This started out badly, and I only stuck with it past the first few pages because it is so short. I know that it is YA, or supposed to be, but this book has an identity crisis.
The writing feels incredibly juvenile, simplistic to the point of feeling like it was written by a teen rather than just for teens. (This is my first Napoli book, but I almost choked on my drink when I saw that Napoli "teaches linguistics" according to the blurb at the back of the book.) The sentences are like something I'd expect to see in a chapter-book for advanced 3rd graders.
Meanwhile, the story is dark and depressing, with mature themes that are shown but not really shown, only hinted at except when they're blatant, but are never really resolved. And then there's a happy ending. It's like Napoli thought that she'd write something dark and gritty and sinister and cruel... and then Disneyfied it.
The characters were pretty two dimensional, I must say. I could understand Mother's desire to have children when she could not. But honestly, I don't really get anything else after that when it comes to her. She entered into an arrangement out of pure selfishness, and in the bargain she would try to get Zel to do the same. Toward that goal she secluded her child from the world, and then imprisoned her. Because that will NEVER cause resentment and hatred. I know that this is a retelling of a fairy-tale, so it's not like the ending can be changed, but in an effort to humanize the "evil witch" that locked Rapunzel in the tower, Napoli only succeeded in making her unbelieveable and confusing. If she'd wanted Zel to stay with her out of love and fear, even selfishness, I could understand that. But the reason that Napoli laid out made no sense to me.
Konrad could have been interesting, but I don't really get his love for Zel. They met one time, he acted like a pompous rich kid, and because she asked him for a goose egg rather than something practical, he fell for her and committed to two years of fruitless searching for her for nothing more than that, foregoing marriage arrangements that would garner power and wealth and status. All the while ordering people around and demanding they cater to his crazy whims. And his love is so strong that he'd go to the ends of the earth for her. After one meeting. At 15. Right.
Zel herself was both the most interesting at times and the most two dimensional at times. She starts the story as a wide-eyed innocent girl, who just exists in this little bubble with her mother. She doesn't question why she's not allowed to socialize with other kids, she doesn't argue at the unreasonable behavior of her mother who gets all shifty eyed whenever anyone at all talks to Zel on anything deeper than a "Would you like to try this peach?" level, she doesn't act like she's 13 at all, except in her desire for a husband and family, which probably all 13 year olds fantasize about. But then fast forward to Two-Year-Tower Zel, and she's spiralling into depression, delusions, suicidal thoughts, and madness. This was the best part of the book to me, and the reason why it got 2 stars instead of 1. Zel still wanted to love her mother and trust in her the way that she'd trusted her all her life, but she couldn't really do it, and the conflict in herself was making her crazy.
Anyway... I can't really recommend this one. I'd expected better from it. Rats. =",",",",",",0,,,,,