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The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle

4.4 7
by Donna Jo Napoli

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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.


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A midwife-cum-sorceress known simply as the Ugly One narrates this riveting tale of how, tricked by the devil's minions, she lost her gifts for healing and was forced to become a witch. Escaping from the stake, where she is about to be burned, she ekes out a solitary existence in an enchanted forest--until she takes in two wandering children named Hansel and Gretel. As she did in The Prince of the Pond , Napoli gives a classic fairy tale an entirely new twist, at the same time incorporating absorbing details about medieval religious beliefs. The witch's ``true'' history as a devoted mother and pious servant of God renders her a compelling and entirely sympathetic figure, a heroine courageously fighting the evil spirits that have invaded her once-pure life. The Hansel and Gretel motif, carefully woven into the story, emerges as a surprise for the reader, albeit a surprise that has been fully prepared. The author's extraordinary craftsmanship and originality never flag, and even the archetypically fiery ending for the witch acquires a new dimension. A YA novel of genuine magic and suspense, this will captivate adults as well. Ages 12-up. (June)
From the Publisher
“A brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed novel.”—School Library Journal, starred review
“A work of great strength and powerful emotion, written with immediacy and intensity, filled with beauty and terror and pervading sense of compassion that must touch young and old.”—Lloyd Alexander

"The author's extraordinary craftsmanship and originality never flag. . . A YA novel of genuine magic and suspense, this will captivate adults as well."—Publishers Weekly 

"Richly poetic yet accessible and immediate; pungent and wise; mesmerizing."—Kirkus Reviews 

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
5.64(w) x 8.64(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Meet the Author

Donna Jo Napoli is the author of many books for children and young adults including, The Prince of the PondZel, and Stones in Water. She has won numerous awards, including the Golden Kite Award and the Sydney Taylor Award for Stones in Water.

Customer Reviews

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The Magic Circle 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was a great book. Yet again Donna Jo Napoli did a great job writing another book. I liked this book because its about a healer who summons demons and forces them out of the body, like an exorcist. But when the demons take over her and take control of her body, she cant get them out and then Hansel and Gretel come to her house. And its really the demons who want to eat them not her. I'm not going to tell you anymore, but its an awesome book. I just wish the book wasnt so short. But for anyone who likes history and fairytales this book is for you. I cant wait until Napolis new book called, 'The Smile,' comes out later this year. I know that book is about Mona Lisa.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book put a pleasant twist on the traditional Hansel and Gretel story. Offering a new point of view created a story line that catches the reader hook, line, and sinker!! Even if you're not a fantasy fan, this book would be a great one to read! I went into reading this book thinking I wouldn't really like it, but at the end I loved it...and I'm not a fantasy reader!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great book to read it's about a sorceress who was turned into a witch against her will, and she tries to fight it, but the temptation is so strong that she has to move away into the forest. After years living in the forest alone, one day two children arrive name Hansel and Gretal to her home. She treats them as her own children and loves them as her own but when the demons find out about this they return and so does her evil temptation for eating people come back. She fights it and dies but dies being free from the demons and into god's hands!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Plenty, apparently. As always, a truly heartwarming story, an in-depth look behing the tale, and everything that is expected from the truly magnificent author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Professor Napoli has a refreshing way of looking at fairy tales. The Prince in the Pond showed us what his life was like from the time the witch cursed him until the princess kissed him. He didn't spend his time crying over his lost humanness, and as can be seen from the sequel (Jimmy the Pickpocket of the Palace), pretty good at it. The Magic Circle, however, broke my heart. I was as amazed by its power to evoke great sympathy (and tears) even after my second reading. This is not a Hansel and Grethel story for immature readers; it makes readers view the tale in a way we never have before. The triumph of Hansel and Grethel is tempered by what we have come to know about their captor. The story here is a touching example of the impossibility of knowing what is good or evil when we learn the other side of the story, that what we see is not always all there is. It's a lesson worth learning, despite the tears and emotional pain or perhaps because of the tears and pain. It's a lovely book.