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Black Water Sister

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  48 ratings  ·  48 reviews
A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.

Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there's only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of h
Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: May 11th 2021 by Ace Books
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Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  48 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
Dec 08, 2020 marked it as tbr-unreleased
“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
Nilufer Ozmekik
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
/ / / 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
Come for the cover, stay for the synopsis!!

This Malaysian-set Contemporary Fantasy sounds so incredibly interesting. I love a book with active spirits and meddling Gods.

Thank you so much to Berkley Books for the ARC.

Janine Ballard
This marks the 300th book I have on my "Want to Read" shelf. I just thought I should put that out there. I read about 50 or 60 books a year, which means I have five or six years worth of books I want to read. What do you call this disease? Aspirational book window-shopping? ...more
Althea | themoonwholistens ☾
lesbian malaysian-set contemporary fantasy with gods, ghosts, and family secrets was all i needed to know
Jan 11, 2021 marked it as to-read-so-bad-it-hurts

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

What more can I want from a book, TBH


Celia McMahon
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
Pavlina Read more sleep less blog
Excited for this one <3


Jan 11, 2021 marked it as to-read
Shelves: asian, cover-porn, bipoc
a stressed lesbian battles gods
Zoe's Human
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Jessamyn Teoh grew up a Malaysian immigrant in the United States and now, as an adult with a degree but no job, finds herself an immigrant in her country of birth when she returns with her parents in the aftermath of her father's illness and job loss. As her stress mounts from worry about her parents, living with extended family, and managing a long-distance relationship with her out girlfriend while being in the closet, she starts hearing her dead grandmother's voice in her head.

A contemporary
update 07.04.2021: coming from booktwit to shelf this mysterious upcoming book with the uncannily familiar title, the incredible cover and the exciting synopsis,,,,,, only to discover ive already shelved it. PAST ME HAS GOOD TASTE SJSJSJS. glad to learn the synopsis got extended and promises SO MUCH GOOD STUFF ON TOP OFF THE ALREADY GOOD STUFF

im so excited i could scream
the world is good to me today

_ _ _ _ _

original comment upon announcement december 08. 2020:


is thi
Peter Baran
Mar 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Water Sister starts with Jess returning to Penang with her family. She is in a secret relationship with a girlfirend she is too scared to reveal to her conservative family, is a Harvard graduate without a job and probably fits in most models of disaffected second generation kids. This is set up well so I was happy to read on but I did wonder where the supernatural aspect would come in. And then she gets possessed / haunted by her Grandmother.

This, in itself, is a compellingly scary idea. H
Feb 23, 2021 marked it as to-read
>Set in Malaysia
>Lesbian MC
>Urban Fantasy


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, an South East Asian lesbian protagonist and is set
Apr 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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, an South East Asian lesbian protagonist and is set
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy_2021
Black Water Sister follows the story Jess, a child of Malaysian immigrants who move back to Malaysia along with Jess, however along the way Jess starts being haunted by her angry, revenge obsessed grandmother and Jess ends up entangled in a world of gods, spirits and family legacy. Full of Zen Cho's signature wit and charm, this book is truly a joy. It's incredibly enjoyable to read with an engaging storyline but also heartwarming and poignant in all the right ways.

The atmosphere and culture of
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

An email arrived in my inbox heralding and recommending Zen Cho's latest book to me several weeks ago. Obsessed with Cho's Sorcerer Royal series, I was intrigued by the title and the plot. This is a supernatural fantasy set in contemporary Malaysia and follows Jess, a twenty-something, who is having an identity crisis after graduating from Harvard. Following her parents back to their homeland, Jess is stretched thin between fami
Apr 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

First off, I am so excited to see an Asian woman on the cover of this fantasy novel! As an Asian(-American) reader whose favorite genre is fantasy, I really appreciate fantasy books with Asian protagonists, especially when they're written by #ownvoices authors. I feel like there are so few Asian fantasy authors being published right now, so I fully support Zen Cho and Berkley Publishing Group for wr
M.K. Daure
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
{Thanks to NetGalley and Ace Books for the gift of an eARC in exchange for an honest review.}

Jess has lived her entire life with her parents in the United States, but after her father becomes ill and loses his job, the only job he can get is in the Malaysia they left decades ago. Jess, a recent Harvard graduate, soon finds herself adrift, separated from her girlfriend, struggling to hide her homosexuality from her parents, and to adjust to their new life, in which she feels no more at home than
Mar 16, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars, just because it didn't resonate with me personally!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillian for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Let me preface this review by stating that I am by no means an own voices reviewer when it comes to Malaysian culture, which was definitely a heavy focus of this story! I can absolutely see this resonating much more with someone of a similar cultural background as the MC, Jess, so please take my opinion with a grain
Katherine Ehlers
Mar 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing a digital ARC of Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister in exchange for a review.

