“Someone’s got to teach these fools: Never disrespect a Black woman.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I heard the comp title “Afro samurai meets The Sword of Kaigen in this anime-inspired novella”, I was immediately sold.
In Sistah Samurai, Obey seamlessly blends Japanese and Black culture to tell a wholly unique and utterly delightful fantasy story. It’s loud, it’s unapologetic, it’s bold, and, maybe most importantly of all, it’s so damn fun!
“They called me Sistah Samurai, but in truth, I was just a tired woman tired of being tired.”
Sistah Samurai might be the last Sistah left standing, but she is absolutely 100% done with playing the hero. Let someone else deal with the Tamashii-ink stealing thieves and the soul-eating demons attacking the world. She is way too busy minding her own business and fighting her own inner demons to care about saving everyone else’s asses. That is, until things start messing with her daily routine and her favourite ramen place is threatened.
As soon as I read the first line of this story, I just fell in love with Sistah Samurai. As a prickly and very tired momma bear, she is not exactly your typical fantasy heroine, but that is exactly why I adore her so much. Armed with her katana ‘Fuck-Around’ and wakizashi ‘Find-Out’, she quickly proves that she is still very much a force to be reckoned with, regardless of whether she is willing to admit it or not.
“You never step into a swordwoman’s space without cause.”
For a story that is so short and takes place over one single day, it is truly astounding how well-developed and vibrant everything feels. The world building is incredibly immersive and dripping in rich culture, so I honestly felt like I could see, touch, hear, taste, and smell everything that was described on the page.
The characters also absolutely explode off the page with their strong personalities and honestly have an impressive amount of emotional depth. It’s simply impossible not to latch onto them and root for them, which is exactly why all the emotional beats of this story land just as hard as they are supposed to.
And believe me, no punches are pulled here. Delicate themes of grief, loss, self-doubt/self-hate, and depression are beautifully woven into this story and handled with a lot of care. It’s really no easy feat to deliver an absolutely delightful and entertaining fantasy story while also addressing such serious real-world issues, but Obey absolutely nails that balance. She smoothly switches between scenes that are either hysterically funny, terribly pulse-pounding, achingly tender, or brutally raw/honest, without it ever feeling jarring. Simply said, she is a masterful storyteller.
“I didn’t have time to avenge them, but the least I could do was carry them. To everyone else, they were just fallen cherry blossoms crushed underfoot. But to me, they were my garden.”
I acknowledge that this is not a story written for me, a white woman who knows shit all about anime. And yet, I absolutely loved it and I am so grateful that this story exists. Thank you, Tatiana Obey, for opening up your home and allowing people like me to be a guest for a little while.
This novella might be short, but it damn well packs a punch. If you like the sound of a diverse, fun and fast-paced fantasy story with a middle-aged yet badass female MC, sensory world building, thrilling fight scenes, and hard-hitting themes and social commentary, then I can’t recommend Sistah Samurai highly enough!
Thank you to the author for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.