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Black Water Sister

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  779 ratings  ·  293 reviews
'A sharp and bittersweet story of past and future, ghosts and gods and family, that kept me turning pages into the dark hours of the night' - Naomi Novik

This mischievous Malaysian-set novel is an adventure featuring family, ghosts and local gods - from Hugo Award winning novelist Zen Cho.


As Jessamyn packs for
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 10th 2021 by Macmillan (first published May 11th 2021)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  779 ratings  ·  293 reviews

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chai ♡
"A stressed lesbian medium fights gods, ghosts, gangsters, and grandmas in 21st century Penang" The alliteration alone successfully sold me on this book lol ...more
Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
“A stressed zillennial lesbian fights gods, ghosts, gangsters & grandmas in 21st century Penang.”
-via the author’s twitter

ok so that’s just... everything I’ve ever wanted then
Lex Kent
I enjoyed this one. I have not been having the best reading lucky lately so it was really nice to read a solid, good story. Cho is completely new to me, but I have wanted to read her for a while. I found her writing style quite engaging and I will absolutely be reading more of her.

I have not read many books that take place in Malaysia but I just loved the setting. Cho makes you feel so immersed in the sights, people, and culture, that it really made me feel like I was there. I’m also a huge urb
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs-read
**3.5-stars rounded up**

After graduating from Harvard, Jessamyn Teoh, nevertheless finds herself broke, unemployed and still unable to come out to her parents.

After her father's health starts to deteriorate, her parents decide to move back to Malaysia and Jess is going with them.

Having grown up in the United States, the move will require some adjustment, but as Jess sees it, she doesn't have much of a choice.

Now she needs to add the stress of a long-distance relationship with her secret girlfri
may ➹
this really gave me the repressed queer Asian representation I needed

3.5, rtc
Nilufer Ozmekik
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a delicious, intriguing combination tempts the quirky mind of mine : zillennial queer heroine discovers her powers to connect with spirits and she also realizes the ties that bind can unleash the lethal power in this surprising, complex, Malaysian-set urban fantasy!

Let’s meet with our heroine Jessamyn Teoh ( we’d better calm her Jess) just graduated from Harvard, has no idea what she’ll do with her degree, feeling confused without job prospects. In the meantime she finds out, they’re in d
this review is just going to keep getting updated from time to time because i don't know how to articulate just how much this book means to me in one single session, so i'm spreading it out as i return to it over and over again :')

a short review: When I first cracked open the book back in April, I was immediately captivated by the vivid temporality of its setting: from the daily rhythms that the characters go through, to the protagonist’s struggles that mirrored mine so closely that I nearly for
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
OK so this is giving me Ghost Bride vibes and I NEED IT
/ / / Read more reviews on my blog / / /

small side note: I wrote a review for this book and ended up deleting it by mistake 🙃 so this 'new' review will be more concise.

Having loved Cho's Sorcerer Royal books I was so hyped to read this...and now that I have, I am high-key disappointed. Whereas Sorcerer Royal is a fantasy of manners (a la Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell), Black Water Sister is an urban fantasy with a contemporary setting. The premise and cover for this novel definitely piqued my i
Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
I'm not sure what exactly it was about this novel, but I loved it so so much. I very nearly rounded up to 5 stars.

Maybe it was the way Cho masterfully evoked Malaysia, from the soup-like heat to the chatty gatherings of aunties to the local deities. Or maybe it was Jess' own character arc, balancing post-university joblessness and an unsurety of where to go next with being a lesbian unsure how to come out to her parents.

That said, this novel was also very dark in places! It does have a fair de
Janine Ballard
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
On my blog.

Rep: Chinese Malaysian lesbian mc, Chinese Malaysian side characters, Indian American lesbian side character, Indian Chinese Malaysian side character

CWs: violence, attempted rape

Galley provided by publisher

I have loved every Zen Cho book I’ve read, so obviously I was always going to want to read Black Water Sister desperately. And I was always expecting to really enjoy it (which I did). It’s a different tack to Zen Cho’s other books, in that there was a fair bit more violence and
Montzalee Wittmann
Jun 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Black Water Sister
by Zen Cho

Wow! This was written so wonderfully! Jess moves back to Malaysia with her parents after she grew up in America and graduated from college. Her girlfriend, which her parents doesn't know she has, plans to move there to work later.

Things get complicated right away. She starts hearing voices. She blames it on stress. The voice tells her it's her grandmother, her mom's mother. Her mom never speaks about her mom and says little about that side of the family. This grandm
May 28, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
**i'm actually leaning towards 4 stars, will probs change it later or not lol ...more
Shelley Parker-Chan
Phenomenal. This is what it is to be queer and Asian. Zen Cho’s light touch effortlessly propels this beautifully-observed story about the ties that bind us. Magical and mundane, fierce and hopeful, Malaysian to the bone—this book is uncompromisingly itself.
Due to financial difficulties following her father’s cancer diagnosis, recent college grad Jessamyn Teoh and her parents move “back home” to Malaysia after 19 years in the US. But while she never quite felt at home as an immigrant to the US, Jess definitely doesn’t see Malaysia as home, either. Its unfamiliarity is further exacerbated when a ghost starts speaking to Jess, pulling her into a world of local gods and mediums — and an underworld of dangerous humans. Complicating things is that Je
3.5 stars

read full review on my blog!

