Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale

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Pub Date Sep 07 2020 | Archive Date Oct 31 2020

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Twelve is a poetic retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." Bewitching and beguiling, this short series of linked poems takes the reader to the underground realm and back, following the stories of twelve princesses and their life after the magic shoes. 

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Twelve is a poetic retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." Bewitching and beguiling, this short series of linked poems takes the reader to the underground realm and...

Advance Praise

Praise for Twelve:

“Andrea Blythe’s collection of the retold (and often feminist) Brothers Grimm fairytale, 'The Twelve Dancing Princesses,' is a breath of air at the bottom of the ocean. It’s not only fresh, but it’s so different and unique that it deserves multiple reads. One of my favorite lines in the book is also something we should all ask ourselves, ‘Do you mean it?’”

— Joanna C. Valente, author of Marys of the Sea and editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault  

“Hearkening back to when Grimm's tales were less fairy, more formidable, Andrea Blythe offers a rhythmic, alliterative retelling of traditional stories that reveal a stark imbalance between genders. An engaging and eerie tribute to the young girls and women who read, dance, and keep things clean, Twelve does exactly what her storyteller suggests of her characters: it ‘see[s] the truth beneath the pretty surface.’”

—Christina M. Rau, Elgin Award-winning author of Liberating The Astronauts  

“A delightful deviation from the known tale ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses,’ Blythe’s retelling offers an inspiring and poetic account of what can happen when women take back their power. The language is beautifully selected for each sister’s story -- and each one has been carefully crafted to have an individual voice, yet we feel the strength of the bond that ties them. Within, we are granted glances into enchantment and passion, to lyrical attractions that will have you spinning breathless from page to page.”

—Sara Tantlinger, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil’s Dreamland

"The prose poems of Twelve shimmer like precious stones, each reflecting the original fairy tale in strange, beautiful, and unsettling ways-- and when set together, they become a mosaic of womanhood in all its forms.”

—Cassandra Rose Clarke, Rhysling Award-winning author of Sacred Summer 

Praise for Twelve:

“Andrea Blythe’s collection of the retold (and often feminist) Brothers Grimm fairytale, 'The Twelve Dancing Princesses,' is a breath of air at the bottom of the ocean. It’s not...

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ISBN 9781733886246
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Featured Reviews

I absolutely love twisted fairy tales, and this one was no disappointment. I actually just read the typical version of this to my kids not too long ago and found it for me slightly boring. This will be among my favorite twisted tales.

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A tale of twelve dancing princesses, a tale retold the world over in many variants, from Russia and Bengal and Turkey and France, told in Armenia and Slovokia and India in versions with bits of magic and shoes danced to bits, a story that speaks of the feminine seeking escape and freedom from its expectations of servitude and strict behavior protocols, stay in your place or be punished.

Here is a retelling, again, but with a new empowering idea.

Retold in Grimm style with sisters reclaiming their power in ways of wielding magic themselves, instead of simply visiting a land of magical enchantment or being double crossed by an old magical woman who gifts the winning male his power to become victor. (What *was* that old version anyway?! The typical telling of female double-crossing females, dooming them to what society demands to "sit-and-look-pretty-then-get-married-and-serve" -- how did we not see this as children, these tales we read of feminine complete disempowerment, in this old tale the one strong old female dooming the young females to their servitude, ending their nights of freedom?!)

Here is a brief reimagining. But it is brief, I wish for more.

Here the sisters each claim a power and embody it. Here the feminine (mosly) rises.

I see this short poetry-short story as seed for more. Some author will take this idea and amend-expand to some epic that needs telling.

I rate this 4 stars because it must be read, but it feels an hors d'oeuvre. It clings to me, and that is a good sign, like something trying to grow. Grow it should. I'm glad to have read it. I think it good counter to fairy tales told every evening at bedtime the world over. Read this telling as parents to be seeded with ideas for retelling ALL fairy tales in ways to empower our daughters. Perhaps this telling here is not the story to tell your child, or perhaps it is, but it is a seed that can pollinate our own creative genius, to retell to our daughters what *must* be retold. For that I rate this a must read.

The author's note, if any part, is the must read. Wonderfully said Ms. Blythe.

Thank you to the author for such an intriguing telling. Thank you to the publisher and author and to NetGalley for an ARC.

