Book Review: Sisters of Shadow and Light

Sisters of Shadow and Light – Sara B. Larson – Sisters of Shadow and Light #1 – Tor Teen – Published 5 November 2019




Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world—including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.

On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out—leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.

For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.

My thoughts

What a beautiful book. Sisters of Shadow and Light is everything I love about fantasy novels. It actually reminds me of a grown-up version of The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels. Sisters of Shadow and Light has so many elements woven together: a sisterly bond that is incredibly strong, a family torn apart and devastated by grief, a barrier between worlds, a magical world with monsters and griffins and magical powers, a fairytale feeling that is both dark and powerful and hopeful and light in the way that only fairytales can be, and some really strong, swoony romance. It’s also a duology!!! And I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book.

Zuhra would do anything for her sister, Inara. She can’t take away the constant roar that drowns out anything else for her sister, leaving her unable to communicate and do little more than mindlessly tend to the garden in their hidden citadel, the citadel that once housed the Paladin – magical warriors who rode winged griffins. She can’t make their cold, distant mother, broken-hearted since their Paladin father disappeared on the night Inara was born, care for her sister. She can’t free them from the living hedge that surrounds their home, protecting the from the people outside, but also trapping them securely within its borders. So when the hedge unexpected allows a young scholar to enter, Zuhra risks encountering her mother’s wrath by asking Halvor to share his knowledge of the Paladin and their magic, in the hopes of freeing Inara and herself from the things that hold them captive.

The elements of the book, the complex history of the Paladin, the magic, even Zuhra and Inara’s history is a mystery to Zuhra—and therefore the reader—for much of the first half of this book. As Zuhra slowly learns more, as her world unfolds, the true magical breadth and depth of this story, and its worlds, is uncovered. And I loved it. It is so much more than I expected. And there is still more to learn.

The sisterly bond between Inara and Zuhra is the obvious stand-out relationship in this book. The love the two share is clear. They would do anything for the other. But those actions have consequences.

Romance also has a big part in this book. As Zuhra meets different men, the very first time she has encountered guys her age, she must learn the difference between friendship, attraction and love. And this is only complicated further by the magical bonds forged by healing powers. I can’t wait to see how the romance, both Inara and Zuhra’s, develops in the second book.

I loved Sisters of Shadow and Light. I was blown away by the writing and captured by the world building. And the complex and loveable characters just sealed the deal. I can’t wait to give this to our library’s fantasy lovers and highly recommend it for fans of fairytale retellings, Maria V. Snyder’s Study series, and Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers series.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction

Genre: Fantasy

Themes: Sisters, magic, magical worlds, monsters, family, grief, magical abilities, healing, romance.

Reading age guide: Ages 12/13 and up.

Advisory: Violence, fighting, injuries, death.

Published: 5 November 2019 by Tor Teen.

Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 368 pages.

ISBN: 9781250208408

Find it on Goodreads


  1. neuravinci

    Romance also has a big part in this book. As Zuhra meets different men, the very first time she has encountered guys her age, she must learn the difference between friendship, attraction and love. – that’s a good point. I found her silly and too interested and quick to fall in love or to be attracted to the men, and to feel jealous, but you have a point that she’s learning what the feelings mean. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    • Madison's Library

      Thanks. I really liked her. Yes, she is young and impressionable — but she’s been locked up her whole life. You would be. I’m okay with characters who might seem annoying but have something to learn and show some character growth.

      • neuravinci

        Heh, that’s actually a really good point – she’s true to her environment and upbringing.

        • Madison's Library

          Did you like the other parts of the book?

          • neuravinci

            I enjoyed the story of the Paladins and Inara’s power – but also thought a lot was fantasy cliche and the writing was so bad that I was annoyed reading it most of the way through. The story would’ve been really good if the writing wasn’t so distracting.

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