4 reasons Menna van Praag’s The Sisters Grimm is a feminist fantasy worth reading

Photo: The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag. Image Courtesy HarperCollins Publishers
Photo: The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag. Image Courtesy HarperCollins Publishers /

Menna van Praag’s The Sisters Grimm is a magical, dark fantasy story that will leave you with a sense of empowerment.

Fairytales can sometimes take readers to dark places, but they can also leave them with a sense of empowerment by the end. Menna van Praag’s new fantasy novel, The Sisters Grimm, manages both of these feats. Telling the tale of four 17-year-old girls who think themselves ordinary, the The Sisters Grimm cleverly unravels each of their stories, revealing over time that they’re far more powerful than they believe — and that each of them has a destiny they’ll have to face upon turning 18.

As it turns out, these girls have a powerful but cruel being for a father. Not of this world, but hailing from the magical land of Everwhere, their father forces them to fight supernatural soldiers on their 18th birthdays — and if they manage to survive, they must choose between good and evil. (Would anyone like to guess which side their father insists they choose if he’s to let them survive?)

The unfortunate twist is that none of the girls remember visiting Everwhere as children, so they’re all oblivious to what awaits them on their birthday. As the date gets closer, however, they begin having dreams and visions — but it’s up to them to piece things together and come out on top before it’s too late.

A magical story about empowerment and sisterhood, The Sisters Grimm is exactly the kind of feminist fantasy we need to see more of in the genre. But if the synopsis doesn’t have you completely intrigued, here are four more reasons to pick up this new release.

Its Characters Are Flawed but Relatable

With so many perspective characters throughout The Sisters Grimm, it would be easy for the reader to lose track of who’s who. But Praag does an excellent job of giving each character their own distinct voice, along with sets of flaws that would make anyone uncomfortable. But those flaws also make the novel’s characters incredibly relatable, and that’s what will hook readers when it comes to this story.

Even as you sigh at Liyana’s decision to marry someone she doesn’t love in order to have a comfortable life, or shake your head at Goldie’s penchant for theft, you’ll find yourself growing increasingly invested in these characters’ fates. And let’s be honest, it’s refreshing to see such flawed female characters on the page, especially when so many writers attempt to pass positive attributes off as flaws when it comes to women.

The Story’s Structure Leaves Room for Suspense

The Sisters Grimm begins a month before the sisters’ 18th birthday (yes, all of them are born on the same day), and each chapter counts down to the confrontation that awaits them. Naturally, this makes for suspenseful storytelling — and the inclusion of past chapters, which show the girls’ childhoods and earlier days in Everwhere, only heightens that suspense.

Praag doesn’t waste time with exposition either. She throws readers straight into the story, allowing them to piece together what’s happening as much as the characters are forced to. This makes for an engaging read, and it makes the twists and turns that much more satisfying as they unfold.

It’s Dark and Whimsical

With so many allusions to classic fairytales, it’s probably no surprise that The Sisters Grimm reads just like one. Even during its most ordinary moments, the story has a whimsical tone that makes reading it an enchanted experience. From the setting to the writing itself, this novel is brimming with whimsy — and it’s the dark kind that makes fairytales so twisted and compelling in the first place.

While this novel isn’t strictly a fairytale retelling, it’s definitely one to consider if you find yourself in the mood for such a story. (And really, we could all use a little magic currently.)

It’s Empowering for the Characters and Readers

The Sisters Grimm takes both the characters and audience on a journey of empowerment, with each of the girls stepping up to achieve their potential by the end of the book. And even if that doesn’t work out so well for all of them, it’s refreshing to see a fantasy novel that allows young women to come into their power on their own — and to embrace how strong they are without vilifying them.

Accompanying the girls as they come face to face with their fate will give the reader a sense of empowerment as well. And with passages addressed directly to the person reading the novel, one can’t help but feel like that’s exactly the point.

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The Sisters Grimm is currently available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.