Title: Red Sister
Author: Mark Lawrence
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Overview: At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse. Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive… – Goodreads
Red Sister surprised me in quite a few ways. I’d heard a lot about this author’s Broken Empire Trilogy, and much of the hearsay led me to believe I wouldn’t enjoy those books because of difficult subject-matter. However, when the author offered me a review copy of Red Sister, I decided to accept it… with reservations.
As it turns out, I didn’t need any. Red Sister was a really good first installment of The Ancestor series. What surprised me the most was how beautiful his writing and composition was. Very lyrical, but always careful not to overwhelm the story. The same could be said about his world building – it was a subtle integration of details that gradually described the interesting ailments of this world. There were a lot of cool ideas that I can’t wait to see expanded on in the next book.
My favorite part of the story was Nona, the main character. She was such an enigma! As with the world-building, Lawrence revealed bits and pieces about her past as the story went along, and I enjoyed diving into the mystery of it. She was a very compelling character. [Spoiler] highlight to reveal: Nona thought she was a monster, but found a home and friendship with these sisters even though, deep down, she didn’t believe she deserved it. Watching her find a place in this convent and become a cherished member was easily my favorite part of Red Sister – so profound! [End Spoiler]
Red Sister primarily takes place in a convent where the Sisters train on everything from spiritual focus (involving a bit of magic) to hand-to-hand combat. I love school settings as is, but it was cool to read about one in a dark and gritty context. But thankfully it wasn’t too dark, as some of his other works are rumored to be (which I’m sure are still good books, as lots of people really like them. I’m just too squeamish). Red Sister wasn’t nearly as gritty as I was prepared for, containing just enough to make the events realistic and intense without being off-putting.
Overall, Red Sister is a book I’ll be thinking about for a while. I’d recommend it to fantasy readers who don’t mind a little blood and gore. It’s definitely worth your time.
Thank you, Mark Lawrence, for the opportunity to read and review Red Sister. :)
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