Since the birth of her younger sister, Inara, 18-year-old Zuhara has been trapped at the Citadel of the Paladin within an enormous sentient hedge with their mother and their caretaker. Inara’s magic, inherited from their vanished Paladin father, gives her power over plants, but it also fills her head with a debilitating roar that leaves her with only rare moments of lucidity. The sudden arrival of Halvor, a Paladin-obsessed scholar, prompts the sisters to defy their strict, secretive mother and look for a means of escape, leading them to the monster-infested world of the departed Paladin.After a promising opening and intriguing setting, the story settles into a disappointingly predictable plot. The characters and their relationships, particularly that of the sisters, are insufficiently developed given such a tight focus on a small cast. Larson (Defy) leaves room for a sequel, which will hopefully explore interpersonal dynamics and fully develop plot threads introduced in this volume. Ages 12–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (Nov.)
Gr 6 Up—Sisterly love overcomes all boundaries in this standard YA fantasy. Zuhra has spent the last 15 years caring for her sister Inara, trapped in the abandoned fortress of the Paladins. Their father was a powerful supernatural being, and although Zuhra shows no sign of power, Inara inherited his glowing blue eyes as well as his supernatural healing ability. Inara spends most of her days in a fog, unable to think past the buildup of power in her mind. When a stranger enters their until-now-impenetrable fortress, the lives of both girls will change forever. Although both main characters are dynamic, uneven pacing makes it difficult to maintain interest in the complex setting. The beginning of the story drags while Larson draws out the exposition and the second half feels rushed, with more events happening than she has time to explore. The social relationships and touch of romance added to the latter half of the book have no time to develop before the lead characters base life-altering decisions on them. There is no mature content in this book, but readers need to be able to use context clues well to understand the unfamiliar names, places, and animals of this world. VERDICT Fans of the author's earlier work, as well as that of Kristin Cashore and Rachel Hartman, will enjoy this story. Purchase for those who love fantasy novels and Larson's other books—Jeri Murphy, C.F. Simmons Middle School, Aurora, IL
Isolated from the world by a magical barrier, two sisters navigate dangerous changes when a stranger crosses over.
Eighteen-year-old Zuhra lives with her mother and younger sister, Inara, trapped by a sentient hedge in the long-abandoned Citadel of the Paladins. Once, the gryphon-riding warriors chased and defeated the rakasa monsters from their dimension and protected the humans of Vamala, but now they have all but disappeared. Zuhra and Inara share Paladin blood, but Inara's blue eyes glow with power, repelling their mother, who forbade all things Paladin when the girls' father disappeared after Inara's birth. Inara is often lost in her own mind, with only brief moments of lucidity, leaving Zuhra feeling alone, longing for connection. When Halvor, a scholar of the Paladin and the first boy they have ever met, breaches the hedge, Zuhra is intrigued by his revelations of the world and motivated to escape, but the mysteries of the citadel prove more dangerous than any of them know, threatening both realms. Larson's (Bright Burns the Night, 2018, etc.) narrative of might, magic, and a deep sisterly bond is uneven, with beautiful prose that is repetitive and dual voices that sound very similar. The female characters suffer abuse and isolation, making their longing for romantic connection understandable but leaving them dependent on their male counterparts. Naming conventions pull from different world cultural traditions, but physical descriptions point to whiteness as the standard.
An enjoyable, if flawed, tale. (Fantasy. 13-18)
Packed with fascinating relationships, pulse-pounding romance, and breathtaking adventure, this story held me captive to every page.”Kathryn Purdie, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Burning Glass
"I was completely swept away with this fierce magical story of broken family, and sisters trying to survive a mysterious past. Romance, betrayal, gryphons, forbidden doorways, and devoted sisters had me flipping the pages to unravel the secrets of this dark world where no one is who they seem to be. Larson has created a spellbinding world that has all the elements I lovemagic, mystery, romance, and sisterhood! I can't wait for more!"Mary E. Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of The Kiss of Deception
"What a stunning gem of a story. Fans of gorgeous, emotional, action-packed fantasy are going to want to snap this up. I loved it so much, I read it in one sitting!"C.J. Redwine, New York Times bestselling author of the Ravenspire series
“Larson’s bold and imaginative tale of sisterhood, magic, and monsters is a deft exploration of loneliness, family, and friendship inside a citadel hedged by lies and blood.” A.G. Howard, #1 New York Times and international bestselling author of The Splintered Series
“Sisters of Shadow and Light is a rare beauty that will grip your heart and steal your breath away. I adored this book!"Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor's Game
“Fantasy readers will become absorbed in the world-building and strong relationship between the sisters.” Tara Williams, English teacher, Glade Spring (Virginia) Middle School, recommended, School Library Connection
“Fans of the author’s earlier work, as well as that of Kristin Cashore and Rachel Hartman, will enjoy this story. Purchase for those who love fantasy novels and Larson’s other books.” School Library Journal