Reading Level: Young Adult
Length: 496 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 3/5 stars
Previously I had read Forsyth’s Rhiannon’s Ride trilogy and really loved it. I also have her Witches of Eilean series on my bookshelf waiting to be read. When I saw Forsyth had written a book that was a historical fiction retelling of Rapunzel I was incredibly excited. Unfortunately this book was just not my thing, I read the first 200 pages then decided it was time to stop struggling through it and set it aside.
This book tells the story of Charlotte-Rose de la Force, a French poet who has been banished from the Court of Versailles to a desolate abbey. There Charlotte suffers many indignities and finally meets an old nun named Sœur Seraphina. Sœur Seraphina tells her the story of Margherita, a young girl whose father stole parsley from a ccourtesannamed Selena Leonelli. In payment Selena wanted to take Margherita once she comes of age and lock her in a tower.
This book was just not my thing. My first problem with it was way too much switching between timeframes and characters. First you here from Charlotte-Rose in the present time, then you hear from Seraphina who jumps you back in time to Margherita’s story. Within Margherita’s story you go back and forth in time as well. Then Margherita’s mother tells a story that takes you further back in time, then you jump forward in time to Margherita’s present. After all that suddenly you are back reading from Charlotte-Rose’s perspective and she takes us back in time to her childhood. I kept having to go back and forth between parts of the book and compare time frames, it was frustrating.
My second problem with this book is that it reads more like a French history book more than a fictional novel. Especially the parts from Charlotte Rose’s POV are filled with tons of six part French names and gossip about the nobility at the time. I am honestly not all the great with names and there was no way I was going to keep track of the plethora of foreign names. I suppose I could have started a chart in excel or something, but there were just so many of them. I am taking 10-20 new names per page at times. If I want to read a French history book I will read one, but reading a fairy tale retelling that sounds more like a French history book was just not my thing.
All the above resulted in a book that, while beautifully written, moved incredibly slow and was incredibly slow to read. I just kept falling asleep while reading this book. I finally had to give up the struggle because I just couldn’t get through more than 10 pages at a time without falling asleep.
Despite the above complaints, I am not saying this is a bad book. The language and description are incredibly beautiful. Forsyth obviously put a ton of work into researching this novel. I was intrigued at the idea of going back to the roots of the story of Rapunzel and really digging into the reason behind its writing. It’s an excellent idea. However there was just too much detail here and it’s detail that isn’t needed to make a good and entertaining story.
I would also say this is more appropriate for adult readers. There are a number of deviant sexual exams/scenes that wouldn’t be appropriate for younger readers.
Overall this book was not for me. The numerous changes in timeframe and viewpoint were hard to follow and at times this reads more like a French history book than a fantasy novel. That is not to say this book is a bad book. Forsyth writes beautifully (if with a bit too much detail) and she obviously put a ton of work into researching French history when she wrote this novel. However the result is a novel that is very slow-paced with excruciating detail. Those interested in French history will find a lot here to love. Those interested in an engaging fairy tale retelling should look elsewhere. For me this was a did not finish.