time. 1/5 for me – I don’t like books that leave me feeling as though I’ve wasted my time and will probably have weird dreams. Honestly, this whole book read like a weird dream.

(view spoiler)
Audrey (Warped Shelves)
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: popsugar-2020
4.25 stars

Zel is a totally enchanting retelling of Rapunzel! Donna Jo Napoli's prose is gorgeous, fluid, engrossing; I was totally rapt by her masterful storytelling. I really liked this version of the classic fairy tale--the dynamics between characters was superb and flowed perfectly. After going back and reading the Brothers Grimm's tale, it's clear that with Zel, the author expounded upon the original perfectly; she totally nailed the characters as well as the plot.

I was a little let down wi
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
A Rapunzel tale, set in the Swiss Alps, that fell flat for me. Author Napoli is good at retelling fairy tales, but the source material can only go so far, even when it is reimagined. While I did like that the story came from three perspectives- Zel, her mother and Konrad the Count- Zel seemed like a dishrag of a character and I didn't see why her mother and Konrad were so enamored of her. Never a fan of insta-love, Konrad's obsessive pursuit of Zel was off putting, and Zel seemed like a simplemi ...more
Mary Bronson
This was an okay book. It was hard to get into the book. I liked the idea of it having three different POV. From Zel, Her Mother, and Konrad. I think this is a very close Rapunzel retelling. One of the things I was annoyed was the romance between Zel and Konrad. They first met when Zel was 13 and Konrad 16 and Konrad "fell in love" the first moment he met her. Plus towards the end of the book I did not like how Zel's personality changed dramatically. Plus I was very annoyed by the mother. ...more
Abby Vincere
So I read this a few years ago and didn't care for it -- re-reading it now, I like it a WHOLE lot better. It's not my favorite Donna Jo Napoli book (Dark Shimmer holds that place for its sheer literary beauty), but it's waaaaaaaay better than I gave it credit for.

It has a lot of creative elements and twists I didn't pick up on during earlier readings of the text. Really good.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A way darker read than I was expecting, but compelling and sad and full of empathy all the same. Should make for an interesting book club discussion!
Jan 27, 2010 rated it liked it
When I began reading Zel I was not reading it within the mindset that it was a "reworked" fairy tale, and although, I recall at some point hearing that Zel was Rapunzel, I had forgotten. It was quite comical to realize my own shock as I came upon a scene in the book where all of the pieces fit together and I realized I was reading Rapunzel! I was and still am surprised at the surprisingly long time it took for me to realize what I had been reading, and yet it was also satisfying to read for a wh ...more
Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies)
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli is not at all what I'd expected. First, from that cover, I believed the book to be aimed at a much younger audience. It isn't. Zel is most definitely young adult as there are themes and topics covered in this book which are a little disturbing. Second, I thought that because this is quite the slim book, I'd zip right through it. That didn't happen either. The atmosphere of the book and some of the heavy emotions that are evoked made Zel a pretty dense read in parts. It isn ...more
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Rapunzel retelling - YA fantasy [s] 6 92 Jan 20, 2013 02:59PM  

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Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's and YA fiction. She loves to garden and bake bread, and even dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist.

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 make the neighbors wonder. But dear dear

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