A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.
Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there’s only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god–and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it.
Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she’ll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.
Black Water Sister first caught my eye when I heard the story described by the author as “A stressed zillennial lesbian fights gods, ghosts, gangsters & grandmas in 21st century Penang.” If that doesn’t intrigue you I don’t know what will! Black Water Sister is the engaging story of Jessamyn Teoh, a young woman moving from the US back to Malaysia with her parents. When she starts hearing a voice in her head she assumes it’s the stress of the move, but when the ghost admits to being her recently deceased grandmother, Jess ends up entangled in a plot to get revenge on a gang boss who has offended a god.
Black Water Sister is such a unique read and I got completely wrapped up in this magical story. The story is excellently plotted and well-paced, I found myself racing through the second half of the book because I wanted to know what was going to happen. This is my first book by Zen Cho and I enjoyed her writing style immensely, it was so easy to picture the sights and sounds of Malaysia. I love learning about the gods and the culture, especially as I don’t think I’ve read many books set there. Whilst this is my first book by the author it definitely won’t be my last and I will definitely be ordering Sorcerer to the Crown!
In this story, we meet some truly compelling characters and it was the incredible characters that really made this book for me. Jess is a brilliant protagonist – she’s trying to find herself, never having fit in in the US or in Malaysia. She’s trying to have a long-distance relationship with her girlfriend and her parents don’t know that she’s gay. There’s a lot going on, but Jess made for a really likeable character and I was rooting for her to succeed. I was similarly fascinated by Ah Ma, the snarky Grandma who is much more than she seems. I loved the way Cho mixed the magical mystery elements with typical family drama, it made for such a compelling and intriguing read.
Black Water Sister is a beautifully written, vivid tale of ghosts, mystery and family. If you’re looking for a fantasy read that’s completely unlike anything you’ve read before – this one is a must-read.