Series: Sisters of Shadow and Light #1
Published by Tor Teen on November 5, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT Review
Sara B. Larson’s latest novel Sisters of Shadow and Light is a beautiful fantasy story about love, family, and sacrifice. It features two sisters, Zuhra and Inara, who have been living in isolation inside a Citadel for the past 15 years with only their mother and a servant for company. They are isolated from the rest of the outside world by a sentient hedge. The hedge not only won’t let anyone from inside the Citadel leave, but it will also actually attack anyone from the outside who tries to approach the Citadel.
One of the elements of the story that immediately jumped out at me was the worldbuilding. While the idea of being trapped in a Citadel is somewhat reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, everything else about it felt fresh and unique. The Citadel the girls are living in is an abandoned fortress that once housed Paladin warriors. All the girls really know about these legendary warriors is that they possessed powerful magic and that they’re now gone from this world. That includes their Paladin father, who actually disappeared the night Inara, the younger sister was born. He disappeared and the magical hedge appeared, trapping the girls and their mother in the Citadel. No one really knows the circumstances behind his disappearance and his wife assumes he has abandoned his family, which breaks her emotionally. She retreats into herself, leaving the girls to raise themselves with the help of their servant. I was just so intrigued by the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Paladins and trying to figure out how it would factor into the girls’ journey.
I love a good sibling story so what actually first drew me to Sisters of Shadow and Light was learning that the focus of the novel is actually the bond between two sisters. Inara has inherited her father’s magic but without him there to guide her, it has just become this uncontrollable roaring sound in her head that makes it impossible for her to communicate with anyone. Zuhra makes it her mission to try to figure out how to help Inara control it and while she is by no means fully successful, she does manage to calm Inara’s mind enough that they can occasionally sit down and chat and bond as sisters.
What drew me in to the story is also unfortunately what left me somewhat unsatisfied. While I did love seeing the bond between sisters and was especially touched by Zuhra’s determination to break through the magic to reach Inara, I did feel that the character development was a little lopsided at times since we got so little from Inara firsthand. I understand why because of the whole ‘magic roaring in her head’ business, but it still just made her feel like a secondary character for much of the story, which didn’t quite work for me.
Although the uneven character development was a bit of a letdown, the mystery surrounding the hedge still very much held my interest, especially when after fifteen years, it randomly lets a young man wander right through it and approach the Citadel. Why has this young man been granted access after all of these years and how will it impact the sisters? Once this young man enters, everything changes and the story blossoms into something entirely new and much more exciting than what it started as. Long-buried truths are revealed and everything the girls thought they knew is turned on its head, especially as it pertains to both their father and the Paladins.
Even though Sisters of Shadow and Light starts off somewhat slowly as we are introduced to the characters and their world, it gradually picked up the pace and the intensity so that by the last third of the book, I just couldn’t put it down. It also ends with an evil cliffhanger that has me anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. I would recommend Sisters of Shadow and Light for anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, sibling relationships, mysteries, and adventure.
“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.