Hello Humans! Recently, I feel like most of my reading has been taken up with chunky fantasy books. I love a big book as much as the next person but found I really wanted a bit of a palette cleanser. Enter Sara B. Larson’s book Sisters of Shadow and Light. I realised I actually really wanted to read some YA fantasy and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. How would this sisterly story fare?
“The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes…”.
Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world―including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.
On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out―leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.
For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.
This book has a lot of what I would call ‘classic YA fantasy’ elements. You’ve got sisters, you’ve got a difficult mother/parent situation, a big wall of thorns, a lot of secrets and mystery surrounding magic – I think we could all name a number of books that feel similar to that. With that in mind, I think if I had read this book when I was feeling a little ‘over’ YA I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. However, if you’re really feeling a YA read – this is a great example.
I enjoyed Zuhra as a character, I’m not sure she read as eighteen most of the time – I personally felt she read a little younger than that, but I think that could be as a result of her long isolation from the world. That’s not a problem, but those expecting an older YA heroine might be a little disappointed. That being said, I thought Zuhra was a very realistic character, by that I don’t mean that she was believable, I mean she was a realist. One of the things I loved about Zuhra is that she kind of took things as they came. She might get rejected when she flirts with someone but that’s ok there are bigger things happening let’s not dwell. So often my big problem with these kinds of ‘trapped in a castle/tower/spaceship/underground bunker’ stories is that the main character turns into this strange fantasy-obsessed individual just desperate to recreate the great romances they’ve read about. Zuhra didn’t read like that to me, she knows what she wants, and mostly what she wants is to protect her sister. It wasn’t that Zuhra had no characterisation beyond her relationship with Inara, it just felt as though she had clear priorities and expectations of the world.
I did enjoy that Inara got more of a perspective as the story wore on – I can’t explain this too much without getting spoiler-y but it was a great development, my one quibble was that it felt quite fast and I might have liked it if it were a tiny bit more drawn out.
Initially, I was concerned about the portrayal of Inara, as she was reading a little like a depiction of someone who was neurotypical and I wasn’t sure if there would be a ‘magical cure’ kind of a moment. Having now finished the book, I don’t think that was the author’s intention and after the first few chapters, it is made clear what is happening to Inara. I will be interested to hear from the perspective of readers with more knowledge about these things than me. As I say, Inara definitely grew on me as a character but Zuhra had (in my opinion) the better development throughout the story.
I’ve read my fair share of ‘sisterly’ YA fantasy and I think this was one of my favourites. I liked that the sisters weren’t pitted against one another, I liked that they were allowed to have their own roles in their stories, without forcing the other to sacrifice plot, I liked both of their romances – it was still a little bit cheesy (as all sisterly fiction is, in my opinion) but it was also quite nice to read.
A lot of this book could be described as fairly generic, I’m not sure this book is really pushing any boundaries in YA fantasy, but I think that’s what I liked about it. This was, despite some of the more difficult moments, very much a comfort read for me, and would be a great new release to introduce someone to YA fantasy. It’s a good ‘if you liked this you’ll definitely like -’ kind of a book!
My rating: 3.5/4 stars
I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Sisters of Shadow and Light is available now!
What say you? What are some of your favourite comfort reads? Let me know in the comments below!