The Sisters Grimm, by Menna van Praag

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4.5 STARS


The Sisters Grimm, by Menna van Praag is the perfect Grimm Fairy-tale infused story. Filled with magic, darkness and secrets, it is a tale of war, violence, and unity.


Synopsis used on Netgalley: *this was an eARC so quotes are subject to change*

“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 …”


The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag follows five different narratives; Goldie, Bea, Liyana, Scarlet, and Leo. However, while Leo is key to the story, the main evolution of the plot comes from the other four narratives.

This novel follows the story of four girls, four Sisters Grimm “each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire“. The sisters, however, do not know who they are, what they are capable of or what their future holds for them. We follow each girl as they each untangle their own individual and different lives, as well as realise that there is more to them than they first thought. We watch as they visit Everywhere only to forget, remember their childhoods only to be confused, and find each other only to recognise them but not know why. As the story moves forward we learn more about the sisters through their present lives, through snippets of their pasts and from Leo who knows much more than he lets on.

As the girls unravel their truth, they learn of a more sinister fate that awaits them, for in only Thirty-Three days they will meet their father, and partake in a fight for their lives, and for each others.


I loved this, I love anything that uses Grimm fairy-tale elements and this does that so wonderfully. However, this is most definitely NOT a retelling or a Grimm twist on a traditional fairy-tale, this IS completely and utterly original and the fairy-tale elements are so subtle and clever that it creates something so distinctive and unique that I was completely drawn in. Menna van Praag’s novel is reminiscent of Angela Carters’, ‘The Bloody Chamber’, with feminist influences and gothic elements intertwined with the fairy-tale origins- which was wonderful to see (my love for gothic literature was greatly rewarded).

This novel is definitely a must read, particularly for women, but also for men. Many a time the question of ‘What book’s should every woman read?’ has been asked and the answers (that I have heard) are usually Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Little Women or similar titles, of course more contemporary novels are now listed but the classic are always there. I do not disagree with the classic choices, I also recommend them, but they are novels set in a time when women could not even own property, choose who to marry, or simply be free. So what about books we should read for a world where women are free from those previous shackles but are still bound by so many others? Well this book is definitely one of them.

The Sisters Grimm is about more than the fantastical elements, its about the strength of women and what unity of that strength can bring. The fantasy and magic of the Sisters being able to control or manipulate the elements creates a strong connection between the reader and the characters. Perhaps because women have long been key to elemental mythology; from Goddesses to Mother Nature, and from Nymphs to Faeries, the link has always been women who have predominantly featured in each of these myths. Thus having the characters embody a singular element allows us to connect with each in a different way.


(Minor spoilers – elements/fairy-tale links for each of the four main characters) This connection is also built with the influences from traditional fairy-tales. For example, Goldie (Goldilocks) is linked with Earth, she can manipulate nature. She is a hard worker, despite her tendency to steal from the rich, she is not afraid to get to work. This is significantly due to her little brother Teddy, she adores him and will do anything to make him happy. She is the embodiment of Mother Nature in her elemental sense and her sisterly yet maternal instinct to keep her baby brother happy. Goldie’s character is a force to be reckoned with despite often having a quiet demeanour. She is also one of the most troubled characters, having had a dark childhood, only to now be stuck in a job with a sleazy boss. Unfortunately, her boss is left to behave badly as, if she questions him, she will be fired. Goldie is the character reflective of the part of us who are quiet when we should not be, but also is the part of us that is enamoured by the spring flowers and their full summer bloom, the part of us that loves our children and will do anything for them, or have younger sibling who we will fiercely protect, the part of us that is stronger than we realise. Goldie is the narrative we start with and is a character that we will love beyond compare. By the end of the novel Goldie become one of the most powerful characters who no longer stays quiet or docile, and instead is strong and will fight for what she wants.

Goldie does build up a connection with the character of Leo- this is an interesting dynamic we get to see as we are able to watch as structured opinions and beliefs begin to sift and change, particularly with Leo, until it is realised that there is so much more to the story (though I will talk more about Leo after the four Sisters).


(Minor Spoilers Continued) However, we can also connect with the character of Bea (Beauty). Bea’s element is air, she can fly and manipulate it. Much like her element Bea is rather unpredictable. She is headstrong, sexually free, and unafraid to use people to get what she wants, societal expectations do not often faze her and she does not care to be seen as cold and stoic. However, she has an internal conflict; her mother nurtured the evil side to Bea, the socially unacceptable and volatile side, and Bea did not like this, she did not want to be evil. Yet, she takes a silent pleasure in being able to do what she wants when she wants. Her mother is the only one that tells her the truth about who she is, yet she passes this off as insanity until she realises the truth and understand why the evil in her was encouraged. Bea is a complex and intriguing character and, despite her vicious ways, is also easy to connect with. She is the part of us that we want to embrace, the careless and independent part that gets tired of playing perfect and kind. She is the character you connect with when you feel the wind on your skin and in your hair, the connection built on the freedom you feel in the air. Bea is intriguing and complex, she is a character that is forever questioned, you cannot predict her ending or what part of her will win. She is strong, and always has been and her ending may be the most poignant and freeing of them all.

Bea builds up connections with a couple of male characters which greatly contrast; Dr Finch and Vali. These relationships are vastly different, for good reason, and are interesting to watch unfold. Bea’s personality makes for these relationships to be incredibly unpredictable, and yet fitting for her character.


