Book Review: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Title: Black Water Sister
Author: Zen Cho
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Tropes/Themes: Malaysian mythology, Vengeful gods, Ghosts/Spirits, Lesbian romance
Edition/Pages: Paperback, 384 Pages
Goodreads page

Thank you to Ace and Netgalley for providing an e-arc copy in exchange for an honest review


When Jessamyn Teoh starts hearing a voice in her head, she chalks it up to stress. Closeted, broke and jobless, she’s moving back to Malaysia with her parents—a country she last saw when she was a toddler. 

She soon learns the new voice isn’t even hers, it’s the ghost of her estranged grandmother. In life, Ah Ma was a spirit medium, avatar of a mysterious deity known as the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a business magnate who has offended the god—and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it, whether Jess wants to or not.

Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business, but dealing with her grandmother is just as complicated. Especially when Ah Ma tries to spy on her personal life, threatens to spill her secrets to her family and uses her body to commit felonies. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she’ll also need to regain control of her body and destiny—or the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good


Overall I really enjoyed this paranormal urban fantasy! This was full of vengeful ghosts, zillennial identity crises, and complicated familial dynamics. Zen Cho really captured what it’s like to be a little lost as a 20 something while simultaneously battling evil gods and invasive aunties. While this book got dark at times, it was overall a really fun and action packed story.

I loved the setting and exploration of immigration through the eyes of a woman who grew up in the US and is now moving “back home”. I loved how the feeling of belonging and different were explored outside of a US/Western setting.

Jess was a great main character! She’s messy and lost and sometimes unlikeable. But she captured what it’s like to be a 20-something to perfection. She was strong without feeling invincible, smart yet struggling to find her place. I loved her internal conflict just as must as the external conflict. 

And the external conflict was so unique and fun! I loved the combination of vengeful gods, nosey spirits, and gangsters. The action scenes were so well done and so intense – I FLEW through the last half of this book because things were so twisty and out of control. 

I did feel as though the start of this book was a little slow – it took me about 25% before I was hooked and invested in the main character. But once I was, the rest of the book completely had me. The audiobook is fantastic as well if you’re looking for next listen!

Overall this book felt really fresh and new. It’s action-packed and full of great themes and mythology. I’m so excited to read more from Zen Cho!!

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

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