The world goes still. There is no room in my mind for the wind in the trees or the lake lapping the shore below. No room for anything, really, except the tendrils of the prophecy twisting itself into something that is only a seed of reason.
When Lia Milthorpe’s father dies in mysterious circumstances, her grief soon turns to foreboding. A strange scar-like marking appears on her wrist, a book with only one page tells of a mythical prophecy, and her twin sister Alice is performing sinister rituals in the room that was once their mother’s chamber.
As Lia begins to uncover the secrets of the prophecy, she and Alice are pitted against each other in an ancient struggle of good versus evil. A battle that only one of them can win.
Prophecy of the Sisters has all the ingredients of a sublime gothic fantasy. An inescapable hereditary curse, the occasional spooky séance and more than one visit to the graveyard combine to imbue Michelle Zink’s debut with a dark and shivery allure. Our protagonist, kind and bookish Lia Milthorpe, even has her very own doppelgänger - in the form of her twin sister, the somewhat less kind and less bookish Alice.
Yet, Prophecy is far more than your everyday gothic novel. Recently-orphaned Lia is a girl on the verge of adulthood - a girl who, unlike her sister, has always preferred the tranquillity of her father’s library to the pleasures of local society. But now her beloved father is dead, and she and Alice are mistresses of Birchwood Manor. As the prophecy begins to make itself known, Lia is forced to question her knowledge of her sister and herself - and to take control of her own destiny. For Lia is more independent than she first appears: she does have a boyfriend, and he's a sweetheart, but their romance takes a backseat to the other developments in her life. This is a girl who has her own path to follow.
Like most people, I find identical twins rather intriguing. Lia and Alice Milthorpe are no exception, and Prophecy of the Sisters throws up questions of identity that give the Victorian-era tale a more contemporary slant. Are the twins two halves of the same being, or two entirely separate individuals? Can the two halves ever be reconciled, or must one triumph over the other? There’s a poignancy in widening chasm between them, these girls who once shared a womb, who used to fall asleep holding each other’s hands but always felt a mutual sense of mistrust.
Michelle Zink’s writing is lyrical and authentic, conjuring a Victorian setting that is both atmospheric and convincing. The prophecy itself has its roots in biblical and mythical material, and I loved the richness this lent to the story. Zink is also a master of metaphor, painting the most vivid images with her words: rain ‘falls in sheets, a blanket of silvery thread rushing to the hard almost-winter ground’. Some readers may find the story slow at times, but those who enjoy feeling unsettled will appreciate the gradual build of tension. And build it most certainly does. Then - bam! - the tale twists, the tension shifts, and the reader is rewarded with some of those ‘no way!’ moments that get the pages turning faster than ever.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good supernatural yarn. Those who need a lot of action to hold their interest should bear in mind that this one might be out of their comfort zone - but then, the beauty of Prophecy of the Sisters is its ability to draw you in and get you wondering. My only complaint would be that the ending felt very unresolved. On the plus side, this means we can jump straight in to the sequel when it arrives - but for now, I’m suffering a little! If you can’t tell, I loved this one. My advice would be to get a copy, wait for a rainy Sunday afternoon, and read it by lamplight.