Nona has a natural ability to fight and at nine years old she’s already convicted of murder. She finds herself whisked away to a special covenant that trains young girls to become assassins, and herein lies the base of the plot and all I can say is WOW. I was absolutely blown away by Red Sister.
The world building in this book is phenomenal and I want to know so much more about it. The sun is dying, the planet is slowly being enclosed in ice and with it humanity is changing, becoming desperate and looking to prophecies. There is a focus on the four races, each with unique talents in combat. The magic system is complex and is split between two schools of magic, and there is a plethora of diverse specializations for both.
On top of the detailed world, the book also nailed atmosphere. I felt a sense of wonder as Nona learned not just about fighting, but about magic and the world around her through her classes. It gave me a nostalgic feeling about a certain school of magic that I had also enjoyed in the past. I actually liked Nona a great deal. Even though she is a tiny little ass kicker she’s also extremely flawed and has a difficult time dealing with interpersonal relationships. Having a heroine who wasn’t perfect in every way was really rather refreshing. Experiencing her school days as she befriended other girls at the covenant was just plain fun and I liked most of the characters.
“Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”
As Nona’s opinions of certain friends fluctuates as the story goes along, I found my opinions of those same characters changing as well. Does Nona hate this girl because she’s truly awful? Or is it because of petty jealousy and pressure from friends that her view of this other girl is distorted? I found these subtle details about Nona’s change of heart to be clever – it really shows how her character develops over the course of the story while also making me as a reader realize just how invested I was in the character.
Oh and of course, this book is full of action. Lawrence truly has a gift with words and reading descriptions of action sequences was exhilarating. The fights are extremely violent and rather brutal. I love the way this author writes. I couldn’t get enough of it!
I think the only thing that I found frustrating was how slow the characters were to seek help when faced with danger much larger than themselves. There were several points where it was obvious certain characters were up to no good, but no one ever went to the abbess or the other sisters with information. I’m talking about the kind of danger that can get someone killed. Even worse, several characters even mention to Nona that she should tell someone and she never does. I can kind of forgive the characters because all of them are young but it’s just frustrating because it feels intentional in order to draw out the story.
Overall, Red Sister has become both one of my favorite reads of the year and now one of my favorite fantasy books. I’m excited for the rest of the series and I’m very interested in exploring more of Lawrence’s work. I may have a new favorite author!
Title: Red Sister
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
Author: Mark Lawrence
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Format: ARC / Ebook
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.
A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies.
Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona’s secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself.
Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way.