The Golden Braid
Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again—this time, to the large city of Hagenheim.
The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight—Sir Gerek—Rapunzel in turn rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to this knight than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?
As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery is about to be revealed after seventeen years of lies. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?
The fifth book in Dickerson’s fairytale retelling series, this Germanic-inspired historical adapts the treasured story of Rapunzel. It is told in 3rd-person limited and alternates between the heroine and hero’s POV. While the book stands perfectly well alone, it does tie in nicely with previous books and characters from the Hagenheim series, which ought to up the satisfaction level for long-invested readers. The same taste of 14th century Europe persists in the author’s gentle-yet-lively prose.
This version of the classic tale presents an interesting blend of personal identity crisis, universally relevant coming-of-age issues, and medieval Stockholm Syndrome. Rather than presenting as the traditional smiling sociopath with zero hope for redemption, Mother Gothel is depicted as a very nearly sympathetic (if not mentally ill) character, who chooses her own path and corruption one dysfunctional step at a time. Rather than holding Rapunzel captive in a tower from the get-go, she instead keeps her imprisoned by emotional manipulation in the form of bizarre expectations, a transient lifestyle of intentional isolation, and a corrosive bitterness toward men.
The romance is a refreshingly slow burn, as Rapunzel is initially thrown together with an arrogant Knight with a damaged background, who is somewhat fixated on the fact that she is below his station. Extended injury renders him a non-threat, both physically and romantically, for a significant portion of the telling—leaving much of the power and decision-making in the hands of the heroine. The way Rapunzel gradually and determinedly extracts herself from the only mother she’s ever known, coming to grips with the woman’s madness and rejecting it as something she has no desire to emulate, is both believable and significant.
It is this reviewer’s sincerest hope that the book might inspire brave, self-preserving action from young readers who may be on the cusp of breaking free from a similarly unhealthy domestic situation.
"We all have a choice, after all, to be our own person, to be the person we wish to be."
I would have liked to see a little more justification for why her hair was so long, as it seemed to be one of the elements that most called male attentions to Rapunzel—the thing that Mother Gothel most openly abhorred. Also, it seemed as though there was a bit of a characterization discrepancy in that Rapunzel first considers running away and leaving her mother in the middle of the night, but then decides not to--afraid of just disappearing and worrying the woman. Yet, the very next day she DOES leave in the middle of what seems like an important errand and leaves her mother no word that she is okay...
On the whole this was an accessible historical read, and different enough from other versions of Rapunzel to be well worth the read. I would definitely hand it to one of my goddaughters.