Nikita Gill puts an adult, mostly feminist spin on common fairytales and legends in her collection, titled Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul. For me, though, the content wasn’t as stirring as promised.

Gill uses various points of view, including main and sideline characters from traditional tales. And she draws from tales around the world, which is a positive. The primary angle on the retelling is advice for young women from one who’s somewhat older. For example, Cinderella’s Mother Sends Her a Message from Heaven. Even when Gill uses her own voice, she takes that same attitude of both cautionary tale and sage advice.

I think the crux of the book is contained in these poetic lines from, Question the Fairytale. (ebook, location 1336)

“What if fairytales aren’t as innocent
as they sound and even princesses
aren’t perfect?”

My conclusions

I’m not much of a retold fairytale reader. This was a backup choice to fulfill a reading challenge prompt, after DNFing my first choice. It’s just 175 pages long, but still dragged on too long for me. I’m 100% in favor of encouraging young women, but her advice became repetitive and ponderous by the twentieth tale.

My regular readers know I’m not a young woman. Therefore, I’m likely not the author’s target audience. On the other hand, I have granddaughters so the ideas matter to me. But Gill could have drawn me in with a more magical writing style. Although the tales aim for the fantastical, they mostly fell flat for me.

Given that there’s not much here for women “of a certain age,” I was happy to find the reworked story of Baba Yaga. Gill makes it into a tale about what it’s like to be an “invisible” older woman. And—hooray—Baba Yaga revels in it! Her advice for young women struck me as a moment from Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.

“Remind each and every girl out there that youth and beauty are not her shackles, nor her only currency.” (ebook, location 833)

Fierce Fairytales is just so-so for me. But if you love empowering retellings, you may love it.