ARC Review: Black Water Sister

Title: Black Water Sister
Author: Zen Cho
ebook – ARC
Page Count: 
Publisher: Ace Books
Synopsis: GoodReads, StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Malaysian lesbian main character, Malaysian setting and mythology, Chinese culture
Recommended Readers: 
Fans of Yangsze Choo and anyone looking for a modern, magical Southeast Asian read
CAWPILE Rating: 9.29
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

Contemporary fiction is not a genre I usually pick up because most of it simply doesn’t interest me. Contemporary fantasy, however, is an entirely different matter, and Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister struck gold with me from the very first chapter.

If you’ve read and loved either Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride or The Night Tiger, then the setting, tone, and mythology of Black Water Sister may come across as familiar to you, to say nothing of someone who already has a Malaysian background. I only mention Yangsze Choo because 1) I love her works and 2) she started this love for Malaysian contemporary fantasy that I possess now, and I am beyond delighted that Zen Cho has contributed to that love. I cannot wait to check out Cho’s other books now.

Black Water Sister opens with jobless Harvard graduate Jessamyn Teoh moving back with her family to Malaysia after her father loses his job in America. Between hiding her lesbian relationship from her traditional parents, attempting to re-assimilate to a country and culture she hasn’t been a part of in decades, and adjust to the sudden swarm of relatives, Jess is understandably stressed. Hearing voices should come as no surprise—except the voice she hears is the ghost of her estranged, opinionated grandmother, Ah Ma, who was a spirit medium to a god called the Black Water Sister. Now, Ah Ma wants Jess to help her exact vengeance on a gang boss and businessman who has offended the god, or she won’t be able to pass on to the afterlife. However, the more Jess becomes entrenched in the supernatural, the more her own life and destiny are thrown into jeopardy.

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Book Review: The Night Tiger

the night tiger

Title: The Night Tiger
 Yangsze Choo
Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism
Version: ARC – Paperback
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Malaysian/Chinese characters and culture
Recommended Readers: Fans of rich settings, diverse characters, and a dash of the superstitious
Rating: ★★★★★

Both my roommate and I received ARCs of The Night Tiger, one an ebook from NetGalley and one a beautiful paperback edition from the publisher, so thank you both for each of these. This review is given in exchange and is my honest and true opinion.

Mark down Yangsze Choo as officially being one of my favorite authors. It’s unfair how wonderful her sophomore novel, The Night Tiger, is—or it would be, if it weren’t so apparent how much time, care, and hard work Choo put into her story. While I’ll go on record to say that her first book, The Ghost Bride, is my favorite of the two, there’s no denying how much I enjoyed The Night Tiger. It’s a book that will stay with me. Her style in particular is that perfect blend of historical fiction and magical realism that I love to death but is so hard to find, so this is definitely going on my favorites shelf.

The novel follows three protagonists: Ren, an 11-year-old Chinese houseboy; Ji Lin, a young woman who dreams of pursuing medicine but must work as a dressmaker and moonlight as a dancehall girl, both because of her gender and to pay off her mother’s high-interest Mahjong debts; and William, an Englishman with a murky past. Their fates and those of other characters collide as Ren attempts to fulfill the final request of his late master: locate his severed finger and reunite it with his body before 49 days are up, or his master’s spirit will roam the earth as a night tiger, unable to rest forever.

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