Title: Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1)
Author: Mark Lawrence
Publish date: 4th April 2017
Reading Time: 9-11 Hours
Falsely accused of murder, eight year old Nona Grey is brought to the Convent of Sweet Mercy, where young girls are raised to be killers. But Nona is being hunted by powerful enemies from a crumbling empire. Beneath a dying sun, Nona must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive.
I wanted to read Red Sister because it reminded me of The Left Hand of God, which I really enjoyed. I guess that’s an easy comparison to make as they both deal with strange religious groups training little kids to kill kill kill. But that’s where the comparisons end, because Red Sister is, well… Better. In pretty much all aspects. (Now here’s hoping Lawrence’s follow up doesn’t disappoint as much as The Last Four Things did.)
The opening line of Red Sister is quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever read. It gave me goosebumps. It made me want to forget it so I could read it again for the first time. With his first line, Lawrence promises blood, violence, bad-assery ™ and beautiful writing, and he delivers. And then some.
The first half of Red Sister follows Nona as she adjusts to life at the Convent of Sweet Mercy which means training, training, and more training. The action and pace feels a little slow here, and I’ll admit I found the first quarter a teeny bit boring, but this is where all the important stuff happens. Red Sister is not about blood and gory-ness, despite being full of nun assassins and what not. Red Sister is ultimately about friendships and the importance of trusting someone when you’ve been hurt before. Friendship is the true theme of this book, and this first half is where we really get to grips with it, as Nona builds the relationships that will shape her future (and learns about poisons and stuff, also important.) It is also gives us time to wade through the intricate and brilliant world and magic system Lawrence has built, so that we, like Nona, can be somewhat prepared for happens later on in the story. I say somewhat, because nothing will prepare you for the twist halfway through (I got goosebumps again!), and the twists that follow. Because let me warn you, once you’re in Grey Class, sh*t gets serious. You may find it difficult to put down Red Sister. Unless you’re very squeamish, and don’t enjoy reading about people getting stabbed in the eyes and having their faces ripped off. Then you may have to start taking short breaks to practice calming breaths towards the end.
And then there’s the writing. Mark Lawrence’s writing is different, unique, and unforgettable. It’s poetic and filled with subtle humour. It’s the kind of writing that makes you stop every now and then so you can re-read a sentence over and over again because it makes your heart flutter.
So why not five stars, you ask? Like I said, the first half is a little slow, and at times, mostly early on, the intricacies of the setting and the large cast of characters muddled and confused things a little. But Red Sister is most definitely worth reading, and it makes for an excellent introduction to Mark Lawrence’s work.
TL,DR: A tale of friendships, sisterhood, and gory bad-assery, that is beautifully written and well executed.
*I received this ARC free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*