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As a kid, I was obsessed with the illustrated book of Grimm’s fairy tales that my mother read to me. As an adult, it’s a little insane to note that we read things this dark to children. I enjoyed this author’s lyrical tale on Grimm, usually from the princess or sister’s point of view. I was not as familiar with this particular fairy tale, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” I think you might want to read or reread the original tale first - I was intrigued enough that I will read it now. I also really enjoyed the author’s note which tied it all together and let me know I was not the only dark little girl who enjoyed these tales.

Thanks to NetGalley, Andrea Blythe and Interstellar Flight Press for this cool and piercing little book in exchange for my honest review.

Four stars for great writing - but I bet I might have given it five if I knew the original fairytale better.

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5 stars

I received an e-arc from NetGalley for review.


I loved this now I need to read other retellings of one of my favorite fairy tales. Nostalgia but at the same time so new and her own. I cannot rave and recommend this more.

And Blythe’s author note at the end I would not mind just reading a book where she talks about fairy tales honestly. She is very poignant and I appreciate the look into the sister's thoughts and feelings individually Like she said what happened after the wedding and the supposedly “happy ever after”

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This a great way to introduce poems to readers that expect and do not like the verses and rhyme. The wording is easy, so readers can concentrate on the images it provokes. I liked the Forth Sister is probably my favorite. I can see myself reading that poem aloud and sharing my thoughts about it. I think the whole book can be a great addition to a book club, there is a lot of things to discuss here. I just want to mention the book’s illustrations, I thought they went well for each of the poems and they do not overwhelm the stories. I very much recommend it for lovers of poetry, or fairy tales, or classics. Just read one poem (the 4th sister) and you will want to read the rest.

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What a crazy twist on the fairy tales! Super twisted as expected. Super enjoyed it and would suggest to anyone who enjoys the fairy tales. Super quick read! I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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I love retellings and this retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses did not disappoint. Any fan of retellings will enjoy this.

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Twelve is a poetic retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." I enjoy when retellings breathe new life into a fairy tale. Twelve presents a fresh take by exploring the question of what happened after the magic dancing came to an end.

After the entrance to the underworld was sealed by an iron door, the princesses began to live vastly different lives back in the ordinary world. Each claimed a power and embodied it -- all told through beautiful, yet haunting vivid imagery. We find the eldest daughter’s quiet fury at being wed to a stranger as she fights back with poisons and alchemy. We find another princess choosing a life of stillness and solitude surrounded by ink-splotched pages and the smell of leather bound books. Another princess finds comfort in the tangle of cloth and warm kisses while another is haunted by the souls of the dead and begins stitching all their sorrows into cloth hoping to collect and contain and mend through needle and thread. Twelve packs a lot of emotion into so few pages. This is the sort of idea that I would love to see expanded into a full length novel and/or series.

Twelve is a good place to start for the novice of poetry. Before I begin reading a retelling, I will pull out my Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang’s books that I own so that I can read the actual fairy tale and have the original tale fresh in my mind. Most fairy tales have multiple variations and this is no exception. It’s fascinating to learn how different editors made subtle changes which were inspired by the era they were living in.

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This was amazing. These poems felt more like short stories of what happened to the princesses after they stopped dancing. It talks about how girls are trapped in a society of innocence and purity created just for women.

This collection is powerful, funny, sensual and so eye-opening to those who do not understand the woman experience. It comments on the way women are treating not directly but symbolically and I think that is so much more powerful.

Blythe really took the story of the twelve princesses' and created a whole new realm.

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This is a fascinating read- both illuminating and dark as fairy tales were often written to be.
There are tales by the Brothers Grimm that are rarely found in publication and which parents would be aghast at their children reading. This would fit that category if it had indeed been written by them.

Andrea Blythe's take on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" brings the princesses to the forefront of their own story. As each sister makes her bold choice as to how she will dance away her shoes in the realms of the dark, the tellings of the stories are inventive, surprising, sometimes shocking and totally fascinating.

Blythe is bold: her notes and conclusions on the writing of this book are a valuable and eye-opening addition, and very necessary to tying her approach and content together for the reader's opinion to be both emotional and analytical.

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Short and sweet, Twelve re-imagined the lives of the twelve dancing princesses from the Grimm's fairy tale of the same name giving them fully-developed stories beyond simply twelve beautiful princesses.

I loved the variety of the lives that they princesses had, each one feeling more powerful than the last.

