Black Water Sister by Zen Cho is a story about spirituality, family, what responsibility new generations might have to the old, and what it means to move on.
Jessamyn Teoh, known as Jess, has returned to Malaysia with her parents, someplace she hasn’t been since she was a young child. But when she arrives, strange things start happening. She starts hearing voices, and soon realizes that she has medium powers, and the voice speaking to her is her grandmother Ah Ma. While Jess wants nothing to do with this, Ah Ma tasks Jess with preventing the destruction of a temple, home to the god Black Water Sister. On her journey, Jess comes face to face with gods and spirits, as well as threats from a more human persuasion.
Black Water Sister does a marvelous job of introducing the reader to the world of Malaysian mythology and folklore, through a character who is as unfamiliar with the world as the reader will most likely be. Her role as a medium allows her to interact with the spiritual aspects while remaining bound to the human world.
While romance is not central to the story, it’s not fully absent either. Jess has a girlfriend back in America, though she hasn’t told her parents yet about her identity, not sure how they will respond, and due to her girlfriend’s skeptical nature, she doesn’t feel comfortable telling her about the supernatural happenings in her life.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is the Black Water Sister herself. A vengeful god, her history and desires are the driving force behind the entire narrative. It is Jess working both with and against her that is the main driving force of the plot, and nothing can be resolved until her own issues are solved; something Jess must work hard to achieve.
Black Water Sister is a thrilling read of mystery, folklore, crime, and passion, and a strongly suggested read for anyone interested in a paranormal drama.