Sisters of Shadow & Light, Sara B Larson

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Due to the fires that have been savaging Australia (some of which has been near my region or that of my family) and a flare in my personal health and increased study schedule, I haven’t been able to read at all for nearly over a month! Nevertheless, I had been enjoying reading this book when I had been able to.
Sisters, Inara and Zuhra, along with their mother and family friend/ servant Sami have been trapped in their castle home for over fifteen years. Inara seems almost autistic; unable to communicate, unaware of the world around her, focused solely on one thing (her garden) and depends on her sister to an incredible level. Having been the main caregiver for Inara for most of her life, Zuhra and Inara have an amazing bond. But when disaster happens, the two must find a way to survive without each other.

Not only was this an intriguing magic system, but I loved how it was paired with the hardship of having a special needs family member/ being trapped within your own mind. It was absolutely incredible how the author made Inara autistic because of her magic and that it was trapping her within a ‘roar’. I can’t say how much I absolutely loved this! I am on the spectrum (absolutely nowhere near as bad as Inara) and have sensitive hearing, so can relate to a noise drowning out the world. Plus, the author was excellent at showing the high level of dependence on the caregiver and how this can affect both sides. Definitely the best fantasy I’ve read that’s had an autistic character (the only one I can remember reading, actually).

Now with two young men in their lives, the sisters are experiencing their first loves. Inara and Halvor had an easy tender affection and were constantly gravitating towards each other. On the other hand, Zuhra and Raidyn spend almost the entire time trying to deny their feelings. And at the other extreme, the mother and father’s relationship was soured by a misunderstanding left for over a decade that turned to resentment and hate. The author did a great job of showing the different types of relationships which made each feel unique.
This book was full of great twists, even early on, and they continued to build until the climax. Though it may not seem it at first, it had plenty of action, especially during the final chapters. I was intrigued by the god-like creatures, Paladins, and the monstrous rakasa, and I loved how these lead up to the final surprises.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book; the magic system, the characters, the world, etc. I can’t get over how awesome it was to see an autistic heroine in a fantasy – a fantasy! The mix of disability, especially a largely mental one, caused by magic was a great idea for the genre and really made this novel stand out. As the title suggests, the emotional weight and core of the story were the two sisters and both characters were strong enough to lead this book (and hopefully future series). I give it 5/5 and am excited to see more of Inara and Zuhra.

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