Four troubled friends, One murdered girl… and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed.
After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled it a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.
When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events they couldn’t have imagined. As the girls retrace their friend’s last steps, they uncover dark secrets about themselves and their destinies, discovering they’re all cursed to repeat the brutal and gruesome endings to their stories until they can break the cycle.
This contemporary take on classic fairytales reimagines heroines as friends attending the same school. While investigating the murder of their best friend, they uncover connections to their ancient fairytale curses and attempt to forge their own fate before it’s too late.
I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Note: The below review discusses suicide.
The Grimrose Girls is the kind of story that sinks its teeth into you and wraps you with its thorned vines around you, and just does not let you go. That’s how it felt reading this book – when I started reading it, I was merely intrigued, but the deeper and deeper I fell into this fairytales-inspired murder mystery, the deeper I fell in with the girls of Grimrose Académie and their own secrets, I was hopelessly attached to the book. For all its dark and macabre moments in this book, The Grimrose Girls is an unexpected delight that I loved.
The story follows the perspectives of four very different girls: best friends Ella, Yuki, and Rory, as well as the new girl at school, Nani. After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki and Rory are reeling from her shocking death, but don’t entirely believe that her death was a suicide, unlike what everyone says. When Nani arrives at Grimrose Académie, her arrival sets off a series of events, leading them to uncover the dark secrets surrounding their best friend’s death and their grim destinies, tied to fairytale endings.
I loved that The Grimrose Girls took place in a boarding school. I’ve never really understood the love for boarding school stories (only that it was appealing to others), but The Grimrose Girls showed me what was so appealing: a setting so removed from everyday normal life, a place steeped in history and intrigue that elevate the mystery and drama and suspense to a whole new level. And inside Grimrose Académie isn’t just secret passageways and castle towers, but also secrets, death, and something dark and dangerous.
Coupled with extraordinary character arcs with distinct voices, the mystery of this story pulled me right in and I could not stop reading. The story begins with the funeral for our main characters’ best friend. While her death is ruled as a suicide, her best friends, Yuki (aroace and Japanese), Ella (has OCD and anxiety), and Rory (has chronic pain and is demiromantic) have different ideas – because how could your best friend have committed suicide, out of the blue? Wouldn’t you have known? Or did you miss something? For what begins as a mission intent on understanding why their best friend died, slowly transforms into an eerie and terrifying mystery thriller with so many twists and turns. Was it murder, or was it magic? I was in awe of how the story slowly transforms, getting darker and more eerie and more sinister and more terrifying – and it really creeps up on you.
One of the highlights of The Grimrose Girls was how it integrates fairytales and princesses in such a unique way. And when I say fairytales, I don’t mean the Disney ‘happily-ever-after’ kind, but more the Brothers Grimm ‘people die and awful things happen!’ kind. To be clear, The Grimrose Girls isn’t a fantasy story; it has a contemporary setting with magical and fantastical elements. Without giving away too much – because I had so much fun guessing and discovering things for myself – I loved how the girls and their destinies were intertwined with gruesome fairytales. It was such a refreshing and fascinating take, and I am truly excited to see how this is developed more in the sequel. (This is not a standalone!)
Though this is indeed a mystery with all the thrills and chills that come with it, The Grimrose Girls also carefully balances a nuanced exploration into friendships and grief, particularly the spaces left by our dead loved ones. I loved how the friendships in this story aren’t entirely wholesome and perfect, but rather, that sometimes friendships are messy, out of sync, misunderstood, and sometimes a little jealous. Moreover, with the introduction of Nani (who is Hawai’an and queer), we also see how her friendship blooms with the other girls, and how Nani finds belonging with them. The most beautiful thing about The Grimrose Girls is that, even though friends might fight or disagree or see the absolute worst parts in each other, they still love each other and will protect each other fiercely. And I think that’s what made The Grimrose Girls such a wonderful read – it’s scary, pulled taut with so much tension, and incredibly dark and at times macabre, but it’s still all of the above with heart and is about how we fight for our friends, even if it’s to our very last breath.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
At times eerie, at times terrifying, yet wholly fantastic, The Grimrose Girls is a refreshing and fascinating reimagining of fairytales. Its nuanced exploration of friendship and grief, as well as its carefully and thoughtfully developed characters and voices make this an engaging read that readers will fly right through.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Four girls work together to uncover the mystery of their friend’s death, leading them on a path where their fates may be intertwined to gruesome fairytale endings.
Perfect for: readers who love something spooky; readers looking for a dark twist on fairytales; readers who love stories about nuanced and complicated queer girls
Think twice if: you’re not in the mood for something tense and eerie.
Genre: young adult mystery thriller with mild fantasy elements
Trigger/content warning: warnings are located at the front of the book; death, murder, gore, blood mentions