[A quick note: I was approved to review the eARC of Warriors of Wing and Flame, which I am SOOOO excited about! This was what prompted my reading of Sisters of Shadow and Light. It had been on my TBR for a while but since I needed to get to it before reading the second installment, I moved it forward. This was an unexpected read for me. I didn’t know what to think going in. I knew the basics of what to expect, as with most fantasy novels, but I was surprised and overjoyed by the turns the story took. I’m so glad I found this book!]
RATING: 4.5/5 ⭐️s
“The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes.” —Sara B. Larson
The opening of Sisters of Shadow and Light grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Zuhra and Inara are sisters with an unshakable bond. They grow up trapped in an ancient Paladin citadel by a giant magical hedge. The citadel was abandoned when the Paladin disappeared. It is full of secrets their emotionally broken mother goes to extremes to keep from them. She just wants to protect them. But Zuhra is desperate. Her sister’s eyes glow blue. She was born with powerful Paladin magic they know nothing about, magic that renders Inara lucid for short periods while drowning her in a “roar” for most of her life. When a mysterious young man, Halvor, gets through the hedge, Zuhra enlists his help to discover the secrets behind her sisters magic, secrets that could help Inara lead a normal life. The history of the Paladin runs deep, and soon they find themselves tangled in a dangerous plot. The day Halvor appears, everything changes.
Sisters of Shadow and Light starts off strong and gets stronger as the plot progresses. I was hooked in the first line. Sara B. Larson’s writing is beautiful and gripping. The emotion she conveys through her characters gives them unparalleled depth.
“I’d never been whole, I knew that. I’d aged all wrong; my body had lengthened and grown tall while I’d steadily broken apart inside. Day after day after week after month of my mother’s rebuttals and rules, of Inara’s distance and suffering, of the shadows of a father I barely remembered but couldn’t forget around every corner, of living in a mausoleum of the heritage I was forbidden to discover but hungered to know...Pieces of me lay scattered across the stone hallways of this citadel, shards of a child’s heart that yearned only for love and slivers of a soul that ached for understanding—belonging even.”
Zuhra paints a heartbreaking picture of her struggles with her mother, of her life growing up protecting Inara, and the unique bond they share. The mystery unfolds as we walk the corridors of the citadel beside her, sharing in her desire for knowledge and understanding. Inara was born with powerful Paladin magic. The same night she was born, her father disappeared from their world. Her magic is a burden she bears alone. It engulfs her mind in a roar. During the rare times that she uses this magic unknowingly, she becomes lucid. It is these special instances that Zuhra is able to communicate with her. They cherish these brief moments together.
Just when we get to know the sisters, things change. A stranger mysteriously appears, a young man by the name of Halvor. No one has ever gotten through the hedge, but somehow, the hedge allows Halvor through. At this point, the plot cartwheels on a rapid downhill adventure. The chain of events keep you aggressively turning page after page, bouncing between one sister and then the other, seeing the world from their eyes.
Zuhra and Inara are not perfect characters. They both make mistakes throughout the book. These mistakes have drastic consequences. But they each learn the severity of their actions. Both come to understand their power and strength. Both are shaped by what happens, by the choices they make.
“Life is full of lost time. I suppose one of the best lessons we can learn is to never put off for tomorrow what we can say or do today—because that chance may never come again.”
They also must suffer for their actions. What happens needs to happen, yet, it comes at a price. Perhaps that price is too steep, but there is nothing that can be done to fix what they’ve done. All they can do is make the choice to allow their actions to drown them or drive them.
“There are only two options with grief and guilt. You can either let them drown you, or let them drive you. It’s your choice.”
The ending leaves us on enough of a cliff to be eager for the second book. I will say there were a few parts at the end that left me questioning things. But everything happened the way it did for a reason. I was quite satisfied with the story as a whole.
Overall, this book was amazing. It was such a whirlwind adventure full of intrigue, mystery, and excitement. I loved the characters, their interactions, and the spectacular world building. It’s the perfect YA fantasy, one that illustrates two strong women who make mistakes but learn from those mistakes and move forward. I highly recommend it.
The sequel: Warriors of Wing and Flame will be out in October! Make sure you’re ready!