I was so thrilled that I was able to receive a local author’s ARC at ALA this past summer! When I held it in my hands, I was a very happy camper 😀 This beautiful sister story was exactly what I needed when I read it. So, so good.
Title: Sisters of Shadow and Light (#1)
Author: Sara B. Larson
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: YA Fantasy
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Told in two PoVs, this book is about sisters Zuhra and Inara and what happens when they finally leave the citadel that has trapped them for fifteen years. The premise of this book is fantastic. Two sisters, trapped—both physically, one mentally—in a citadel surrounded by a powerful, hungry hedge. There are gryphons, paladins, lots of magic, new worlds to explore, and twisty character relationships to untangle.
The first third of this book feels more character-driven than plot driven—and I LOVED it. Most of this part is told from Zuhra’s point of view, and experiencing the struggles she has with her mother, and the pain she feels when she knows her sister is in pain…these emotions felt so real to me. I was furious when Zuhra was furious, I was grieving while she was grieving, and I was falling in love as she was.
Most of the book plot-driven, however, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The plot is very compelling, with lots of dangerous things going on, lots of adventure. A bit of romance. It was exciting and a lot of fun.
And the ending. Wow. I really cannot wait until the next book comes out! I NEED to do know what happens!
Zuhra is wonderful and brave and so kindhearted. But she’s also fiercely protective of her sister—she’s not afraid to do anything if it means saving her sister. I immediately connected with her. I’m a big sister myself, and I’m really close to my only sister. So seeing Zuhra’s devotion for Inara gave me all the feels. She’s such a strong, well-developed character, and I enjoyed seeing her grow in her own strength.
Inara is also wonderfully brave, though a bit more withdrawn. When she’s able to interact with her sister, their love for each other shines. But when she’s under the influence of the “roar,” I could feel her pain. So much. I really loved seeing her develop as a character too, and I can’t wait to get more of her in the second book.
There is some romance in this book, and boy is it wonderful. Both of the romance arcs are pretty slow burning, but there’s just enough steaminess to keep it interesting.
I adored how complicated the relationships in this book are. I hated Zuhra and Inara’s mother—she’s truly horrible, neglectful, and selfish. But her reasons are so complex. That’s just one example of some of the twisty relationships. I’m excited to see how they play out in the next books.
The world building in this book is incredible. It feels based in a more western European mythology, but it is a fantasy world, so there is a lot to learn about. The magic system is fascinating. I haven’t read a book about paladins before, and I haven’t seen a gryphon in a book in a long, long time. It was a lot of fun, and the details Larson weaves her world with are just so easy to sink into.
I’m a huge sucker for sister stories. These stories are more prevalent in YA today, and I am LOVING it. Zuhra and Inara are so devoted to each other, and I couldn’t help but relate to that. There are also themes of found families, broken families, and being respectful in relationships. I really enjoyed exploring these themes.
I really enjoyed this wonderful fantasy book. It definitely met my expectations, and I cannot wait to preorder this book (she has an awesome preorder giveaway if you’re interested!) I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book.