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I Belong

Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Title: Red Sister

Author: Mark Lawrence

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book of the Ancestor (Book #1)

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 469 Pages

ISBN-10: 1101988851 (Ace/Penguin)

ISBN-13: 978-1101988855 (Ace/Penguin)

Reviewed by: Steph


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…

Quick & Dirty: Incredible world building combined with lively characters make this first book in the Book of the Ancestor series a treat to read.

Opening Sentence: It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Life has not been good to Nona Grey in her brief time on this earth. After being banished from her village and given to a child seller, Nona is sold to a man who trains fighters. While under his “care,” Nona attacks one of the fighters when she finds him hurting her friend, leaving him for dead. She is minutes from the hangman’s noose when her execution is unexpectedly stopped by the arrival of the Abbess of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. She declares that Nona is to become a student at the convent and sweeps her away. At the convent, Nona is to learn to hone her many talents to become a trained killer. Upon her first day, Nona learns of a prophecy about a Chosen One and finds herself at the center of it. Nona will have to learn how to tell friend from foe if she is ever going to learn the truth of the prophecy and make it out of the convent alive.

Let me start off by saying my description of the plot of this book really can’t do it justice. Never have I read a book that has such intricate, yet easy to understand, world building. I’m sure I did a pretty poor job of explaining things, but when reading the book, I never felt lost or confused. While  a glossary of the world is provided at the beginning of the book, I never had to refer to it because Lawrence does a fabulous job of letting the world come alive and teach the readers how it works as they travel further into the book’s pages. I just cannot stress enough how fabulously this is done. It is a bloodthirsty world too. I mean, we’re talking about girls who haven’t even hit puberty learning how to become effective killers. I would often find myself forgetting just how young Nona is until she would do/say something that really just smacked me in the face with the truth that, despite her past, she is still just a kid. Lawrence does a great job of putting the reader in Nona’s shoes and making you feel connected to her.

There was really just one thing that kept this from being a five-star read for me. It starts to become glaringly obvious early on in the story what one of the plot twists is going to be towards the end. Maybe that was intentional, to highlight Nona’s naiveté. I’m not sure. But for me, it zapped away some of my enjoyment because I found myself just waiting for that moment to happen already. There wasn’t really any suspense.

Other than that predictability, this was a fantastic read. I was sucked in from the very first sentence, and by the time I finished, I didn’t want to leave the world Lawrence had created. I’m itching to find out what happens next. I guess while I wait anxiously for book two, I will have to content myself with reading other works by Lawrence. He definitely has a new fan in me!

Notable Scene:

Roads that led nowhere took them to people who had nothing. Giljohn never asked to buy a child. He’d pull up alongside any farm the grew more weeds and rocks than crop, places where calling the harvest “failed” would be over-generous, implying that it had made some sort of effort to succeed. In such places the tenant farmer might pause his plough or lay down his scythe to approach the wagon at his boundary wall.

A man driving a wagonload of children in a cage doesn’t have to state his business. A farmer whose flesh lies sunken around his bones, and whose eyes are the colour of hunger, doesn’t have to explain himself if he walks up to such a man. Hunger lies beneath all of our ugliest transactions.

Book of the Ancestor:

1. Red Sister


FTC Advisory: Ace/Penguin provided me with a copy of Red Sister. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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