Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul – Nikita Gill

In these short stories and poems you’ll find well known fairytales with insights into characters, backstories and different endings. Sleeping Beauty doesn’t wait for a Prince to awaken her; she does it herself. Jack is willing to face a giant to escape his abusive mother. Tinkerbell embraces her anger.

My absolute favourite was this empowering gem:

Once Upon a Time II

But the universe never promised
you this would be easy,
after all, you are the hero here.

And heroes are meant
to be forged golden
from the blaze.

It is up to you to rise again
from the fragmented shards
your foes left of you.

You must lift a sword
with reborn strength and take on
the demons in your ribcage.

You must devastate the chains
every violent person
has brutally placed on you.

And you must show them all
how they were simply
characters in your story.

But you, you are the author
of this spellbinding tale
built of hope and bravery.

Out there may be monsters, my dear.
But in you still lives the dragon
you should always believe in.

Each time I read it I can feel myself sit up straighter and the resolve to rise up gets stronger. I don’t usually quote an entire poem but I had to here. I love it!

Towards the end of the book I began to wonder if the author had run out of fairytales and was simply fuelled by anger. Poems like The Modern-day Fairytale and Ode to the Catcaller Down the Street felt like I was suddenly reading another book altogether, one that wasn’t enchanting and empowering, just mad. Perhaps if there were two sections in the book the shift would have been easier to process.

Some stories and poems fuelled my hope, showing me victims becoming survivors and villains humanised. Others left a bitter aftertaste. Life’s like that though. While we want our happily ever after, it’s not guaranteed. When we think we have nothing left we find reserves of strength we didn’t even know we possessed. Some things life chooses for us but it’s our choices that define us.

Content warnings include abuse, mental illness, trauma, alcoholism, betrayal, abandonment, bullying and eating disorders.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Poet, writer, and Instagram sensation Nikita Gill returns with a collection of fairytales poetically retold for a new generation of women. 

Traditional fairytales are rife with cliches and gender stereotypes: beautiful, silent princesses; ugly, jealous, and bitter villainesses; girls who need rescuing; and men who take all the glory.

But in this rousing new prose and poetry collection, Nikita Gill gives Once Upon a Time a much-needed modern makeover. Through her gorgeous reimagining of fairytale classics and spellbinding original tales, she dismantles the old-fashioned tropes that have been ingrained in our minds. In this book, gone are the docile women and male saviors. Instead, lines blur between heroes and villains. You will meet fearless princesses, a new kind of wolf lurking in the concrete jungle, and an independent Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own.

Complete with beautifully hand-drawn illustrations by Gill herself, Fierce Fairytales is an empowering collection of poems and stories for a new generation.

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