I adore fairy tale retellings and I was already familiar with the author from following her on Twitter, so of course I wanted to read this book. Add in the gorgeous cover art and I was completely sold. And this anthology is excellent, full of thoughtfully reimagined tales with strong women and varied settings, and how love unites us all.
“So, what was our beginning? When we first met? When we first fell in love? But falling in love is continuous and perpetual, an activity that abides under the aegis of capital letter Love.”
While I wasn’t familiar with the source material for many of the tales, I didn’t find it affected my enjoyment of them, though I’m sure I missed nuances. For the ones I was, I loved the way the retellings bent the tale, Scheherazade being my personal favorite. In this version, her storytelling is for the benefit of fixing politicians’ messes, and it takes 1001 nights for her to let herself fall in love, to accept the protection and possible heartache that comes with that. “Nefertiti,” the sole f/f story, was another gem, setting her as the widowed owner of a cabaret and all-women gang, dedicated to protecting women from the corrupt government and the men who would prey on them (often one and the same). “Psyche” sets Mt. Olympus as a Devil Wears Prada situation in a skyscraper and involves a sweet friends-to-lovers trope. “Yaa” explores the main character freeing herself from parental – and societal – expectations. To be completely honest, there weren’t any stories that I didn’t like.
“I’m pretty sure you’re the love of my life. I, uh, like your face and I like when words come out of your face. Sorry, that didn’t sound romantic at all.”
This collection’s biggest strength is also its weakness: so many of the stories are about powerful women being truly seen, about owning that power, about their partner respecting that power and seeing them. Gobbling up all thirteen stories in a row is probably not the best way to read this. I wish I’d had the willpower to put the book down between tales and reflect on each individually. The author has an amazing way with words, just the most gorgeously evocative prose, and a great ability to pack a book’s worth of feelings into a short story. I’d love to see what she could do with a full length novella or novel!
“We of all people can’t afford distraction.”
Maadi shifted closer. “With all due respect, Siya, I’m not distracted. I’m focused on what matters most.”
Overall, I very much enjoyed this anthology and will be looking forward to wherever the author goes next!
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.