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I'm on the lookout for interesting books to spend my Dooyoo Amazon vouchers on; my tastes are varied but if I just want to relax I prefer fantasy with a strong female lead character. This graphic novel by Dean, Shannon and Nathan Hale looked like it met my criteria and at £8.99 it wasn't as expensive as I was expecting. It's a single book that can be read on its own, but the characters also appear in Calamity Jack by the same authors.
Rapunzel is a young girl who has been brought up in the palace of Mother Gothel, a witch. One day she escapes over the wall and discovers that life outside is drastically different from her milk and honey life inside. A chain of events is set in motion that climax in her imprisonment in a magical tower, her hair growing to inconvenient lengths. Her hair proves to be her salvation and she makes her way back into the world, which looks a lot like the Wild West, cowboys and all. Calamity Jack comes along and together they travel through the world, fighting monsters, animals and baddies, working their way up to fighting the biggest baddy of them all.
Being a graphic novel it really didn't take very long to read at all, a couple of hours at most. However, whilst I was reading I really didn't want to put it down. This book had scenes that pulled at my heart, that made my heart beat faster and had me jumping up and down in my chair, desperately wanting to read on and find out what happened next. Rapunzel is a fabulous heroine, she is smart, fiesty and takes no prisoners at all, once she has mastered using her braids as a weapon nothing can stop her and no-one will get in her way. But she is also a well-rounded, complete character and we see many facets of this throughout the book.
There is a great deal of humour in this book and the majority of this is focused on Calamity Jack, who we first meet dressed as Mother Goose, complete with golden-egg laying goose. Over the course of the book he and Rapunzel learn how to work together as a team and he becomes an excellent partner and sidekick. Many of the fairytale conventions are subverted in this book, including the whole idea of a damsel in distress, but the ending is the predictable one!
The illustrations are superb, bright, clear and in full colour. I have recently worked my way through a stack of graphic novels and I can appreciate just how good the pictures are here. Every character is unique (I'm looking at you Pride and Prejudice graphic novel illustrator with your five identical Bennett sisters) and this strange mixture of industry, jungle and cowboy life is beautifully and cleverly depicted. The action sequences are full of life and movement and the background detail is not neglected either, every picture has something new to notice every time I read the book. There are not big blocks of text either, the story is told as much by the pictures as by the text.
However, I don't get to read this as much as I would like. My six year old watched me reading the book and once I had finished it claimed it as her own, on the grounds that it looked too interesting for mummy. With a lot of my graphic novels I wouldn't let her near them (The Walking Dead and The Crow for example), however this one also makes a super children's book. Romance is limited to a chaste kiss, fighting is done from a distance with the hair-whip and there is no blood/gore or strong language. Shannon Hale writes many 'safe' but exciting Young Adult books and her influence is clear here. In addition it is wonderful that the lead character is female and is doing dangerous and exciting things, not waiting around for a man to come and save her - she saves her self. The mostly physical humour is very accessible for younger children, it isn't stuff where you have to think very hard. It is a super book for a child who is beginning to read a bit more competently.
This is a wonderful book for both adults and children who are looking to escape from reality for a little while. A heroine sets out to put the world right with humour and her twenty foot long plaits. There is nothing to shock or repulse, its sad in places but its all fixed by the end. There is a lot of action and the plot moves along quickly and the interaction between the two characters is beautifully drawn and written. The whole thing takes place in a bizarre fantasy world that somehow just works. It's a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours, no matter what gender you are.