Black Water Sister reads like a coming of age novel with being haunted by your grandmother, evil gods and spirits, gangsters, a lesbian heroine, relatable Asian rep and family secrets. It was entertaining mostly, I loved reading about Jess's internal struggle and her character development. Ah Ma is a gem, she's so snarky and annoying at the same time. The banter between these two is hilarious. I mostly struggled with the pacing, felt like the chapters stret
Jun 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A world of deities and spiritual possession set in Malaysia.

When I found out about this book from Lex’s review, I felt almost obligated to buy a copy and read it, simply because this story takes place in Penang, Malaysia. I live in Singapore, an island next door, and while there are differences, there are also plenty of similarities between us in culture, language and food. So this felt right at home for me.

Black Water Sister isn’t a romance novel. It’s a Southeast Asian supernatural novel wit
Althea | themoonwholistens ☾
lesbian malaysian-set contemporary fantasy with gods, ghosts, and family secrets was all i needed to know
➵ so, so, so good. zen cho has this ability to sensitively string emotions with an intriguing paranormal plot line through a mesmerising writing that captivates change, love, and family in the haunting light of secrets, gods, and ghosts. i don't know if i would ever be able to write a coherent review but, rtc.

↣ listened to the audiobook on scribd

➵ really liked the order of the pure moon reflected in water so I had to instantly hit play on this audiobook.
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
My thanks to Pan MacMillan and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.

A book with ghosts in the plot may not be my usual fare but what interested me in this one was its setting—Malaysia. I don’t think I’ve read anything set there before, which made me pretty keen to pick this one up.

We meet Jessamyn Teoh or Jess, who has been brought up in the States and has recently graduated from Harvard (and is yet to find a job). Her parents have decided to move back to Malaysia and start afresh after havin
May 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021-s-books
a poc medium in a mess situation? well i know all about it more than i wanted to, jess handled everything so well, im proud of her!
May 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, favourites
4.5 stars

Wow, I loved this. The story is set in Malaysia, and revolves around Jess, a jobless, closeted Harvard graduate who is forced to move back to Malaysia with her family. She starts hearing the voice of her deceased grandmother, Ah Ma, in her head, and realises she has to help her grandma settle a score against a man who offended a god. I myself am Malaysian, and so much of the story felt authentic, from the way the characters spoke, to the culture, and even the family dynamics. My dad’s s
Celia McMahon
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you Ace Books for the ARC!

This was one of the books so high on my anticipated book list that I practically begged the publisher for a copy. No shame in my game. When I snagged it, I dove right in. Man oh man was I not regretting a word of my long-winded email.

A queer college grad moves back to Malaysia from the US after her father loses his job and falls ill. Now she's living with family in a country she hardly knows doing her best to maintain a long-distance relationship with the girlfri
 Gabriele | QueerBookdom
DRC provided by Macmillan via NetGalley and Ace via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.

Representation: lesbian Malaysian protagonist, Malaysian and Chinese secondary and tertiary characters, Indian-Chinese secondary character, lesbian Indian tertiary character.

Content Warning: mentions of cancer and remission, death, homophobia, anxiety, misogyny, violence, racism, organised crime, attempted rape, mentions of physical abuse.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho is a phenomenal contemporary par
Jan 11, 2021 marked it as to-read-so-bad-it-hurts  ·  review of another edition

'a contemporary fantasy about a stressed zillennial lesbian and her terrible ghost grandma'

What more can I want from a book, TBH



Starting off by saying whoever formatted the digital arc and decided to add random numbers and links in between every few lines/words and chop up the paragraphing, I wish you a very dye, you made this reading experience hell. Especially since some of the dialogue happens inside the character’s head, it was just straight up confusing at some times but I won’t fault the author for that.

Black Water Sister has vengeful spirits, gang bosses, a South East Asian lesbian protagonist and is set i
Laura ☾
I really wanted more from this book! The concept was really interesting, but I feel like the execution - especially the pacing and the character development - were a bit lacking. Everything just felt a bit shallow somehow.

I just found it very hard to connect to Jess, and while I understand why she was in such a messy place in her life, she just didn't feel particularly relatable?
May 17, 2021 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
𝙊𝙬𝙣 𝙫𝙤𝙞𝙘𝙚𝙨
𝙡𝙚𝙨𝙗𝙞𝙖𝙣 𝙢𝙘
𝙈𝙖𝙡𝙖𝙮𝙨𝙞𝙖𝙣 𝙛𝙤𝙡𝙠𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙚
𝙈𝙤𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙣 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙛𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙨𝙮
𝙎𝙥𝙞𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙜𝙝𝙤𝙨𝙩𝙨

What do I need more?
Bertie (LuminosityLibrary)
To those people that are desperate for books about twenty-somethings figuring out what they want to do with their lives, the lost feeling after finishing university, the aimlessness that realising being an adult doesn't mean you actually know what you want, this book is for you. Black Water Sister almost has coming-of-age story vibes, if you mix that in with being haunted by your estranged grandmother, some gang shenanigans, sapphic coming out problems, and angry spirits.

CW: attempted rape, atte
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The Procrastinato...: * Black Water Sister (June 2021) Group Read Discusion 12 40 Jun 10, 2021 11:22AM  

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I'm a Malaysian fantasy writer based in the UK. I've written a novel called Sorcerer to the Crown about magic, intrigue and politics in Regency London; a sequel about cursed sisters, anticolonial witches, dapper dragon dandies and murderous fairies called The True Queen; and a short story collection called Spirits Abroad. Plus some other stuff! I've won a British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer, t ...more

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