Release date: November 17, 2015
Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry. 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 him 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 are about to be revealed after seventeen years. 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?
After the disappointment that was The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, I was hesitant to read this book. More so, because Rapunzel is usually presented as a damsel in distress, a heroine who needs saving – which makes it difficult to imagine a version (see, I’m not a writer, okay?) where she comes off as the hero. So, I was pleasantly surprised that The Golden Braid actually made her out to be a courageous girl, who, while still chained to her mother, shows a streak of independence or late-teenage rebellion. She has been told all her life by Gothel, to stay away from men, to always be wary of them, and that they would want only one thing from her. Even though she is an adult, her mother won’t let her life the way she wants. She is not imprisoned in a tower, but tied to her mother nevertheless.
On the way to settle into the city, Greck saves them from brigands, but gets injured in the process. Their paths cross again when Rapunzel goes for reading lessons to the monastery that is taking care of him, making him her unwilling tutor. Theirs is tentative relationship at first – him grudgingly teaching her and she wary of his intentions, but they soon come to be friends. There is an attraction, but none of them are ready to act on it. However, Gothel finds out, and serves an ultimatum to Rapunzel, pushing her to finally take the leap and free herself of her mother. But while serving in the Duke’s castle, she comes to learn of her true parentage; alas, the castle is also under attack from a rival earl’s heir. She applies her smart mind, saves the day, but is whisked away by Gothel. Here’s where the story becomes a bit slow and a bit, should I say, preachy. But the religion, this time around, was at least, put as a measure of hope, rather than filling lines. Although, the story could have easily done away with the divine intervention that finally leads him to the tower. And really, Gothel wasn’t punished further, even though she admitted to so many crimes?
So, since the previous book is still fresh in my mind, I can’t help but make comparisons. Rapunzel shows more courage, has more action than Odette, who was supposed to be huntress. She even manages to rouse a kitchen staff into a poisoning plan to aid the Castle people. Her character development is also better, as she learns to trust people, to become accepting of kindness rather than doubt it. Her eagerness for knowledge, and to read, is also particularly inspiring, as well as her kindness and willingness to forgive. She doesn’t rush headlong in danger, as opposed to the silly Odette – even wary to face her mother on her own, for fear that she could be overpowered. The book’s strong point was undoubtedly to put Rapunzel, as the main hero, but it also has shades of Tangled. Anyway, it was a good read, and was better than I expected.
Received a free galley from Thomas Nelson via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or the review.