In Laura Pohl’s The Grimrose Girls, she brings her own dark twist to the fairy tales readers know and love. The story follows a group of friends and students at the Grimrose Académie, an elite boarding school. When they learn their friend, Ariane, died of an apparent suicide, the girls set out to uncover and prove the truth – Ariane was murdered. Enter Nani, the girls’ new roommate who sparks an unexpected series of events. As the girls investigate Ari’s death, they learn she wasn’t the first, and the murders connect to ancient fairy tale curses.
What works so well in Pohl’s favor is the way she chooses to explore the idea of fairy tales. Many people forget that the beloved Disney classics stem from dark source material. Pohl doesn’t. She takes those original tales and runs with them, spinning them into a unique and suspenseful mystery. While readers are clued into how other Grimrose students meet their brutal ends, Pohl layers the story with a swirl of mysteries. Characters outside of the main four who directly mirror their fairy tale counterparts all seem suspect. But Pohl doesn’t make it so easy. She enraptures readers and keeps them on their toes, even as they reach the book’s conclusion.
Meet the Grimrose girls – Yuki, Rory, Ella, and Nani. First, I can’t talk about these characters without mentioning the delightful array of queer rep they bring. Pohl adeptly includes multiple groups within the queer community. Not only are her main characters queer, but also other major secondary characters as well. The Grimrose Girls is decidedly and shamelessly queer. It’s perfect for LGTBQ+ readers seeking out stories with characters they can relate to – and on more than one level.
Furthermore, Pohl dives right into the psyches of her characters. Readers get to really know these characters. Of course, Pohl does leave some information under lock and key, surely saving more information for the next book. Nevertheless, readers won’t leave the story without feeling some connection to the characters. The girls’ relationship with each other is clear early on. They’re relationships with Ariane are also unveiled. On a more personal level, each girl touches on different topics. Some feel the pressure of believing they must be perfect. Others face rough family dynamics. Yuki, Rory, and Ella all feel a certain amount of guilt about Ari. The characters make this story. Because of their dynamic with each other and their individual personalities, readers will refuse to leave them.
The Grimrose Girls provides a solid introduction to Pohl’s new series. Not only does it have the wherewithal to be a standalone, it also leaves a trail of crumbs large enough to guide readers into the sequel. This story is no doubt a dark one. Pohl examines the heavy weight of grief and other personal burdens. The murders within are brutal and gruesome, and Pohl is unapologetic in her descriptions. This book undoubtedly thrives with the tone imbued in original fairy tales.
Despite that darkness, Pohl also ensures there’s still some light at the end of the tunnel. Her protagonists are endearing. They’re courageous and tough as nails. However, they still have moments of vulnerability that makes them all the more human. Their friendship offsets their hardships, bringing humor and joy to readers. I don’t read many twisted fairy tales; they’re just not something I typically seek out. But if they’re anything like The Grimrose Girls, sign me up.
The Grimrose Girls is available now online and in stores.