The poetry was much freer than I am accustomed to but that made it all the easier to read and devour.

I will look forward to reading more from Blythe in the future.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this collection as it retold what happened after the 12 dancing princesses were found out and their dancing had been stopped. Each sister experienced the loss of their nightly adventures differently - some escape, some take revenge and some find their new normal. All of them react very differently and each of their stories is a little vignette into how they survive.

I would hesitate to call this poetry, I would call it flash fiction or vignette type stories, but it was beautifully written and each look into the sisters' lives was unique and varied. It's a quick read that flies and is a great example of retellings with a twist.

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"Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale" is a retelling of the classic tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". This book does a really good job of exploring the "after" and how the experience of getting caught travelling to a fairy realm effects all twelve princesses. As the reader we get a god look at the lives of the princesses and every one of them was effected and dealt with the experience differently. I like that not every story had a happy ending and some of them did, it made it feel believable. The story definitely felt more narrative to me, and less poetic. It's definitely not poetry in the traditional sense, it is very much narrative poetry. I just felt that some of the poems were more of full on short stories while other poems were more narrative poems. The constancy in poems was really there for me but that being said, I still really enjoyed reading about each sister and gaining a new perspective on the original tale.

Thank you to Interstellar Flight Press and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of "Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale" by: Andrea Blythe in exchange for an honest review.

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I really enjoyed this book! It was really interesting to see the aftermath of the classic tale. I have always loved the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and I enjoyed this one just as much.
I liked how short and easy this book was to read. I also enjoyed how each chapter left on a sort of cliffhanger. It was also cool to see how different each sister was.
Overall I really liked reading this. I would recommend it to anyone who loves classics and the Brothers Grimm stories.

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Grimm's Fairy Tales are well known as a different kind of story, loved by adults as well as children. This is most definitely targeted at adults and older children. Some of the references would be lost on younger children. Twelve refers to the 12 women who assume their beings from nature to become a powerful presence. Told in poetry and short story form, it's a really different take on a well known fairy tale. Unique is only one of the many descriptive words you could use for this book. Lets hope their is another twisted tale to follow. Andrea Blythe stirred up a winner this time. What's next?

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Name: Twelve
Author: Andrea Blythe
Genre: Children Fiction, Fairytale, Fantasy, Magic
A beautiful, lyrical and feminist retelling of the Twelve Dancing Sisters from The Brother Grimm's Fairytale. It tells the story of Twelve sisters who are forced to lived in the ordinary world after being discovered by their father.
This book is divided into eleven parts which tells the tale of each sister after their magic is closed, and their dancing expedition with the fairy princes came to an end. Each part has a unique perspective and shows their own ways of coping with their lives after losing their power.
Intriguing, bewitching and enthralling, it explores the lives of those twelve sisters, one who fell in despair, one who was haunted by ghost, one who cooked, one who fell in love with alchemy and the one who was forced to marry a soldier against her wishes.

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What happens to the twelve princesses? Those women who spent magical nights dancing with fairies and sprites. What happens to them after the door is is barred and they are forced back to the obligations of the court and the expectations of society? Why was this even the end of the story? That wasn't a happily-ever-after ending for anyone but the King.
Andrea Blythe gives each princess a voice, a story and their own ending (not necessarily happy). It is brilliant and uplifting and such a great idea. I hope she writes a whole series.

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This was a lovely little read. I’m not sure why it’s categorized as poetry, though. Each chapter is one of the twelve sisters and her outcome written in pretty, but not poetic, prose. Some sisters felt more fully developed than others, and I’d have loved to see each of them fleshed out consistently. My favorite was the twelfth sister, and I could honestly see that story becoming its own book. I loved the imaginative care, and Blythe’s voice encourages the reader to open more doors – whether in writing or art. I love fiction that inspires, and Blythe’s work here does just that.

Thank you to NetGalley and Interstellar Flight Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I received an advanced reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers.

This is a beautifully put together book of poems told in a story type format about the brothers grimm fairy tale about the twelve dancing princesses.
This book is very well thought out and poetically written to tell a version of the fairy tale after the music stops.
This is a retelling in poetry form and I thought it was very beautifully written.

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Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale retells the story of the twelve dancing princesses, and what happens to each sister after they are cu off from the fairy realm in which they dance each night.

