by Mark Lawrence
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
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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.The dark fantasy Red Sister by Mark Lawrence delivered magical elements and a kickass heroine Click To Tweet