Jessamyn Teoh is floundering. After graduating from Harvard, she hasn’t been able to find a job, so instead she joins her parents in moving back to Malaysia, where she feels even more out of place. She doesn’t know how to tell her parents about her long-distance girlfriend, doesn’t understand why she has been sleep walking and apparently having whole conversati
Apr 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: april-2021
3.75-4 star range

I love supernatural/paranormal books but add an LGBTQ+ Asian protagonist and a spiritual element wrapped around Chinese culture, and I am on board! New types of magic (to me) is my favourite!
TW: sexual assault, some brief racist/stereotypes from one culture about another & homophobia

The story follows Jess as her family moves back to Malaysia as they try and restart their life after a cancer battle & the loss of their financial security. If being in the closet from judgemental re
Alisha Carderella
Mar 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.75 ⭐️

Recent Harvard grad Jessamyn Teoh is broke, jobless, and forced to leave her girlfriend and move from the U.S. back to Malaysia, a place she hasn’t lived since she was small. Jess and her parents move in with an aunt, as they can’t afford their own place. When Jess keeps hearing voices and wakes up each morning exhausted from her odd dreams, she comes to the startling realization that she’s being haunted by the ghost of her Ah Ma- her mother’s estranged mother. Ah Ma has come back for jus
Annette Jordan
Black Water Sister is a contemporary fantasy by Zen Cho that sees the protagonist Jessamyn and her family move back to Malaysia from the USA. It all comes as something of a culture shock, and Jess is also struggling to hide her sexuality and her secret girlfriend from her family so when she starts to hear a mysterious voice in her head she puts it down to stress and hopes it will go away as things settle down.
It turns out that the voice belongs to her dead grandmother, Ah Ma , and she has plans
Apr 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
When I first started this novel I was having a really hard time getting into it. I wasn't especially attached to Jess or her family, but as the plot started to unfurl I found myself increasingly interested in where the story was going. I actually ended up reading the last forty or so percent in one sitting. I'm shamefully ignorant about Malaysian culture in general, but I found myself engrossed in the mixing of languages and cultures that this setting provides. I also found myself hungry as I lo ...more
Rebecca Rouillard
I loved ‘Sorcerer to the Crown’ and its sequel, so I was very keen to read Zen Cho’s new book, though it has a very different setting.

Jessamyn has graduated from Harvard, but after her father has a cancer-scare, her parents move home to Malaysia and Jess moves with them, unsure what she wants to do next. Jess’s girlfriend wants her to look for a job in Singapore where she will be living, but Jess is not out to her parents and feels an obligation to stay with them. To make matters even more compl
Feb 26, 2021 rated it liked it
I was given an ARC of this book by netgalley and the publisher (:
I found this book easy to get into and more engaging than I thought! It had a lot of strong points such as,
1. I thought the author did a really good job describing and developing the relationship Jess had with her parents. I actually(surprisingly to me since reading about relationships with parents ISNT always super engaging) really enjoyed reading a lot of the scenes with them. Since their family had also immigrated to America an
Mar 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021-mar, arc, lgbtq, sapphic

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this book. I found the entire thing to be a good balance of lore, culture, and queer zillenial chaos. On top of her family being worried about her, her girlfriend being stressed, and her grandma screaming in her head- Jessa is going through it. The lore in this book was built up incredibly well, with cultural aspects explained in a tangible w
Julia Pika
Apr 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Received an early copy thanks to NetGalley & Berkley Publishing Group.

Black Water Sister follows Jess as she navigates a new life in Malaysia, far away from her life and girlfriend. Everything's pretty normal...until she starts hearing her deceased grandmother's voice in her head.

This story was captivating from start to finish! I love the gods and mediums utilized in the story, it was different and refreshing to see. If you like "The Poppy War" as much as I do, you'll probably like this book. T
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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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