Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"House of Mystery" - Review by Carina Bissett

(A collection of fairy tale poems)

by Courtney Bates-Hardy

Review by Carina Bissett
Jacket description: 
House of Mystery is a beautifully dark and vivid collection of poems that tears down our familiar ideas about fairy tales. These are not poems about privileged princesses who live happily ever after; these are poems about monsters, mothers, witches and mermaids. They explore the pain of change and womanhood, and transform the way we think about fairy tales.
Fairy tales are full of ivory towers, woodland huts, and stately castles. Behind the doors, you’ll find mothers and witches and monsters. Some doors lead to sorrow, others to safety. Poet Courtney Bates-Hardy explores the world through the eyes of mermaids and princesses, witches and wolves in her debut poetry collection House of Mystery.
The collection opens with a trip under the sea... Undines haunt the shallows and sirens beckon, but at the same time, these water women subvert their stories. They slip their bonds, revise expectations. When these mermaids smile, they expose sharp teeth. Modern issues of silenced women are hinted at throughout, but never directly addressed.
In the second section "Hating Cinderella", the poet continues the fairy tale theme yet continues to give her characters even more agency Whereas the sirens and mermaids stay confined to the role of victims, the fairy tale heroines in the second section reshape traditional roles. Defiance and power are no longer hinted at but take physical form. These women literally slip their captors’ knots, wear glass ceilings on their feet, and birth their monsters with savage glee. Bates-Hardy reminds her readers that the only Happily Ever Afters out there are the ones we choose for ourselves.
In the titular final chapter of House of Mystery, Bates-Hardy finally hits her stride by crossing into the modern world. Titles such as “Office Girl” and “Dishes” reveal the mundane amidst the magical. However, when the fairy tale tropes are revisited, they are done so without the familiar sugar coating found in the sanitized tales. In “Donkeyskin” the narrator is trapped in a feminine role despite her tomboy nature. Her dresses smother and her shoes pinch. Only at night is she able to strip down to the raw core of who she really is. In the original fairy tale, the disguised princess has to hide her royalty beneath the donkey skin, only allowing herself to embrace her beauty in isolation. In Bates-Hardy’s version, the narrator struggles against the concepts of conventional femininity, only feeling that she can embrace her wild nature at night.
In the end, "Sirens" sets a tone that isn’t carried throughout the rest of the chapbook.  After moving through the entire collection, it becomes apparent that this selection of nine poems was previously published separately, a stand-alone chapbook titled Sea Foam. While the moody, melancholy tone of this section stands on its own, it doesn’t mesh with the other poems.

Overall, Bates-Hardy is at her best when revealing fairy tale themes in a modern-day setting. The accessible language and contemporary characters make this poetry relatable to everyone struggling for individuality in a cookie cutter world.  
This review was written voluntarily, without any compensation or affiliation with any of the authors or editors for business purposes. A review copy was provided without obligation.
Carina Bissett is the Social Media Manager of Timeless Tales Magazine, an official partner of Once Upon A Blog. Her website is  http://carinabissett.com.


  1. Thanks for the review. I have added to my to-read list!

  2. I read your story. This is very interesting. I love fairy tales very much. Thank you very much for sharing this post with me. I also want to share some of the stories about fairies with you. I have also written a book that wants to read the story of fairy tale that once you read this book and share your thoughts with us.Thank you so much...