The Sisters Grimm

The Sisters Grimm

by Menna van Praag

3 out of 5

There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of sisters Grimm on Earth.
You may well be one of them, though you might never know it. You think you’re ordinary. You never suspect that you’re stronger than you seem, braver than you feel or greater than you imagine. But I hope that by the time you finish this tale, you’ll start listening to the whispers that speak of unknown things, the signs that point in unseen directions and the nudges that suggest unimagined possibilities. I hope too that you’ll discover your own magnificence, your own magic . . .

This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire. They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again.

In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do. Then they must fight to save their lives and the lives of the ones they love. Three will live, one will die. You’ll have to read on to find out who and why…

Goldie and her sisters have forgotten who they are. They have forgotten they are powerful; they have forgotten the years of shared dreams. As their 18th birthday approaches, they have to realise the truth behind their childhood fantasies, and fight to survive.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The story follows two timelines - now, in the countdown to the four sisters' birthday on Halloween, as they all deal with their real-life problems, as well as the strange occurrences that start to happen around them.

Plus, ten years ago, when the eight-year-old girls meet for the first time. They are all half-sisters from very different walks of life, but they all have Grimm power over the elements.

Goldie is working in a Cambridge hotel, for a sleazy manager, stealing from tourists to provide for her little brother.

Liyana has her dreams of art school dashed when her aunt goes bankrupt, and has to choose between love and money.
Scarlet is working at the family bakery, trying to keep it afloat whilst caring for her grandmother with dementia.
Bea is at college, trying to get away from her insane mother, who keeps pushing her to make the wicked choices in life.

This is... such a hard book to review.

Menna van Praag has a lot of creative and original ideas fused together in this story. Binding dreams, fantasies and fairytales; letting them seep into the real world. Whilst running wild in the dreamscape of Everwhere.
There are moments of bloody brilliance; and huge chunks where it did not gel.
Possibly influenced by the original Grimm fairytales (rather than the fluffy Disney ones), the author isn't afraid to take it to dark places. The issues facing the girls are real and have real-life consequences.

I found it really hard to get into the story, because of how the narration and timelines were established. There is multi-POV - and not just switching per chapter; there are regular sections where it changes every paragraph. To be fair, the paragraphs (and chapters) are clearly headed, so I know who's story it is; but there are 5 narrators (the 4 sisters and Leo - a star-turned-soldier destined to kill them), so it was hard to connect with anyone.

I could even argue that there are 10 narrators, as the 8-year-old and nearly-18-years-old versions are very different characters. The older version of the sisters have no memory of Everwhere, so there was a lot of repetition as they learn the rules and the dangers.
The 18-year-old sisters don't actually meet until really late on in the book, which meant the story was going in four very different directions, and hard to follow in the chopped-up style of narrative.

By the end of the book, I was hooked, wanting to know the outcome of the four sisters, as they finally get to Everwhere and have to face their father. Unfortunately, bringing our main narrators together (plus all of them having their childhood memories reawakened) made the narrative a bit head-jumpy and did detract from what would have been a powerful finish.

Overall, I think this series has a lot of promise and I would be interested in seeing where it goes.


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