(Minor Spoilers Continued) The next sister we feel a connection to is Scarlet (Red Riding Hood) who is linked with fire. Scarlet is kind and caring as she looks after her grandmother and runs the family cafe. However, she is also fiery, independent, hardworking and brave. Scarlet is a natural leader but still feels the force of her small cafe being pitted against larger corporate brands. She is unwilling to give in to Mr Wolfe’s offers to buy her out and her anger at his suggestions and blatant disrespect for her homely bakery manifests in many amusing and explosive ways. Scarlet is a character with heart and is not afraid to share her views. However, she is consumed with trying to keep her grandmother happy and cannot come to terms with her condition, she ignores the problem in the hope that situation may fix itself despite knowing better. Scarlet knows very little about her mother, who died when she as young, and what we do see from past interactions are not exactly heart-warming. Scarlet remembers her distant and cold behaviour, yet she openly defies this herself and is a stark contrast when interacting with people she know. She is the character you connect with in anger when the fire burns in your chest, but also the one you connect with when you look after sick family members, or when you feel the comforting heat of the fire when you are alone, or when you fight for what you believe in and what is sentimental to you. Scarlet’s ending is the most uncertain in some aspects, but in others it is the most warming. She becomes the strongest version of who she is and who we have known her to be.

Scarlet also has a connection with two male characters, which are vastly different. Wolfe and Walt. Walt being more of the friend and confidant, Wolfe being the dangerous and the physical. Both relationships have damning affects on us by the end of the novel.


(Minor Spoilers…) Finally, we can connect with Liyana. Liyana is the character who is not infused with a singular fairy-tale origin, instead she if influenced by both Cinderella and Rapunzel (a fact I had to check as her character is very complex and difficult to pinpoint-but the influences are so clever). Liyana’s element is water. She lives with her aunt and is, though did not start off so, wealthy. Liyana is dedicated, creative and ambitious, much like her element suggests. She starts off with her mother, forced to conform to society and having to cope with her mother removing her individuality, changing her hair to be straighter and ensuring she fits in, Liyana. Then Liyana moves in with her aunt, and eventually, as she gets older, they become poor (echo of Cinderella). Because of his her aunt wishes for her to marry for financial security, which she feels trapped and obligated to do due to how her aunt has looked after her, this expectation and feeling of entrapment (echoing Rapunzel) forces Liyana to choose how she will control her life. Liyana is incredibly talented, yet is full of self doubt and finds it difficult to be herself. She is the sister we are connected with when we feel we aren’t good enough, or when we feel the familial pressure of their expectations. But, she is also the one we connect with when we are creative, when the rain is falling and it feels peaceful, when we slowly learn to be ourselves. By the end of the novel Liyana has had some of the most personal growth. She is powerful, more self assured and has accepted herself as she is.

Liyana has a relationship with Koko (Kumiko) in the novel, and is the only character to already be in a long term relationship. Their relationship is lovely and to watch it unfold and go through the issue of whether or not Liyana should marry a guy for financial security is heart-breaking as they belong together. The two see each other for who they truly are, but still date in secret at first as Liyana puts of telling her aunt that she is a lesbian and in a relationship.


(“”…) Finally, we have the character of Leo, not a sister but is a main narrative in the story, an interesting and clever creative choice. Leo (named after the constellation) is a soldier, born to kill Grimm girls for his father, his commander. A role he takes pride in, a role etched out for him. Until he meets Goldie. Leo is so certain what he is doing is right and yet upon meeting Goldie he cannot help but enter an internal conflict. He wants to protect her but knows he cannot. As his character and relationships grow his views change, the structures he was bound to become questioned and he is forced to choose between protection and murder. Leo’s story is interesting and similar to how societal views and structures can change when you see the other side. Leo’s ending is perhaps the most emotional as he makes his decision and decides who he will be.


Each of the characters in Menna van Praag’s story are completely and utterly unique. They are diverse individuals in personality, ethnicity, sexuality, behaviour and status, each are well developed, in-depth and complex, and easy to connect with. The characters are human, they have flaws, but they are strong and powerful, even without their Grimm powers.

The storyline is original and the fantasy is intriguing, each element is beautifully created and maintains their originality despite the many influences. The story is not one of just women, but is also one of power and unity, one of acceptance and personal growth and it delivered on every aspect it gave.

The magic and the world of Everywhere is well built and explained but leaves enough mystery that anything is possible. The narrative styles, though the jumping POV may take some people some time to get use to, allows for the reader to learn so much and yet still be surprised and mystified at the twists and turns that occur throughout the book. The past and present alterations throughout the book were easy to follow and made the book more intriguing and mysterious.

The ending to the novel was hauntingly beautiful, with the growth of each character and the consequences of war being prevalent. The ending was shocking and unexpected, I have to admit I was heartbroken and completely fooled by some elements. The misdirection in the novel that prevents you accurately predicting the outcome is so subtle that you are shocked, and then slightly surprised you fell for it!


The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag is the perfect blend of gothic, Grimm-fairy-tale, magical, and modern elements, and is inspiringly original.


Content warning: There are references to child abuse, attempted /sexual assault, self harm. Plus the inclusion of consensual sex scenes.


*I received a free eARC of #TheSistersGrimm via #Netgalley @Transworldbooks (Random House UK, Transworld Publishers) in exchange for an honest review. *

4 comments

    • hehe it is soo good, the fairytale inspirations is obvious but subtle enough that it isn’t overpowering and instead is an original story! I loved it, I hope you get to read it and that you enjoy it!! 💜😊

      Like

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