Books, Uncategorized

Review: The Sisters Grimm by Menna Van Praag

I was incredibly lucky to receive this book from NetGalley and Random House UK/Transworld Publishers in exchange for an honest review!

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There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of sisters Grimm on Earth. You may well be one of them, though you might never know it.

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 . . .

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First thing’s first, some Content Warnings: child abuse, sexual assault, rape, self harm, abusive relationships.

I loved the idea for this book! A dark, twisty fantasy with magic?! Yes please.

I loved the feminist message of sisterhood and friendship, and the POC and LGBTQIA+ representation. Throughout the book, each girls’ powers are hinted at and are shown to have caused and shaped certain events in their lives which was an interesting way to bring Everywhere into the real world.

I enjoyed that each girl had their own element which reflected their personality, which were different enough to stand out, but they share a fierce independence and determination. The girls all face troubles in their real world life and come from all walks of life, showing that despite being set in only two cities, no two people have the same experiences.

Each girl had a POV in the present and one in the past, plus another character’s past and present POVS, adding up to 10 separate storylines. This lead to a lot of confusion in the timelines, and I often had to re read sections to figure out whether they were set in the past or present. Due to the chapters being split into days, there weren’t any clear indicators of where the time jumps were happening. All of this lead to each storyline feeling quite jumpy and what should have been serious matters losing most of their impact due to being cut into small sections rather than one long piece of prose. I think the story would have flowed better if it was split into characters with past/present sections in each so each section melded and connected.

I found the constant repetition of the upcoming battle took away from the tension that the chapter titles counting down built up from the beginning. One problem with knowing what will happen at the end is that the mystery of what happens is largely lost. Due to this, the end scenes with the final battle seemed incredibly lacklustre, despite the fates of several characters. Even though these events were meant to be a turning point for the other characters, it felt flat rather than shocking or sad.

I had quite a large problem with the addition of the sexual assault, especially as a device to strengthen the character it happens to. I get very uncomfortable with the idea that women need to be violated and hurt physically and emotionally to become strong people and it is a completely overused trope. The self harm also seemed to come out of nowhere without much explanation for its inclusion which again, was quite uncomfortable to read.

Overall, I gave this book 3 stars. The writing was beautiful and I liked the overarching message, the representation and the girls’ characterisation. However, I felt that the structure of the plot ended up making the story less powerful and coherent and the assault felt unnecessary and could have been left out.

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