Adult Books

The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne – ARC Review

Thank you to Orbit Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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 love the story of Rapunzal and so I was very intrigued by this retelling but from the point of view of Mother Gothel. I have not liked her in any version of the story but this story had me rooting for her!

This is a wholly unique take on the story where we see her from childhood to adult and all the events that led her to becoming the Mother Gothel we know in the story of Rapunzal. I really loved how Mary gave us the perspective of Haelewise who is always known as the villain and yet in this story she is so much more than the evil witch who stole Rapunzal. Her going to seek refuge in the tower of Gothel is the catalyst for how her story goes from her being an insignificant peasant girl to the legendary Mother Gothel and yet in this story we question whether she was truly the evil witch the people made her out to be.

Even as young as ten, I understood that men make up reasons to get rid of women they find disagreeable.

The story has a slow start but I really enjoyed seeing who she was and how she grew into who the legends say she was. She is fierce and cares deeply for those she loves, she is an angry woman who has been put into difficult situations just because she is a woman. I related to her a lot which surprised me but I ended up really loving her and her reliance and perseverance through everything. 

It was so interesting to see how we see a pagan religion fighting to survive in a community that called them witches and would kill anyone for practising it. How a secret society was built through a network of women where Haelewise finally found companionship and acceptance. She works as a healer and women who have nowhere else to go come to her and I just really loved how she cared so deeply for these women and did everything she could to help them.

“Will you come?” He met my eyes. “I would go with you anywhere.”

We meet Haelewise as a young girl who has fainting spells and so is shunned to the edges of the community and yet makes a friend in Matthaus. This quickly blossoms into something more but circumstances keep them apart and yet they find their way to each other again and again. I really loved seeing their story and how despite everything they keep finding each other. 

I do wish we could have seen more of her story as an adult and especially her story after she took Rapunzal to the tower and how that story wove into hers but is only a small part of her life and yet that is what she is remembered for. I would especially have loved to see more of adult Haelewise and Matthaus. 

A woman doesn’t have to be pure to be good. Girls get angry. Mothers fight for their children.

I really enjoyed this story even though it was something really different to what I was expecting and once I started I flew through the story and was completely invested in her story. The ending was a nice little twist too!

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