THE SISTERS GRIMM / AUTHOR: MENNA VAN PRAAG / PUBLISHER: BANTAM PRESS / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 6TH, 2020
In magic as in life, is there anything more powerful than the combined elements of earth, air, fire, and water? As far as the four Grimm siblings are concerned, only the deeper bond of sisterhood. Born on the same day to different mothers via the same father, Goldie, Scarlet, Liyana, and Bea spent their childhood developing their supernatural powers in the eerie dream world of Everwhere. Each of them has a different element to learn and control - Goldie - earth, Scarlet - fire, Liyana - water, and Bea - air - and everything was going well until they reached the age of thirteen, when the sisters were torn out of Everwhere and separated for five long, lonely years. Now they are leading very different lives. Goldie works in a Cambridge hotel and is cheating tourists in order to survive, Scarlet is caring for her sick grandmother, Liyana’s dreams of attending art school have just been shattered, and Bea’s wicked mother is trying to force her down a similarly wicked path.
If the sisters are going to rediscover the full strength of their powers, they must find each other again and return to Everwhere. But, in doing so, they must also prepare for a deadly battle against their own demon father and his legion of ‘fallen’ soldiers. Surviving the gladiatorial combat will involve making a terrible soul-destroying choice and, whatever happens, one of them is destined to die. Which sister shall it be? They only have thirty-three days to find out who they truly are and, perhaps, change their destiny - but the clock is ticking, and one of their father’s agents is already within their midst…
The Sisters Grimm might be pitched at a YA audience but it’s actually a very grown-up fairy-tale with more than a nod towards Angela Carter and Philip Pullman. Yes, it’s a coming of age novel and the underlying ‘it’s important to discover your own inner magic’ message is about as subtle as a brick, but it’s such a textured and complex piece of storytelling that it’s easy to overlook author Menna van Praag’s occasional thematic heavy-handedness. In fact, our only real criticism is that the constant change in POV and unexpected leaps up and down timelines can be rather confusing, although - arguably - they do keep us on our toes long enough to be startled by a genuinely thrilling and emotional finale. The Sisters Grimm may be flawed magic but it’s never less than spellbinding.