Review of Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
I enjoyed this one. I have not been having the best reading luck lately so it was really nice to read a solid, good story. Cho is completely new to me, but I have wanted to read her for a while. I found her writing style quite engaging and I will absolutely be reading more of her.
I have not read many books that take place in Malaysia but I just loved the setting. Cho makes you feel so immersed in the sights, people, and culture, that it really made me feel like I was there. I’m also a huge urban fantasy fan so I loved the mix of the two. In a place filled with gods and ghosts –that “normal” humans can’t see- our main character, Jess, realizes there is more going on in the world when her grandmother starts speaking to her, her grandmother who died a year ago.
While the pace is a little slow at times, there is a ton of stuff that happens in this book and many pages fly by at warp speed. While I liked that there was so much going on, I think it was a little too much. I’m not going to sit here and list the bigger storylines –because of spoilers-, but trust me it’s a lot. I think Cho was trying to squeeze too much in so that certain things didn’t get the attention they needed to make a bigger impact.
One storyline that didn’t quite work was around Jess’s relationship. Jess is having trouble coming out to her folks and she often lets down a very patient girlfriend. The problem is not the storyline, but that it never really went anywhere. The girlfriend character does not have a lot of depth, and they don’t seem to have a great connection, so it’s hard to root for them. Plus there are a few other things that remain unresolved, under this storyline, so it made me wonder why have Jess spend so much time agonizing over it? I think the storyline needed more time to develop, or maybe spend this time on something else instead.
While I didn’t think the girlfriend character was developed enough, I thought Grandma and Mom stole the show. These characters were so well written and even had a few funny lines which helped since this book had some darker moments. I have to give a trigger warning for violence and attempted rape. The book as a whole doesn’t feel too dark, but there are some tough moments and quite a few physical fights.
There is a little bit of a ghost and family mystery that I found to be quite compelling. There are two twists in this book that I did not see coming and I love when an author surprises me. The last third of the book especially just hooks you right in and you can’t stop reading.
In the end, I enjoyed this. It’s not perfect, there are a few bumps, but I needed a good book like this. Hopefully, this is the start of some good book luck and I hope I get to read more of Cho soon. I would recommend this to urban fantasy fans, especially if you are looking for an interesting new setting that isn’t just America or the UK.
An ARC was given to me for a review.