by Mark Lawrence
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.
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…
“A long blade, thin, carrying a slight curve, its edge cruel enough to cut silence and make it scream.”
RED SISTER by Mark Lawrence intrigued me, and I was thirsty for a dark fantasy featuring a kickass heroine. This was my first experience with Lawerence and I quickly found myself wanting to savor this character-driven tale with its dying world and magic. Fans of GRAVE MERCY and the Fair Assassin’s series will find themselves slipping quickly into this world.
It will be difficult to do this tale justice and I am going to deliberately be vague. This world and its characters are best left for the reader to discover.
We meet our protagonist, eight-year-old Nona Gray as she awaits the hangman for killing a man three times her size. Fate steps in and Nona is saved when, Abbess Glass, the manager of the Sweet Mercy Convent offers her the chance to train as a Novice. Nona is a hunska, and you will learn more about this ability and others at the school. This magical school trains young woman on the path, blades, poison, physical combat and more. The magical elements are brilliant from what each girl possessed to what she can achieve.
I loved attending the Convent. If magical schools thrill you from lessons to boorish teachers, you will devour RED SISTER. Most of the setting takes place within its walls. From spells to training I was enthralled not only by the skills, but the worldbuilding, hierocracy, and political maneuvering that Lawerence developed within this world. A lot of what we learn is threaded throughout the tale, from lessons to conversations. Thus avoiding the need for information dumps, and while not entirely understood the magical elements hint at more to come.
The world is on the verge of collapse, and their civilization has been pushed into this tiny corridor whose fate is dependent on the moon, which we are told keeps the ice that covers the remaining world at bay. Lawerence revealed a brutal world where the church and rulers have power. There are layers of plots as we devel into the social hierarchy, meet indentured humans, and learn that the blade rules.
Written in third-person, this tale can be dark and brutal at times, but Nona and other characters offer balance as they pull the reader into their daily life. Prophies, villains, and uncertainty had me flipping the pages and eager to learn more. Lawrence cleverly added in flashbacks concerning Nona, and I thought they were well placed.
On a side note. Skip the prologue. I am not going to lie, I read it twice! All I could think was, “What the heck have I gotten myself into?’ Nevertheless, I continued, and yeah, I still don’t understand it. Well, I do NOW, but trust me, read it at the end.
“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men”
RED SISTER wrapped up brilliantly while setting us up for the next installment. Nona is a compelling and complex character whose strength and sheer determination has me counting the days until I can reenter this world. RED SISTER is a book you will want to add to your bookshelf.
[bctt tweet=” The dark fantasy Red Sister by Mark Lawrence delivered magical elements and a kickass heroine” username=”kimbacaffeinate”]
This is one I added to my wish lists. So glad that you liked it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Sweet. I look forward to your thoughts.
Wow! This does sound like Grave Mercy. I loved that world so I wouldn’t mind getting into a similar one. You have me totally hooked. And that cover? Awesome.
It has that feel but it totally its own.
Hmmm… Not sure about this one. I love the idea of a dark fantasy, but I haven’t had a lot of luck with books set in schools. I think i will wait to see what you think of the next book. Glad you really enjoyed it.
I’m slowly making my way to this one. Almost there! ;D
Nice. I look forward to your take on it.
I have heard such great things about this book! I’m nervous though, because I didn’t like Grave Mercy 🙁 I’m all about Assassins and whatnot, but something about that one in particular didn’t sit well with me (the characters, I think). That said, I AM excited to give this one a go! Great review 🙂
Ok, think badassery of GRAVE MERCY and HOGWARTS.
Ah Kim you’ve found one of my very favorite Fantasy authors and people in general. I’m just starting this story and can’t wait to finish but didn’t hesitate reading your review knowing I could trust you not to give too much details. I first discovered Mark when his very first Broken Empire trilogy came out with Prince of Thorns and I urge you to give that a try as well. I’ve read and immensely enjoyed every thing he’s written.
My first! I shall try them.
The Bibliophile Babe
I liked Grave Mercy, so I’ll have to check it out!
Sweet, I look forward to your take on it.
Interesting that you say to read the prologue at the end. Ooh I like magic and magical schooling. 🙂
It felt very high fantasy and trying to visualize it was hard..plus you have no idea who anyone is.
I so wish I liked fantasy like this! But I am happy you enjoyed it, and really it does sound good 🙂
I enjoy it in small doses.
He’s a new author to me but this sounds really interesting.
I am glad I read it, and look forward to the next.
I am so very excited to receive my copy in the mail (hopefully, today because I’m extremely impatient, lol)! This will be mark first read with Lawrence and I can’t wait to try his writing. Gorgeous review – thanks!! 🙂
Eep. I hope you love it, I was a Lawrence noob too!
I keep checking out this book, but I haven’t had the courage to dive into a full fantasy world yet. This one does look like a good place to start. And the snippet you shared was very intriguing.
I don’t particularly feel this is a heavy fantasy and aside from that prologue I slipped right in.
Holy Snikies! I was having a Grave Mercy moment when I read the blurb and then there it was in your review. But by your description this one is an animal of a different stripe. It sounds fantastic and I love the idea of the school and the dying world and adventures there.
Nice tantalizing review, Kimberly!
Oh it totally holds its own, but the feel is there.
oh wow this sound like the book I want to read when I start reading fantasy again! Pure female badassery! And nuns?? apocalyptic female warriors. HOLY S$#$ I’m IN!!! IN IN IN
Hehehe…I CANNOT wait to see what you think. (read the prologue last)
Such a deserving and well written review! I think I am easily predicting this will be in top 5 for 2017. Currently in my top 2. Nona is so raw and powerful! Lawrence’s world building and character development is phenomenal!
Thank you, I didn’t feel like i gave it the review it deserved.
Sounds like a good one, I might put it on my audio wishlist. Trial and errors tells me I do better with fantasy types on audio…lol.
I think this would be delightful on audio.
I was going to say that the synopsis sounded a lot like Grave Mercy and then you did in your review. I need to finish hat series…but this sounds like it is different enough to be worth the read.
I think you would love the magic and school in this Melissa.
Oooh, this sure sounds intriguing! Adding this to my TBR now! Great review.
Sweet. I look forward to your thoughts on it Brianne
Looks like I have another series to add to my ever growing TBR and authors that I need to try. 😉
This was my first by him Ali.
I’ve not heard of this series, but you have me intrigued.
Glad to share Angela.
You have peaked my interest, I need to check this one out. Thanks for sharing.
You are welcome Nadene.
Geybie's Book Blog
This sounds great. I’ve just finished a great urban fantasy and want another one in the future. I’ll add it on my UF TBR list to consider. Thanks for sharing. As always, awesome review, Kim. 😀
This isn’t urban, but darn good 🙂
Now I am intrigued ! Great review and thanks for sharing.
You are welcome Cindy. It was a good one.
Oh my, you got me terribly curious!! Great review, Kimberly 😀
I could not read his other series, and I do not care if I was not meant to like the main character. He was a rapist, so no thanks
But I am curious about this new one
Don’t laugh, but I had never even heard of him before I picked this up. LOL
I need this!! I’m going to recommend this one to my library, fingers crossed they purchase a copy.
I hope they have several on hand!
You got me at Grave Mercy! And so, now I need this book in my life, Kim. It sounds so good! Great review.
Have a terrific Tuesday and happy reading 🙂
I hope you enjoy it Lexxie!