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…
Disclaimers: A digital copy of this book was provided to us via NetGalley courtesy of the publisher (Ace, a division of the Berkley Publishing Group). This review may contain spoilers. You have been warned.
Why we chose it: We wanted viciousness.
Review: Can someone please tell us why we haven’t read a book by Mark Lawrence sooner because there is no logical answer that we can come up with. His writing is amazing! Red Sister was definitely a good book to start with because we got to meet Nona and the Sisters of Sweet Mercy. They’re nuns and they pray, but some of them might just slit your throat if they have to.
Being us, we found problems and we’ll start with how we weren’t entirely sure who the book was focusing on in the first few chapters. Was it Sister Thorn in the prologue or was it the girl mentioned in chapter one? We couldn’t tell and that confusion made keeping a decent grip on the story a little difficult for a while.
There are unexpected problems with having a wonderful prologue. A wonderful prologue lulls the reader into a feeling of literary ecstasy where they believe every single sentence will contain tension and magic and a heart thumping feeling that is just pure anticipation. When the story properly starts one can find themselves a bit disappointed. We know we did.
That disappointment can carry over to the world building too. In Epic Fantasy, there’s a lot to get right from the start. An author has to set up a cast of characters, develop their relationships and create a certain type of magic before even writing the first chapter. There was definitely a sense of avenues going unexplored for us, but then we realised something.
The way Mark chose to write this book, the way he chose to set up the timeline followed and everything else is quite similar to the direction Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them took. Both contain a satisfying story with a beginning, a middle and a worthwhile conclusion, but both need further instalments for the story to be truly complete.
Thanks heavens for us discovering there’s going to be two more books. Two more books that are already written!
We definitely enjoyed things from Nona’s world though. We liked how the planet she lives on, Abeth is a planet that is suffering from a dying Sun. Ice is taking over everything and the majority of the world’s population lives on a section of land called the Corridor. We thought that was interesting.
You know who we thought was really interesting? Nona Grey. A girl who’s got Hunska in her blood and demons in her heart. Nona hasn’t had a happy life or an easy life. Everything’s been hard, she’s had to fight to survive…she’s had to do more than fight and we love her. Vicious little people are always our favourite.
It’s important to note right now that Sister Kettle and Sister Apple are the best couple in existence and that leads us right back to the Convent of Sweet Mercy.
It’s a place for many girls to train in the way of the Ancestor, to worship the Ancestor because he is there god. From what we gathered as we read Red Sister, some girls are sent to the Convent to be educated, a bit like a private academy. Some are rescued by Abbess Glass and some end up in the Convent as a last resort.
We loved reading about the lessons and the different paths to the Ancestor that the girls may take if and when the graduate. Some girls become Red Sisters, others Grey. Some will become Sisters which are Holy and the remaining graduates become Mystic Sisters. That’s all we’re going to tell you about for now because there’s something else we must mention.
Time jumps exist in Red Sister and there are two types.
The first time jump is one of two years that happens quite early on in the novel so we don’t feel like it’s too much of a spoiler. Such a jump in time is common enough in books and while we were a little shocked and sad at all the possible information we missed out on.
The second is one where an unspecified amount of time is skipped and it ties into what we said earlier about the story needing more than one book be completed. It’s completely and utterly necessary to have sequels to Red Sister for some of the events to even make sense.
Whenever we come to the end of a review, we’re always left knowing that there’s so much story and character development left to cover. We want to tell you all more. Tell you everything that happened and our thoughts on it, but we can’t because books are a solitary adventure and maybe when you’ve all read Red Sister you’ll come back to us and we’ll have a chat.
So, in conclusion Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is a book we expected to like and ended up really, really liking even if it looks like we complained a lot here. It’s full of great characters and deceptive myths. There’s intrigue and bloodshed, but most importantly there’s sisterhood and friendship because sometimes the best books are built on the bonds of its cast.