"PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS," by Michelle Zink, Little, Brown and Company, 352 pages, $17.99 (young adult)

The bond that twins share is one that has been questioned by science from the beginning of time. And though it's never been completely understood, it continues to fascinate.

In "Prophecy of the Sisters," author Michelle Zink's debut young-adult novel, the bond of twins takes on new meaning as they confront a lifetime of secrets and treachery.

Lia Milthrope is scared. After the sudden death of her father, a mysterious mark appeared on her arm, and in the passing days, the mark has grown darker and clearer.

It doesn't take Lia long to figure out it's not just any mark, but that of the Jorgumand, a snake coiling itself around a circle until it's mouth is eating its tail. A mark like that is straight out of mythology, but why would it appear on her arm?

If things were different, Lia would turn to her twin sister, Alice, for help, but Alice has been behaving oddly, happy in the wake of their father's death.

Adding to the mystery is the sudden discovery of "The Book of Chaos" in their father's library. The one-page book refers to a prophecy about twin sisters who are the gate and its guardian, keeping the Angel Samael at bay.

A chance encounter leads Lia to two others who bear similar marks, and together they start to piece together their parts in the prophecy.

Everything is not as it seems, and as the three dig deeper, what they find shakes them to the core. What's clear in the end, though, is the prophecy will be the destruction of the twins' relationship.

Reminiscent of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy, "Prophecy of the Sisters" has a Gothic, transcendental quality to it.

Zink's prose is spot on, with page-turning clarity and conviction. There's a sophistication to her writing that goes beyond the usual young-adult fare. And there's no limit to Zink's imagination and her ability to bring that out on the page.

"Prophecy of the Sisters" is just the beginning of Lia and Alice's tale. And while Zink brings the book to a satisfactory end, she has set the stage for an intriguing follow-up. The twins' story is just getting started. Here's hoping a sequel is fast in coming.

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com