Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

TW: Abuse, Violence, Accidents, Loss of loved ones etc.

Rating: 4/5

“You can bargain with anybody, spirit or human. All you need to know is what do they want and what are they scared of. That’s all.” 

Black Water Sister follows the story of Jessaymn, a young woman who is moving back to the Malaysia, her childhood home where the past that she left behind comes back in a way that she didn’t expect. When she arrives back, Jess begins to hear voices and at first she chalks it up to stress but then she comes to realize that the voices hears is that of her estranged grandmother, Ah-Ma. In life, she was a spirit medium, the avatar of mysterious deity Black Water Sister and now she’s decided that Jess is gonna help her settle the score with a gang leader who offended the god. On the journey, Jess is thrown into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, she finds that making deals with spirits is a dangerous game and she may not make it out alive.

What a compelling read! Not only did I enjoy the characters, the storyline, and the dynamics within the world that Cho created, but I really enjoyed learning about the culture. I laughed, cried, and didn’t want the book to end but sadly it did. This is the first book that I’ve read from Zen Cho and I will definitely be checking out more by her because of her writing and how she gives a beautiful backdrop into the south east asia culture. I learned quite a bit while following Jess on her journey and what witty, sassy, fun, and sarcastic protagonist. Jess was an absolute delight and I loved learning more about her and seeing her grow in this journey. One that is about self-discovery and not only figuring her place in the world but feeling secure with her identity and taking command of that narrative.

The supernatural elements were great, I really enjoyed Cho weaving that into the story and it really added more to the story. I don’t mind gore or horror but it can be a lot for others that something to think about as there are a few scenes that a bit graphic but for the most part, it was more haunting than anything.

This was such a fun, mysterious, haunting, and enthralling read so if you’re looking for an enjoyable urban fantasy with a witty, fun-loving, and relatable character while being spooked and entertained with Cho’s storytelling then this is it!

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