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Zen Cho

Author of Sorcerer to the Crown

30+ Works 3,723 Members 223 Reviews 9 Favorited

About the Author

Includes the name: Zen Cho


Works by Zen Cho

Associated Works

The Book of Dragons: An Anthology (2020) — Contributor — 202 copies
The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women (2014) — Contributor — 110 copies
The Best of World SF: Volume 1 (2021) — Contributor — 71 copies
Someone in Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance (2022) — Contributor — 42 copies
Bloody Fabulous (2012) — Contributor — 40 copies
Aliens: Recent Encounters (2013) — Contributor — 37 copies
An Alphabet of Embers: An Anthology of Unclassifiables (2016) — Contributor — 31 copies
It Gets Even Better: Stories of Queer Possibility (2021) — Contributor — 22 copies
Steam-Powered 2 (2011) — Contributor — 20 copies
The End of the Road: An Anthology of Original Fiction (2013) — Contributor — 16 copies
The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: Volume Two (2021) — Contributor — 15 copies
Uncanny Magazine Issue 19: November/December 2017 (2017) — Contributor — 8 copies
2013 Campbellian Pre-Reading Anthology (2013) — Contributor — 7 copies
Wicked Women (2014) — Contributor — 6 copies
The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic (2013) — Contributor — 3 copies


2015 (21) 2019 (24) 2021 (27) alternate history (45) anthology (122) dragons (54) ebook (176) England (41) fantasy (758) fiction (356) ghosts (25) goodreads (27) historical (36) historical fantasy (76) historical fiction (55) Kindle (94) LGBTQ (26) library (24) magic (82) Malaysia (45) Malaysian Literature (21) novel (24) novella (66) queer (32) read (50) Regency (39) romance (60) science fiction (147) Science Fiction/Fantasy (21) series (21) sf (50) sff (81) short fiction (21) short stories (147) short story (28) signed (33) speculative fiction (27) to-read (676) unread (40) urban fantasy (29)

Common Knowledge

Places of residence
London, England, UK
Cambridge University (BA)
Caitlin Blasdell
Short biography
Zen Cho was a member of the Cambridge University Lion Dance Troupe from 2006 to 2008. She was born in Malaysia and is currently based in London.



A sparkling tale of a group of bandits and the nun who joins them after they caused her to loose her waitress job.
quondame | 26 other reviews | Nov 17, 2023 |
This was the first book I read by Zen Cho, but I'm pretty sure it won't be my last! Black Water Sister was a blast to read and easily earned its spot as one of my favourite reads in June this year.

Black Water Sister is a perfect blend of original storyline, engaging prose, fascinating lore, and of course "ghosts, gangsters and grandmas" (as the author defined it on Twitter). Now, who can resist a premise like this? Definitely not me... And I'm super glad the book not only met, but really surpassed my expectations.

I loved the characters, especially Ah Ma. This snarky, nagging ghost grandma really stole my heart! I particularly enjoyed Ah Ma's banter with Jess: they're both quick and witty and work so well together, definitely pushing each others' buttons but ultimately pushing one another to be a better version of and true to themselves (you know, as much as ghosts can get better). Jess's multiple struggles, having to deal with a ghost while coping with "normal" young people's struggles such as unemployment, family issues and being closeted in a society that's not really gay-friendly, made her feel incredibly real and were quite touching at times.

The whole cast was really memorable though, and I loved how deliciously complex and morally grey some of them were. From the gangsters to the gods to Jess' family members, each character brought their own unique personality and history to the game, as well as the painful memories and the past that were haunting them. Of course, some characters were haunted more literally than others, but even so...

A special mention goes to the setting. I can't recall having read any other books set in Malaysia (at least, not recently), so I was immediately intrigued by that. And the author does an amazing job of bringing the setting to life. I swear at times I almost felt like I could have been there myself the descriptions were so vivid. I also had a lot of fun googling pictures of places and foods mentioned in the book, which is something I often do to help me feel more involved in the setting - plus I get to learn something new! I really liked being thrown in Malaysian culture with Jess as she returns from the US and trying to pick things up and come to grips with local customs.

The author published a really interesting blog article on the challenges of writing about non-Western culture and explaining why she chose to adopt this approach. I really recommend reading this in general if you have the time. I, a white, European reader, personally found it very helpful to help me reflect on existing disparities in expectations when reading books by non-Western writers / set outside of Western countries, something which I've probably been guilty of in the past and that I'll try to keep in mind in the future as well.

The only, minor issue I had with this book was I personally found the pacing to be slightly off at times, with some sections I flew through being really packed and others feeling like they were very slow and dragging a bit by comparison. This is entirely a personal feeling though and may have had something to do with my own tiredness levels rather than the book!

Black Water Sister was a fantastic read, with charming, unforgettable characters, an engaging plot and a vivid setting like I hadn't seen in a while. Definitely one that will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommended!

For this and more reviews, visit Book for Thought.

I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
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bookforthought | 16 other reviews | Nov 7, 2023 |
All of these stories are good, and some are excellent. Mixtures of family, spirits, ghosts, tumbled with wry humor and spread across the various landscapes to which those who have lived in Malaysia may have moved, at least temporarily - or in the case of hell, more or less forever until reincarnation.
quondame | 8 other reviews | Sep 20, 2023 |
An eARC from Netgalley.

I liked this anthology very much. It collects Cho's short fiction, which is Malaysian inspired fantasy, both historical and contemporary. The only thing I had a hard time with was the Malay language/dialect; it took a bit of getting used to the cadence and the Malay slang (a glossary might have helped; it seems other editions had this).

The stories themselves reminded me of Roald Dahl, bittersweet, often with a sting in the tail, but great fun. 2 stories I'd encountered before, If At First You Don't Succeed, Try Again, and The Terracotta Bride, but the other stories I'd not read before.

Recommended (although best read in a more traditional format - PDF doesn't play nicely with ereaders).
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Maddz | 7 other reviews | Sep 17, 2023 |



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