Content/Trigger Warnings: Abuse, toxic obsession, trauma, alcoholism, talk of emotional and mental abuse, PTSD, war/war violence, talk of murder, death, loss of a loved one, depression, abandonment, implied cheating, and many more.
“Take this as your reminder. Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear darkness, some wear wounds.”
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.
I say this all the time, but I’m going to say it again…I absolutely LOVE a poetry collection that shatters my soul and causes my eyes to turn into waterfalls. Always remember that an author pours a bit of themselves into their poetry collections so going in with an open mind is the best that you can do. However, as much as I wanted to love this poetry collection, there were parts that started to wear a little thin with my enjoyment of this book.
So starting with the good, I loved that Gill had so many retellings in this poetry collection. I love a good retelling and the fact that we get heroes and villains was a huge bonus. I really enjoyed the villains the most, of the two. We don’t often get to see the villain side of things, having so many villain retellings was enjoyable for me. I wish more authors did more retellings of villains and I think Gill did a wonderful job of breaking down some of the well recognized villains.
I also really enjoyed the fact that there is a wide variety of serious topics addressed in this poetry collection. Gill writes so intensely and allows the reader to visually picture topics and stir emotions within us. I may have shed a couple of tears myself. A lot of these topics were fairly accurate in representation (I’m just going off my own experience so hold those pitch forks) and for myself it caused me to do a lot of reflecting on my past and journey, on others I have talked with, and even reflect on those who have come and gone. All these topics were nicely represented and I almost wished we got just a little to provoke deep conversation among ourselves. And of course, I always stress this when there’s heavy topics being addressed, but please remember to practice self-care. These aren’t easy topics to talk about, read about, or even try to push yourself through. So make sure you do take care of yourself, practice self-care before and during reading this, I love you! ❤️
“I hope you summon your courage and you invite your demons to tea, and you learn to listen to all their stories.”
Even though there were plenty of parts that I liked, things did get a little problematic for me. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of hard topics represented, but there comes a point in this book where that stops and things become repetitive. Now, repetitiveness isn’t always a bad thing, but for me personally it wasn’t just the repetitiveness that started to bother me, but there were large bits of hatred of men scattered throughout. For me as a reader, I’m not here to read a book that tries to push the concept of hatred towards others and I’m also not here for content that constantly wants to push the concept of men always being the villain, the bad guy, or painting this picture of them being monsters. As a reader, I’m not here for that type of content. I don’t want to read any book that feels like it’s trying to be subtle about hatred and beat in hatred towards others, no matter the gender. I’m not here for it, I don’t want to read it, and once that point got reached in this book, I was cringing the entire time and wanted to throw this book out the nearest window.
I want to state this… There’s never a truly supreme gender that is better than the other. Each gender has it’s flaws and if you exclude gender, everyone is morally grey. There is no truly/purely good person in this world, but we all do good things and bad things, no matter what. With this poetry collection, there are times where it comes off as painting women as angels or as the better gender and men as these terrible monsters or as the “bad gender”, and that the only good kind of man is in touch with his feelings or “sensitive” side. Let me be the first to call out this crap and say women are not better than men and men are not better than women. We all balance each other out. We are all good and bad and it’s high time we start realizing that there’s bad and good in people, no matter the gender, the race, sexual orientation, etc…
If you couldn’t tell, I reached multiple points where I was asking myself if I wanted to continue reading this collection (to answer that, yes, I did finish this poetry collection) and I had to really analyze how I was feeling about the book. To elaborate, there were times where it almost felt like I was reading a self-help book or Gill’s personal diary. There are parts where you can feel her emotions so strongly that it feels like a ton of bricks just landed on you. There were times where the anger and hate were so strong that I was cringing and asking the book “who in the world hurt you so badly that you have all this pent up anger?!” I’m all about pouring a little emotions into your work, but coming off too strong or putting too much of those emotions in can be overwhelming, suffocating, and at times, it can turn a reader off, but for me this wasn’t my cup of tea.
“Trauma when left untreated has the capacity to make a villain out of you.”
Overall, there were some wonderful parts of this poetry collection that I absolutely loved and of course, I’m always here for villain retellings. The hard topics are a bonus too! However, the repetitiveness was okay, but it was the constant hatred of men that truly turned me off. Even more so with the repetitiveness tying in with the man hate. Since reading this and taking the time to really think on my thoughts and whether I truly enjoyed this collection, my rating has since changed. I was originally going to rate this poetry collection a three stars, but the amount of hatred and distaste for men is so strong that it left a bad impression with me and actually triggered some of my anxiety. Since all this has happened, I have decided on a solid two stars. And normally, I recommend the dickens out of poetry collections even if I didn’t personally like them, but I can’t recommend this poetry collection on a good conscious knowing how much hatred is woven throughout this book. I never want to be a person who becomes a beacon for spreading hate and anger. So if you’re not someone who likes large quantities of hatred and misandry or even someone who doesn’t want to read about those two things, then I don’t recommend this poetry collection.
“We have all taken turns being Red Riding Hood and we have all been the wolf.”