The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes.
Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson
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.
Thank you Tor Teen & The FFBC for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
The story follows Zuhra and Inara, two sisters who lived in an abandoned castle along with their mother and their housemaid, Sami. But it wasn’t just any castle, rather it was an old Paladin’s palace. Paladin was a magical warrior and they used to live among the human and protect them from vicious monsters, Rakasa, until the king demanded all of the Paladin to be executed in accusation of trying to take over the kingdom and rule the human. Zuhra and Inara’s father was happened to be one of them, and he disappeared on the night of Inara’s birth, leaving his family behind protected by sentient hedges that separated them from the villagers. Inara inherited his power as a Paladin, yet sadly, she had no control over it. For fifteen years, Zuhra lived under the same roof with an emotionally broken mother while protected her little sister from her unstable state. Until one day, a young scholar managed to cross the hedge and their life was about to change forever.
what do I think about it?
I’ve been really into sisterhood stories lately, and after I read the first sentence of the synopsis (which I quoted above), I knew that I need to read this one immediately. Sisters of Shadow and Light was completely blown me away. I adore its unique magic system and how rich worldbuilding was, along with the intense storyline and dynamic characters.
I was a catalclysm of emotions, all crowding each other inside the too-small confines of my mind.
Although Larson didn’t immediately introduce us to how the magic works in this universe and instead, delivered the information bits by bits, I was just fully hooked, still. Now thinking about it, I actually appreciated how Larson executed this. Rather than dumping two pages full of information about the history of Paladin, how the magic works, what happened between Paladin and human, she ‘d show us all about it through the eyes and experiences of the characters rather than tell us narratively, which makes the progress of exploring this universe became more intriguing.
As long as you’re breathing there is always hope…Let them drown you or let them drive you. It’s your choice.
Starting with how Zuhra and Inara lived in an abandoned yet mystical Citadel, I immediately absorbed into the story. There will always be something magical about an old castle (ahem, Hogwarts?! Any Potterhead in the house?) that will eternally amaze me. The fairy tale vibes yet also spooky feelings around it was a nice sensation that pulls me more and more within the deep of this fantasy. As the story went further, the magic system keeps amazed me. But one thing that left me all smiley was the chemistry between Paladin and their magical pet, the Gryphon. I will always support the concept of how the animal/creature choosing you and no one can tell me otherwise!
But she was my sister, and I loved her. And there was nothing I wouldn’t do to protect her. No matter what.
Now, of course I can’t wrap up this review without mentioning the sisterhood bond between Zuhra and Inara. Larson really sets the bar high by delivering such a strong siblings relationship. You can truly feel their emotions through the paper and how deep their love for each other. Their willingness to risk everything, even themselves, to protect and save each other, truly touched me in the best way possible. And although Larson successfully delivered such a dynamic between Zuhra and Inara, she was not forgetting the arcs of other characters. The heartbreaking truth about Zuhra and Inara’s parents, the bitter backstory of Sami, and even the backstories of other side characters such as Halvor, Raidyn, the grandparents, was done wonderfully.
Yet, you might be wondering, why’d I end up with a four-star rating after such praises? And the answer is, sadly, it was a struggle for me to engage in this universe of Zuhra and Inara at first. Although it was beautifully written and all, the first 20% of this book left me dragging. I had no idea about what was happening and completely lost, just like how Zuhra feel about her lack of knowledge about her heritage. Regardless, I’m glad that I decided to keep reading because I ended up enjoying everything that Larson delivered, especially the strong sisterhood bond between Zuhra and Inara which became the highlight of this mesmerizing fantasy tale.
what’s the verdict?
about the author
Sara B. Larson is the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of the YA fantasy DEFY trilogy (DEFY, IGNITE, and ENDURE) and the DARK BREAKS THE DAWN duology. Her next YA fantasy, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT, comes out November 5th from Tor Teen. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband, their four children, and their Maltese, Loki. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.