As a little kid, I remember watching the Barbie version of the 12 dancing princesses and being so heartbroken when they were no longer allowed to return to the fairy realm, that I never watched the movie again. I never searched for the original source of the story either, so I am glad that I stumbled upon Andrea Blythe's retelling. I was a little surprised that it read more like a short story than poetry to me, but there definitely was an artful quality and flow to her words.

I was most enamored with the story of the disappearing sister and the final sister. There was something about the description of the disappearing sister's setting that was haunting, yet beautiful. I could clearly picture every detail of her surroundings, and was transported to that dreamlike realm. I feel like the final sister's adventures could be turned into a fantastical sequel, which I would be very interested in reading. I have a suspicion that the longer I reflect on this work, the more I will begin to appreciate its intricacies.

My one complaint was that it felt a little bit like something I would read in high school as part of made-for-AP lit piece to practice analyzing literary devices. I cannot quite articulate the feeling it gave me, if it seemed a bit of a forced narrative at times, or possibly just retained the air of the old enchanted fairytale from which it came.

Either way, it was a pleasant and short work to read that took me back to my childhood, and for that I am delighted!

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Whereas fairy tales tend to elide large sibling groups, Andrea Blythe gives each of the Twelve Princesses a unique personality and story. The midnight dancers in the impossible land come to grittier life as they make their way in a more ordinary world. Brief, haunting, carefully poised en pointe.

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This book is a gem! Among the many popular and happening fairy tale retelling, this one stands out. The voice of the narrator is almost the same as the orthodox narration of fairytales, but the plot is a complete new spin on the classic. Andrea Blythe did such a great job with the choice of words, sometimes even evocative of other fairy tales. I like the illustrations, but I like even more the lack of illustration for the story about the sixth sister: it is brilliantly saying so much by literally nothing being there. I was expecting verse, but I found prose; nonetheless, these are poems through and through.

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Today I am #reading: Twelve: #Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale by Andrea Blythe (@andreablythe). This was a cool read. I liked that each poem was a different sister. I like that we had sisters in the version. I relate maybe too well with the third sister.

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*clears throat* *cracks knuckles* Ok, get ready for me to gush about HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS! This book starts with a prologue giving an explanation of what happens in the story of the twelve Dancing Princesses (hence the name of the work) then is followed by an explanation of what happens to each sister after the soldier discovers their dancing in fairy-land and the king stops their fun.

I loved each sister's story. Each had their own unique tale following the loss of fairy-land, and not every one was a perfect and magical princess happy ending, at least in the tradition sense. There is a clear underlying theme of feminism throughout this work and I LOVED it, and the author's intent is clear reading her Author's Note. I think my favorite stories were definitely of sisters 8 & 9 who are badass and I would gobble a whole story just about those two and the Black Fox. I also loved the stories of sisters 3 (books <3), 10 (LESBIANS AND BAKING), and 4.

Honestly the only thing I didn't like about this book was the length; I WISH THERE WAS MORE!!! it was wonderful and an easy read, and as explained in the author's note, there is no clear hero or villain; each of the sisters take life into their own hands and explore their interests, no matter how dark and sinister (or pure and sweet) it may be.

I would TOTALLY RECOMMEND you pick this up, and I might just buy a copy for myself.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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A great retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses which is one of my favourite ‘childhood’ fairy tales. The takes have much detail added about the characters background and personalities. There’s a definite demise twist in the way that the princesses characters are more developed than being mere bit players and possessions of the king.
I enjoyed the simplicity of the story it’s poetic prose.
Thanks to #NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ahead of publication in exchange for an honest review.

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To me, fairytales are the original story. With elements of folklore and oral-storytelling passed on from generation to generation until they are finally written down and published for anyone to read, it's no wonder that each of these amazing stories have different variations and attributes linking to a myriad of cultures across our planet. Modern-day retellings often seek to gender-bend or feminise these tales, questioning the traditional roles of the obedient princesses who require a loving stereotypical marriage as their happily ever after.

In Twelve, Andrea Blythe manages to pull off a modern retelling in spectacular fashion whilst retaining the elements of fairytales and storytelling which all of its fans love. Taking each sister one by one, Blythe dedicates each of the Twelve Princesses with their own unique voice and identity giving fresh substance and purpose to the once subservient, archaic damsels-in-distress in search of their prince.

