Hi everyone! Today I’m bringing to you yet ANOTHER ARC review! I’ve been feeling really on top of things lately with my ARCs, so I’m hoping that I can start to catch up on all the older ARCs that I didn’t get a chance to read before their release date. I say that all the time though, so we’ll see if I can follow through on that.
Black Water Sister
by Zen Cho
Release date: May 11th 2021
Genre: Adult, 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 ho 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 ears 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.
I’ve never read anything from Zen Cho before, although I do have a few other books on my TBR. Now after reading this one, I’m definitely more intrigued about the ones that I haven’t read yet!
I liked Jess, but she wasn’t my favorite character ever. She was a bit annoying and didn’t make choices for herself, but instead let others dictate her life and her choices. However, her character development was enjoyable because she was starting to learn to stand up for herself and what she wants to do, instead of letting everyone take advantage of her and walk all over her. I liked that we got to learn about this world and the characters along side her in her journey to learn more about her family.
Jess is terrified of her family discovering that she has a girlfriend which, along with the distance, is driving a wedge between Jess and Sharanya, her girlfriend. I wish we had seen more of her girlfriend and their relationship, because I didn’t get a good sense of who she was as a side ch aracter. It’s clear she’s important to Jess, but at the same time Jess didn’t seem to really care too much about her or talking to her. It felt more like, “oh, by the way she’s also got a girlfriend”. I would’ve liked to see more of their interactions and how the relationship developed, I think that would’ve helped.
I did really like Ah Ma, she was a very strong willed and persuasive character. At one point in the story she makes a choice that I didn’t really agree with, and made me question how important Jess was to her as a granddaughter. That’s when I started to question her motives, and clearly Jess did as well because that’s really where the story took off.
I also liked the writing, it was straightforward and I think it complimented the story well. It was easy to fly through this book and it was really enjoyable. I loved the way that the paranormal aspects were woven into Malaysian culture. This got pretty dark at times, which I didn’t really expect. It also had a few twists and surprises along the way as well that I didn’t see coming! It did slow down a bit in the second half of the book, and I had some confusion with how Jess dealt with the Black Water Sister thing, but compared to the rest of the book that’s just a small thing.
The relationships that Jess had with all them members of her family and her girlfriend were very dynamic, and I enjoyed seeing Jess grow. I was a little irritated with her at times for not standing up for herself and basing her entire life around her parents, but I also understand that it’s expected in a lot of cultures to do that.
Much of this book is about vengeance – Ah Ma, the Black Water Sister, and Jess herself all seek vengeance in one way or another. I did like that they never just simply forgave those who wronged them, and followed through (for the most part).
Lastly, I do want to mention that there is sexual assault that occurs in this book, and it could be triggering, as it’s pretty graphic. I would also list potential trigger warnings for violence, homophobia, and death.
Overall, I do recommend giving this book a shot! It was ruthless and compelling, and I’m really looking forward to reading more from this author.
Will you be picking up Black Water Sister? I hope you do, it was great!