The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag

Posted On 13 February 2020

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Sisters2The Sisters Grimm is a difficult book for me to review.  There are aspects to this story that are so good and coupled with the excellent writing and bringing together of fairytale characters I really did expect this to blow me away, and yet I’ve come away from this with mixed feelings.

This is a story of four young women, told in alternating pov chapters and with each chapter ominously counting down the days.  The four of them share many similarities – they’re all struggling to stay afloat financially and need to make tough decisions, they all have something magical within them that they know little about and they’ve all met before, in a sort of dream landscape called Everwhere – a place where they honed their magic and became friends,   There is also a fifth character, a soldier named Leo.

The premise of the book centres around the original dark fairy tales and the content is quite shockingly blunt in places. The four girls are Bea (Beauty), Goldie, Scarlet and Liyana.  When they were much younger they met in Everwhere but after reaching the age of 13 they were no longer able to enter this dreamscape.  When their 18th birthday takes place they will once again be admitted through the gates to Everwhere where they will make a tough decision that could cost them quite dearly.  All the girls share the same birthday and the same father.  Grimm, is a demon who is intent on causing chaos in the world and he gives all his daughters the chance to join him.  If they fail to make the choice to turn to evil then they will be killed by his army of soldiers.

What I really liked about this was the writing.  I really enjoyed reading the four different storylines and finding out more about the girl’s and their pasts as the novel progressed and in fact these stories were beautifully told.  I also really liked the way magic was easily worked into the girl’s everyday lives.  They all have different capabilities and sometimes can make strange things occur.  There were also extra little touches such as the girls quite often almost meeting or being on a very close course with their lives almost intertwining without their knowledge.

Goldie was probably my least favourite character, I’m not sure why but I found myself not enjoying either her or Leo’s story.  Scarlet’s chapters were very intriguing and in fact I found myself wishing for more and similarly with Liyana.  Bea is the odd one out of the bunch, she is quite abrasive and aggressive.  All of them have suffered through different childhood experiences and this speaks to their behaviour here.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I’m finding it difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that didn’t quite work for me here.  There is a definite feeling of bloating to parts of the story and a bit of repetition – but not enough to irritate me.  I found myself very perplexed about the underlying story of Grimm and his daughters and soldiers, I also didn’t really understand why the girls were forbidden entry to Everwhere when they reached the age of 13 – it seemed contrived somehow.  I think I would have preferred them to simply forget the place as they grew older.  I think my main issue is that for the most part this has a contemporary feel with everyday modern issues, and, I enjoyed that part of the  story very much I just found it difficult to accept the Everwher chapters.  They didn’t sit right for me somehow.  Plus the ending was definitely a little rushed and in some respects disappointing – but I don’t want to give away spoilers.

To be fair, I can see that the author obviously wanted to write a book about sisterhood, about sticking together and helping each other when in need and I do think she succeeded in that respect, but, I just didn’t feel like the two different elements of the story sat well together, and I had far too many questions that remain unanswered.

I would also mention a quick trigger warning here, sexual abuse and self harming spring immediately to mind for example.

On the whole this wasn’t a bad read and I don’t want to appear overly negative or to put others off picking it up. It just didn’t quite work as well as I’d hoped.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3 out of 5 stars




18 Responses to “The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag”

  1. Timy

    I really, really wanted to like this one, but I gave up 16% in. Up to that point Goldie definitely was my least favourite as well and didn’t like Leo either. The whole setting didn’t make sense to me, and I found the one Everwhere chapter I read really confusing. The idea was there, but the execution failed for me.

    • @lynnsbooks

      That’s exactly it – the execution, I never felt like there was a coming together of the contemporary setting and the fairytale elements and it left me puzzled about how things worked. Plus the idea of the soldiers. I was simply perplexed.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    This is the second review I’ve read today of this book that was less than enthusiastic. Sort of glad I didn’t request a review copy, because I’m not sure I’d enjoy it. But great review as always, Lynn:-)

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I love fairytale retellings so I was so happy to have this and it really does have some great elements and strong writing, but I couldn’t really get over the disjoin between the contemporary and fairytale elements. Great writing though, I would pick up more by this author.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Hmm, definitely rethinking my plans to read this one now. I had put it on my audio wishlist, but there are issues mentioned in this review that are very worrying to me, especially the part about the bloat and repetition. Maybe listening to it in audio would alleviate these problems, but a rushed ending just makes me want to say heck no.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I certainly didn’t dislike it and the writing is very good, plus some of the individual characters make for very interesting reading, but, definitely a bit of repetition and bloatedness that slows it down a little and I couldn’t help feel there was a lack of coming together in terms of the contemporary setting and the fairytale elements – it raised too many questions for me which ended up not allowing me to really sink into the story.
      Lynn 😀

  4. lisasbooksgemsandtarot

    This is on my TBR, I’m interested to read it, although a bit hesitant with the reviews I’ve seen

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it has some very strong elements but I wasn’t totally bowled over. You might love it though and the writing is very good. 😀

  5. pagesandtea

    I love your review, but I’m not so sure now about adding this one to my TBR list at the moment. I’ll probably see if the library are getting a copy, but I think I may possibly prefer the Whitechapel murder mystery you featured the other day 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really like the sound of the Whitechapel book – I’m always intrigued by that period and the mention of Whitechapel sealed the deal. I definitely didn’t dislike the Sisters Grimm and the writing was good but I wasn’t convinced about certain elements and the only real explanation I can come up with is that the fantastical elements didn’t sit well with the contemporary ones.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Kara

    Really interested to read this review as I nearly purchased this book yesterday as an impulse buy based purely on the cover. Think I might hold off on adding this to my TBR…

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, you might love it of course, it has some great elements and the writing is good but I felt the modern day feel and the fairy story elements didn’t really sit together very well and I had lots of questions that just irritated me slightly. Not a bad read at all but just not really for me.
      Lynn 😀

  7. scorpiobookdreams

    Thank you for this review as I was beginning to think I was one of the only people who didn’t like this book. I gave it 3 stars too as I just didn’t connect with it for some reason.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s a funny one this. I didn’t hate the book, in fact far from it – the writing was really good and I was quite interested in the storylines – but I wasn’t really feeling the whole Everwhere theme or the Soldiers. I ended up with lots of questions and that always gets in teh way of my enjoyment.
      Lynn 😀

  8. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    It’s a pity that this story did not work as well as you expected – and the premise is an intriguing one, so there was great potential for it to become an engaging story. I wonder if some tighter editing might have solved the problems you listed…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’m still puzzled about this one. I loved elements of it but the overall storyline of the Grimm Sisters and the Soldiers didn’t really work for me.
      Lynn 😀

  9. waytoofantasy

    Sounds like an odd one. It’s hard when a story seems to be fighting itself, looks like that might be what happened here. Too bad, it has an interesting premise!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, you might love it and it could just be a mood thing I suppose because this certainly sounds like a book that I should and would normally love. But for me the modern aspects jarred with the fairytale ones. The characters were very intriguing though and the writing was very good. I would read this author again.
      Lynn 😀

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