I’m in the middle-end of Zel by Donna Jo Napoli. I have written a full review on LunaSea, and SeriousGrace has a stunted review, but I wanted to write about Zel in a different way on JustCause. It’s bugging the crap out of me that Donna Jo is messing with my head.
Okay. Here’s the deal. Zel is 12. T W E L V E. She is a poor mountain girl carefully guarded by an overprotective witch mother. She has a chance encounter with a 15 year boy, Konrad, with royalty running through his veins. He’s wealthy and carefully guarded by parents who plan to marry him off to someone “suitable.” These ill-matched children spend mere minutes together but in that short time become obsessed with one another. So, you can see where this is going. They aren’t meant to be together. The odds are against them. In the book I’m at the point where Konrad has been searching for Zel for two years and she has been locked in a hidden tower all this time. Konrad has just waved the white flag, given up, given in and accepted a prearranged marriage to someone else. My instinct is to cry out, “noooooooo!” and fervently wish for the spell to be broken. Konrad, keep up the fight! Find the girl in the tower and save her!!! Why is that? Why do I care so much about this kid-couple getting together?
Take Zel’s predicament. You are supposed to be angry that mom locked Zel in a tower. You are supposed to be outraged that mom is brainwashing Zel into thinking the tower is a good move by telling her she has enemies who want nothing more than to see her dead. You don’t stop for a minute and curse Zel for being stupid enough to believe her mom or to not be rationale enough to wonder, “who are these enemies and how did I make them?” And. And! Maybe being a witch isn’t a bad gig. All mom wants is a companion to be witchy with. Maybe Zel would be happy with magical powers instead of being a housewife?
Then there’s Konrad. You’re supposed to be indignant that he is giving up free love for a prearranged, sight unseen marriage to a stranger. You are supposed to be upset with mom and dad for wanting him to marry within his social status. You don’t stop for a minute to think of what you know about Konrad up to this point. He was unknowingly rude to Zel’s mother, he has a prejudice against the commoners and (gasp) he drinks a lot of wine. Maybe this wife mom and dad have found for Konrad is a killer cook and knows her way around a bedroom? Who’s to say Zel wouldn’t suck in the sack? She’s 14 at this point. F O U R T E E N!
Anyway. Despite all this I still want Konrad to rescue Zel from the tower she doesn’t know she needs rescuing from. I still want that happily ever after ending. Hey Konrad, hurry it up already!