Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rapunzel's Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale

I'm not a big fan of graphic novels (see below), but Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors, so I couldn't pass this one up.

It's the story of Rapunzel, but with a bit of a twist. Exiled to a tower in the woods by her evil witch stepmother, Rapunzel (named after the lettuce) manages to break free in the nick of time (before she starves to death or gets "rescued" by a pig-headed prince) through some fancy lassoing with her abundant hair. Those braids make a mighty fine weapon as she teams up with a boy named Jack and the two of them hunt down the witch. This isn't like any fairy tale you or I know -- Rapunzel kicks some serious cowboy butt in this rowdy Westernized variant of more than a couple familiar stories.

The story is cute, but undeveloped, as I often find graphic novels to be. The irony is, of course, that I was a huge fan of the genre as a kid (Tin Tin, Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas, and a good number of adult graphic novels when I became a teen). This stuff reminds me of them. But they are still glorified comic books. The stories tend to be heavy on action and light on character development. The plotting is all-important, the narrative secondary. So, they are fun to read, but not very filling. And most of them are not what I would consider literature.

Take this example. Hale writes some pretty good and original fantasy fiction (Princess Academy is a wonderful book, as are the Books of Bayern), but this current story is terribly thin. It's original and contains a healthy amount of modernization (Rapunzel is pretty good at taking acre of herself). There's some humor and plenty of frenetic action, but no moments that I want to go back and read. Rapunzel is an amusing heroine, but not anyone I really care about. And if one were to translate this story into straight fiction, it would have a hard time running beyond short story length.

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