As characters of their own, we see the ringleader whose decision it was to condemn their failed suitors to death; the sister whose stubbornness and obstinance defied punishment and carried on her dancing regardless of the King's ruling; the wannabe-baker who despite being told to stay out of the kitchen ends up finding more than one passion in the pantry; the Belle-like book-lover who managed to camouflage herself amidst the stacks.

Twelve was not quite poetry in the form I was anticipating and represents more of a prose-style narrative, however the writing was lyrically beautiful just the same. Language and imagery contribute to a huge part of my enjoyment in a book and, for something shorter than what I'm used to reading, Blythe brought this in spades! The haunting imagery of the Third Sister's tale is sure to resonate with any bibliophile who has ever been lost and caught up in their own little bookish world.

The Author's Note at the end seeks to clarify Blythe's inspiration for writing these wonderful poems. It gives credence to the fact that she is well-versed in the genre and this tale in particular. It was interesting to read her motivations for writing Twelve and take on board her own viewpoint in bringing these stories to life.

Why Should You Read This Book?
For the bewitching storytelling.
For a fresh uplift on a classical fairytale.
For the diverse representations and identities of the Twelve Princesses.

Any reader with a passion for fairytales is sure to find something to enjoy in this short and sweet collection of poems based on tale of The Twelve Princesses from The Brothers Grimm.
[Review to be posted on blog on: 19/08/2020]

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I am a big fan of fairy tale retellings and Twelve was no exception. Blythe deftly explores what happens to each of the sisters in The Twelve Dancing Princesses once their secret has been found out and she takes us to some unexpected and beautiful and sometimes bittersweet places. I would love to read longer versions of Blythe's stories!

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This is a powerful and memorable collection of prose poems inspired by the Brother's Grimm Fairy Tale " The Twelve Dancing Princesses" , the story of twelve sisters who spend their nights dancing the soles off their shoes in a mysterious and magical land, to the despair of their father, the King. Desperate. he offers the hand of a princess as a reward, and many young men lose their lives in an attempt to solve the mystery, until one day a soldier, with the help of a wise old woman, manages to evade the traps set by the sisters, and is able to find out what is really going on each night. The story ends with him marrying the oldest daughter, and this is where Andrea Blythe's book begins.
Each of the chapters tells the story of a different sister, or in one case, a set of twins, beginning with the oldest who is locked in never ending battle with her new husband, and travelling through each sister in turn. Each has a different voice that suits their story, and I think this shows the remarkable skill of the author. I particularly loved the story of the third sister and her love of books, the darker and more chilling story of the fourth sister and the surprising story of the eighth and ninth sister, but all of them had a sense of power and agency that I really loved. I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.

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When I chose to read a copy of "Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale", by Andrea Blythe, I overlooked the ":" and was under the impression that it would be a collection of twelve poems, each retelling a different Brothers Grimm fairy tale, in a way like "I Am Not Your Final Girl", by Claire C. Holland reclaimed the voice of final girls in horror cinema. That may be because I didn't read the synopsis clearly...oops. Still, I did enjoy this a lot.

"Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale" is actually the retelling of only one fairy tale, namely "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". The essential story is that the king, father of twelve princesses, cannot explain why his daughters shoes are tarnished in the morning when his daughters do not leave the castle at night. Since his daughters won't tell him what is happening, he lets men from all over his kingdom try their luck for three days to discover what is happening. If they find out nothing they get executed, but if they find out the reason they get to chose a princess to marry. Eventually one soldier wins at this challenge and gets to pick his prize. This is essentially the fairy tale story. This little book follows the fate of each of the twelve princesses after. In this fashion, it is a bit similar to "I Am Not Your Final Girl", and I enjoyed reading about the different fates of the princesses, albeit most were sad. Still, it was the fates that they fought to have, rather than accepted what was dealt to them by their father so for them it was worth it.

The writing is very beautiful, a bit reminiscent of Gwendolyn Kiste's writing. While it definitely is poetic and the imagery is vivid, I wouldn't personally call this a collection of poetry, but that may be because I have a more traditional view of poetry (stanza, rhythm, rhyme that sort of thing). To me this read like a collection of short stories with beautiful, poetic language.

If you are a fan of fairy tale retellings, especially feminist fairy tale retellings, I would definitely recommend this one. And even if you are not ( I myself have never read a fairy tale retelling before), it is definitely a quick, beautiful and worthwhile read.

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