Fierce Fairytales Review
Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill was definitely, 200% a cover buy. Just look at it! It is, I think, the prettiest book I have on my shelf right now. Also, well…I have a soft spot for fairytale retellings, and this book’s promise to be a set of “feminist fairytales for the young and old” drew me in.
It disappointed me in a lot of ways (but I guess it was partly my fault for literally judging the book by its cover)…
First of all, I didn’t even realise that this was predominantly a poetry book with short stories just sprinkled here and there. I’m not a fan of poetry.
But that would have been okay. Except…I don’t know – I just didn’t like the way the tales were imagined either!
If I was asked to describe the book in one word, I would say that it’s...angry.
More than a reimagining of the fairytales, it’s a book of explanations. The author is having a conversation with the reader…telling her about all the ways the fairytales got it wrong.
Gaston was arrogant and self-involved, not because that was his nature, but because of toxic masculinity. Cinderella’s stepmother was so evil because she had learned the hard way that the best way to survive is by being cruel. The witch in Hansel and Gretel was actually quite kind…she just had a bad reputation because people don’t like independent women…and so on and so forth.
Every story, every poem had a ring of truth. Things made a lot of sense when I looked at them from the author’s angle.
And I would have enjoyed the book, I really would have, if the tales were tales rather than explanations.
I like feminist fairytale retellings in which the premise is sort of the same but takes a different angle. The Princess Search by Melanie Cellier, for example, is an excellent story of self-discovery based on The Ugly Duckling. In K.M. Shea’s The Little Selkie, the mermaid goes to the mainland because it’s in danger, and the villain curses her so she can’t go back.
I love such tales, where we see glimpses of the original fairytale, but completely reimagined in such a way that the princesses aren’t damsels in distress.
Every story and poem in Fierce Fairytales is based on the premise that the world is a cruel place.
It’s cruel to ugly women and soft men and everyone who doesn’t fit into its opinion of “normal”. While this is, to an extent, very true, I don’t read fairytales to be reminded of this fact.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a few stories here that I really liked. The retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is charming, the one about Sleeping Beauty is exactly the kind of thing I picture when I think of a fairytale retelling, and the stories of the princesses who befriend (or become) the dragon are just as badass.
But overall, the book was a bit of a disappointment because it was a dose of reality in a place where I was looking for an escape.
If I wanted reality, I’d read all the news of women being passed over for promotions, of male rape victims being neglected, and of the countless other misogynistic occurrings that feminist websites bring out into the open. But I read fairytale retellings for the hope they give…of a world where girls have adventures and where happily ever afters exist.
So, well…I’m definitely going to put this book in a prominent place where its beautiful cover can be seen, but I won’t recommend it to anyone who likes fairytales because of their fairytale-ness. :P