The Sisters Grimm
Menna van Praag
The Sisters Grimm will be published on March 31st, 2020. I received an eARC from the publisher, but as always, all thoughts are my own.
As children, Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea dreamed of a strange otherworld: a nightscape of mists and fog, perpetually falling leaves and hungry ivy, lit by an unwavering moon. Here, in this shadowland of Everwhere, the four girls, half-sisters connected by blood and magic, began to nurture their elemental powers together. But at thirteen, the sisters were ripped from Everwhere and separated. Now, five years later, they search for one another and yearn to rediscover their unique and supernatural strengths. Goldie (earth) manipulates plants and gives life. Liyana (water) controls rivers and rain. Scarlet (fire) has electricity at her fingertips. Bea (air) can fly.
To realize their full potential, the blood sisters must return to the land of their childhood dreams. But Everwhere can only be accessed through certain gates at 3:33 A.M. on the night of a new moon. As Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea are beset with the challenges of their earthly lives, they must prepare for a battle that lies ahead. On their eighteenth birthday, they will be subjected to a gladiatorial fight with their father’s soldiers. If they survive, they will face their father who will let them live only if they turn dark. Which would be fair, if only the sisters knew what was coming.
So, they have thirty-three days to discover who they truly are and what they can truly do, before they must fight to save themselves and those they love.
Unfortunately The Sisters Grimm is the latest addition to my list of books I’ve chosen not to finish. I put the book down just before the halfway mark, which felt generous on my part as the reader.
For readers, like myself, who looked forward to seeing the connection between this tale and the Grimm brothers (or at the very least, fairy tales in general), the disappointment will be hard to swallow. Wilhelm Grimm does play a part, but it seems more like the author needed a name for his minor character, rather than really wanting to make Wilhelm Grimm be part of the story.
There are some subtle nods to fairy tales, like a warning to stick to the rightful path and ignore shadows and lurking creatures (a common folkloric theme), and mothers or mother figures who are a little unclear or shady about their intentions. With Grimm in the title, though, I expected more than possible nods.
Fairy tales aside, the elemental magic and impending supernatural battle components did feed my curiosity and held my interest, for a little while. However, I think the writing style and even the characters got in the way of this book reaching its full potential.
The chapters are broken up by character, so the reader gets to see inside each person’s head. Everwhere also gets its own chapters, and it is in those especially that the tone borders on that of a classroom lecture. Descriptions were both complete yet dull; if there was ever a great example for why writers should show and not tell, it is this. The writing felt too matter-of-fact, and not lively enough for me to be able to soak in each word, sentence, and paragraph. I wanted to feel like I was in Everwhere, or right beside the characters. Instead I felt like I was gathering facts to be quizzed on at a later date.
The characters and plot are quite intertwined, which unfortunately meant they were hindered by each other. Even with the seemingly tidy breakdown of chapters, the plot felt disorganized and far too dragged out, and not enough tension was coming from the impending challenge(s). More focus was put on romantic tension and ordinary family life, which would have been fine, if the synopsis had not promised such extraordinary circumstances and the writing had more life. I wanted to see Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea realize their potential, but it was just taking far too long to get there.