Sasha and Sarena Nanua | Sisters of the Snake (HarperTeen)

512 pgs. | $17.99 hardcover, $10.99 paperback, $7.99 Kindle Edition

Sasha and Sarena Nanua’s debut novel (the first in a duology) showed a lot of promise: identical twin sisters (Rani and Ria) who grew up in two very different lives (Rani, a princess, and Ria, a thief) and who swap places when their paths cross because they both desire a different life. A perfect recipe for a little chaos, with a touch of prophecy and magic.

But while Sisters of the Snake has a great premise, the execution…not so great. At approximately 500 pages, Sasha and Sarena’s debut novel is larger than the average YA novel. Certainly not a big deal (considering there are bigger tomes that have been toppled), but the pacing isn’t the greatest and there are many moments I felt like I was trudging through snow.

The writing is okay—not the greatest, and certainly not the worst, but the characters were mostly unmemorable and felt surface level. I’ve already forgotten a lot of the side characters and the only time gap was for sleeping. There’s a large focus on the romances, but it personally felt unnecessary and shoehorned into the story. What was more interesting, however, was the way the story uses two POVs to explore the stellar differences between Rani’s and Ria’s lives as they grew up and how those differences affect their decisions when they swap places and work toward a common goal. With both of their perspectives, there’s a deeper look into their lives versus just having one or the other.

The world was intriguing, especially with the different types of magic and how the kingdoms all came to be. While Sisters of the Snake does cover the different types of magic, it’s mainly a crash course with a larger focus on snake magic due to the setting. (Heads up for those who don’t like snakes, especially the page variety: you might want to steer clear.) Since this is only the first book, it’s a possibility the sequel will have a more in-depth look into the others, but that unfortunately isn’t the case here.

The biggest issues I had are the plot holes. For instance, how did no one not notice the difference between Ria and Rani? They may be twin sisters, but the two grew up in completely opposite lives: Rani as a princess has a life of privilege and luxury where she could have anything she wants (material-wise) while Ria grew up as an orphan and had to develop skills to help her steal just to survive. Theoretically speaking, there should be a stark physical difference due to their vastly different lifestyles, even if they’re identical. And yet, it’s almost like they’re carbon copies of each other and no one blinks an eye or pushes the issue.

Like a lot of the side characters in the book, the villain is just as flat and unmemorable. And unfortunately, I’m baffled on how things fell the way they fell. While there are quite a few questions that rose up, the vast majority of them don’t really have the potential to be answered in the second book. They’re just there.

I really wanted to like Sisters of the Snake and have had my eye on it since the publishing announcement was first made. But unfortunately, the plot holes, the slow pacing, and unmemorable characters are a no go for me when it comes to continuing the next book, no matter how much I want closure from the cliffhanger ending. | Hannah Sophia Lin

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