Updated: Nov 5, 2020
by Menna van Praag
'The Sisters Grimm' is the story of four sisters born of the same Father on the same day but with different mothers. Their Father is Wilhelm Grimm whose parentage has imbued each with magical powers; he is some breed of ultimate fantasy Magi and not in a good way. Their Mothers also appear to have had some powers to a greater or lesser degree. The four have met as little girls in the mystical, fantasy land of Everwhere, where they go when they dream, but this came to an end when they were thirteen. At the start of the book, they are seventeen and they have no knowledge of each other. However, approaching their eighteenth birthdays, they will meet again in Everwhere and their Father will challenge them to choose between good and evil. During the courses of their everyday lives leading up to this definitive moment, chinks of remembrance and magical powers filter through. One of the sisters, Goldie, mets a boy called Leo, a ‘Soldier’ who has been sent by Wilhelm Grimm to kill her. This opens a side narrative of the ‘Soldiers’ and their experiences of Everwhere. All the sisters have various entanglements but the relationship between Goldie and Leo is at the forefront.
I absolutely loved the opening few chapters of this novel. I thought it was beautifully written, fresh and interesting. Chapters are laid out either by skipping back to when the Sisters met in Everwhere when they were eight years old or by counting down the time to 31st October (their birthday – bit token) when they will have the showdown with their Father. The chapters are made up of a couple of paragraphs to a couple of pages of each Sister’s point of view although I did find that sometimes the Sister referred to in the heading was not always the main focus of the writing. This scatter-gun viewpoint approach worked well in the beginning of the novel; you can quickly build up a picture of each Sister. But, I found it became fractured and slightly confusing. The book is quite a long read, by today’s standards, the relentless tempo of switching from one point of view to another (each normally containing a cliff-hanger) did become a bit tiresome 300+ pages in. It would have been nice to have just had some ‘gentle’ chapters or a little less pace. I also felt that during the middle of the book, it veered into Disney territory; four girls – differing magical powers; you can see the dolls being produced and I began to feel a bit disappointed and, slightly bored. I am not sure that the retrospective chapters were needed, I think the Sisters’ time in Everwhere when they were eight could have been dealt with in another way. The characterisation in these flashback chapters were not eight-year old girls – their behaviour and language did not differ to that of them about to turn eighteen so occasionally I was not entirely sure what age/time we were in. Some of the charmingly unusual metaphors began to stretch into overthought pretension and, broadly speaking, there was not a great deal of distinction between the Sisters in terms of their actions and speech.
I did, on the whole, enjoy reading ‘The Sisters Grimm’ but I found it too long and the early promise of the beautiful, absorbing writing was, for me, not fulfilled.