Monday, April 25, 2011

Book in Review: The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli

Theme: Fairy Tale Fortnight Love 
Week #2: Fairy Tale Retellings (April 25-May 1, 2011) 

Today's Book of the Day is going to be reviewed:

Cover & Publisher

Published by:  Puffin Books
Why I Read This

It looked good.

After learning sorcery to become a healer, a good-hearted woman is turned into a witch by evil spirits and fights their power until her encounter with Hansel and Gretel years later.


 At only 118 pages and a tiny book, this was an incredibly short read. I read it about 10 years ago, when I was around 16 years old. I remember when because I was at a friend's house for a "sleepover" (do they even call them that these days?) and read almost the entire book while waiting for her to wake up.

It was my first taste of the fantasy subgenre now known as "fairy tale retellings". I don't recall ever having heard of such a thing before and certainly not for young adults. After all, weren't fairy tales for children? But there was something about Donna Jo Napoli's books that at that age just really intrigued me. They seemed dark and much more "fatastical" than the children's stories I grew up reading. So after pining over her books for a few months I finally gave in and bought one (I believe I wanted Beast but they didn't have it in so I got this one instead).

I'm so glad I picked this up. Basically, it's Hansel and Gretel, but told from the witches perspective. And I thought it was incredibly believable. The shades of grey are amazing. Rather than in the original tale where the witch is just evil, Donna Jo Napoli presents a witch that you will really feel for (given her back story and circumstance). But at the same time she is also evil - the demons inside her telling her to do things that maybe she doesn't really want to but is going to end up going along with because she has to. I loved how everything turned out. Such a wonderfully written and yet very dark ending.

This is a book that 10 years later I still look back fondly at.


My Rating

(Originally I had rated this only a 3/5 on Goodreads,
but it truly is a 4/5...maybe I thought I was giving
out too many high ratings or something...don't know
what I was thinking back then.)
I bought my copy. 


  1. I am going to see if I can find one of her books at the library. Thank you for the review.

  2. I used to love this book. I think either this or Zel was my first by DJN. One day, I want to go back and re-read this. I used to love it so much!

  3. Sounds really interesting. I always like reading tales from the "bag guys" point of view. The premise makes me think of Wicked or Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire (also on my TBR).