In this fascinating and deadly world of spirit mediums and Chinese gods, Jess is just as lost as I was. She makes a wonderful guide, without sacrificing any of her character. She reads as an actual college grad struggling with major life changes and to find her life’s direction. All the while, the world seems to be closing in on her in every direction.
The writing gave me a crystal clear image of Jess’s Penang. Sizzling food, decaying temples and blazing heat felt real through author Zen Cho’s descriptions. I was so impressed with Cho’s ability to fuse Jess’s contemporary language with the ancient and mysterious, giving Black Water Sister a strong fantasy atmosphere even as Jess comments on hipster cafes.
Black Water Sister is both action-driven and emotional, and filled with relevant (yet timeless) messages. Abused characters are given agency and compassion in a thoughtful way, so that each character, and their pain, felt as real as the settings without ever approaching grimdark status.
This story rolls on convincingly and with a lot of heart, no matter how Jess’s life screeches to a halt. By the end, I felt like I went on the journey with her, in the best possible way.