Title: Sister of Blood and Spirit
Author: Kady Cross
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Lark and Wren are twins. White-haired Lark was born living. Red-haired Wren was born dead. Nonetheless, the two continue to communicate. Being known as the girl who talks to her dead sister has a way of making Lark’s life miserable. After being labeled the school freak and attempting suicide, Lark hopes to re-enter high school without attracting unwanted attention. Unfortunately, she is soon confronted by a group of students who ask for her help. Among them are Kevin, the medium Wren called out to when Lark lay dying; Mason, the boy who held Lark as she bled out and begged her not to die; and Ben, a handsome boy who seems weirdly cool with the supernatural.
It seems Lark’s new acquaintances have trespassed onto an ancient hospital, where an angry ghost attacked them and left spiritual wounds on their body--wounds invisible to everyone but Lark. Lark realizes the angry ghost has marked them as his own and will continue to suck their spirits dry unless someone puts a stop to it. Lark prefers that person not be her. But when Wren guilts her into helping, Lark will put everything on the line to save a group of people who may become her friends.
I picked up this book at the library because the ghostly themes reminded me of a book I’m currently writing. I liked the concept of supernatural sisters. I was interested to see how the author addressed the afterlife. I wanted to like Sisters of Blood and Spirit, I really did. But I didn’t. Every element felt under baked, and the more I read, the more bored I became.
Lark, the first-person narrator, describes herself as “bitchy,” and honestly, I have to agree. She reads like a mean fashionista trying to disguise herself as a goth girl. Bitter and cynical, Lark spends a good deal of time describing the physical characteristics of everyone she sees, which makes her come across as shallow. Her tragic backstory is milked for pity. Her suicide attempt is written like an embarrassing scandal that attracts gossip and harassment. Having dealt with a sister’s suicide attempt myself, I did not find it a particularly sensitive portrayal.
I don’t mind main characters starting off with flaws, because it gives them a chance to grow. The problem was that Lark didn’t get better. A hundred pages in, I realized, no, I didn’t like her, and no, I wasn’t going to like her. Wren, who pipes in with her own first person point of view, initially struck me as nice, if bland. She got worse. Bottom line, I couldn’t connect with either sister, and once that happened, the story became a slog.
There isn’t much plot. At first, there is a question about who is attacking the group of friends, but that mystery is quickly solved. Romantic subplots fill in time until the climax. Lark spends most of the book not realizing that Mason and Ben like her and stubbornly refusing to like them back. Her love triangle, therefore, is neither steamy nor angsty nor interesting. Wren, the dead sister, has a crush on Kevin, the medium. In theory, it’s a conflict made for angst, but it goes in an icky direction and ends in a mess.
Then there’s the matter of defeating the ghost. Here the world-building really fails the plot. Ghosts are invisible, noncorporeal beings--except when they aren’t. For example, the first time Lark looks for the evil spirit, it attacks her. With most people, this ghost leaves a kind of spiritual wound which causes people nightmares, drains their energy, and leaves them open to possession. But when it attacks Lark, it physically cuts her. How can it do that? Why is Lark the exception? The book never bothers to tell us. In fact, as the story progresses, Lark continues to gain weird powers for no reason. Her sister tells her not to question it.
By the time I got to the climax, I didn’t care about the characters and I didn’t believe in the world. I found myself sleeping in the thick of the action--and I’m the kind of person who avoids reading before bedtime because I’ll stay up all night reading. On the whole, I feel like the story had potential, but it wasn’t executed well. I can’t recommend it.
Writer. Critic. Dreamer.