*I received a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*
The 100 Year Truce is soon approaching its end, and if Princess Rani wants any chance of inheriting her throne with no issues, she must escape her cage and delve into the deep magic of her past. Drafted into a war she wants no part in, trickster thief Ria must parade as her long-lost twin princess sister and discover the real reason why they were separated at birth. As the time ticks, both sisters must work together or risk letting magic tear everything apart.
Rani and Ria have no idea the other exists until they accidentally meet after Ria hopes to use stolen jewellery to fund her escape from Abai. Instead, she is met with Rani, who shares her face and confusion. Desperate to figure out the truth behind her abandonment, she agrees to stay behind in Rani’s place. Ria is left to navigate palace life and see what else lies beneath the walls of her birthplace while also tricking her betrothed, Saeed, and family. At the same time, Rani embarks into the land beyond her city to discover the truth behind the brutal death of her old tutor, convincing Ria’s friend, Amir, and others that she is nothing but a lowly thief.
A significant highlight of this book is the characters. I enjoyed watching Ria navigate the life of a princess in disgust while also rooting her to find the truth behind her birth. Rani is way out of her comfort zone as she is forced to question her entire upbringing while also dealing with dangerous magic that will threaten the world she knows. Each sister has a cast of characters that are equally important and extremely fun to discover. After a somewhat rocky start, the story redeems itself. It keeps you on edge as chapters alternate between the twins barreling through secrets of their past and nation’s history before coming together in a fast and thrilling resolution.
Set in an Indian-inspired setting, the Nanua sisters do a great job of bringing to life the city of Abai, making a clear contract between the clean palace walls to the murky streets below. As the first in a series, Sisters of the Snake would’ve benefitted from more world-building, in my opinion. I see the immense potential to expand Rani and Ria’s story into the surrounding Kingdoms.
If I had to point out a flaw of some kind, the connection between Rani and Ria deserved more screentime than relying on their connection as descendants of snakespeakers. The sweet moments of empowerment and sisterhood fall flat when you realise the girls barely interact in the story at all. For example, Rani is the one who pushes Ria to take her spot and then leaves her with no preparation or instructions. Rani has her pet snake (connected in the same way as a familiar), and it was such an odd decision to introduce Shima as a snake who can talk to Ria through her thoughts but then never have her help Ria at all during her time in the palace. It just read rather strange to me to introduce something that could be useful as a plot device but not utilise it in a way that would’ve improved the story. Especially as their connection as snakespeakers is very pivotal to the plot.
Sisters of the Snake does exactly what it says on the tin. A YA fantasy with deep lore and a fascinating world design. It’s a solid start to a series, and I have to say I was surprisingly impressed by Sisters of the Snake. While my expectations weren’t low, I did find myself enjoying this series starter from the Nanua sisters. While nothing is out of the water, this is a decent start to a series that I’m very interested in seeing to completion.