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by Rebecca Silverman,

Rapunzel of the Magic Item Shop


Rapunzel of the Magic Item Shop Novel

Unfortunate enough to have been born with the gift of magic in a country that fears and despises sorcerers, a young girl is locked in a tower for ten years, deprived of any sort of life and, very often, enough food to sustain her. She thinks that this will be the way it is until she dies, but one day a magic bird named Ark appears in her tower. Ark tells her that he's been sent by his master, the sorcerer Charles, to save her, and before she quite knows what's happening, the girl is whisked away to a new life filled with the warmth of family, trust in her powers, and maybe even love.

Rapunzel of the Magic Item Shop is translated by Kai Sadler.


Rapunzel of the Magic Item Shop might seem only tangentially a Rapunzel story – also known as “The Maiden in the Tower” – ATU310's main requirement is that a child is surrendered to an evil, powerful being in exchange for a wrong performed by her parents. Since Lille, the heroine of Hiyoko Kurisu's standalone light novel, is not given up for this reason, it would be easy to say that the title is misleading. But if we look at the fact that Lille is born in a country where magic users are hated and feared as being in league with the devil, we could just as smoothly say that the crime her parents committed against an evil entity was having a daughter with the ability to use magic in a country where innocent children are imprisoned for how they're born. In this light, it absolutely is a Rapunzel story; even if no one climbs up Lille's hair, steals salad greens or other food, suffers by having their head turned into a dog, or gets their eyeballs gouged out by rose thorns, it still functions as an interesting reimagining of the tale type. (Plus somehow “Maid Maleen of the Magic Item Shop” just doesn't have the same ring to it, that being the other “girl walled up in a tower” fairy tale.)

And in many ways, Kurisu's take on ATU310 is a much nicer one than we typically see. Lille, who is given her name after she's rescued since she doesn't remember her own, is allowed to learn and discover the world on her own terms. If she wants a prince, she's free to choose between the three contenders in the book rather than being stuck with the first one, and it's fair to say that there's a lot of mutual rescuing going on in the plot as well. Lille is initially saved by the combined efforts of Master Charlie and his familiar, Ark, but as the novel goes on, we can see Lille becoming not just an important person in Charlie's life and those of Ark and his other apprentice Leo, but one who has a profound effect on them. Lille's charm isn't just her beauty or her magic power, but rather her ability to know how to use that power to best help the people she cares about, and her keen observation skills, honed through years of trying to hear life outside her tower, makes her more than just The Girl or the reverse harem protagonist. She has these gifts; what matters is how she is able to use them.

While the novel starts off relatively slowly, this turns out to be something of a boon. It may not at first seem all that thrilling to watch Lille learn how to live as a regular person who gets to do things like “bathe” and “eat three meals a day,” but the key here is the way that Charlie, Ark, and Leo all work with her to help her come into her own. She's completely unaware of the basic rights she's entitled to, and each of them helps her in a different way, from Ark's matter-of-fact approach (whether in bird or hot guy form) to Charlie's quiet dedication to Leo's prickly attitude. Having them all be so very different not only makes sure that the characters are distinct, but also that Lille gets a balanced view of humanity in a way she otherwise might not have. She learns a variety of ways to interact with people, gaining insight into people in general and Charlie and Leo in particular, which in turn helps to develop her unique magic and allows her to ultimately be there for them when they need it. There's a really lovely give-and-take to the story that allows for heartwarming and reciprocal character interactions, and that's something that turns out stronger because of the deceptively slow start.

Despite all of the gooey feel-good elements of the story, the novel can get very dark in places. Lille's own life experiences before her rescue from the tower are barely the tip of the iceberg, with Charlie and Leo both having some horrific pasts themselves. Again, this does allow for the reciprocal elements in the character-driven story, but Kurisu doesn't hold back when she needs to emphasize how Charlie in particular came to be the man he is. Before he took on Leo and rescued Lille he apparently stopped a sorcerous war between two countries, and there's some debate about why he would then go live in the middle of nowhere and run a magic item shop. Kurisu lets us know exactly why, and his history is sufficiently heartbreaking and grim; as is Leo's, albeit on a different scale. Part of Charlie's tragedy is what he had to witness, which ties more into Leo and Lille's parts of the book than you might expect, and while it can be hard to read, the whole thing really is very well done.

Rapunzel of the Magic Item Shop is an easy book to recommend. It plays nicely with the tale type that influenced it, pays attention to the emotional pasts and needs of the characters, and has a good balance of dark and sugary content. In that sense it reads like what we expect of a fairy tale: people have problems they must overcome, there's some rescuing and magic, and then, at the end of the day, it's all about the happily ever after.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B

+ Nice use of the Rapunzel tale type, good balance of dark and light story elements. Emotionally rewarding read.
Beginning drags a bit, Charlie's father isn't as well-utilized as he could be.

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Production Info:
Story: Hiyoko Kurisu

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Rapunzel of the Magic Item Shop (light novel)

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