Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

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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…

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.

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A Conjuring of Light by V. E Schwab

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Witness the fate of beloved heroes – and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Goodreads

Disclaimers: This review will contain major spoilers and we’re entirely unashamed of that. You have been warned.

Why we chose it: It’s the concluding book in the ADSOM trilogy.

Review: We’ve been absent from book reviewing from a while and so the thoughts surrounding us and the actual idea that we have chosen to get back into the game with this breath taking, soul destroying and in some ways lacking book are daunting.

That’s not to say that we’re not excited to be back and to rip apart our feelings for A Conjuring of Light, we are…it’s just – why did we have to choose this book to be the first one we review after hiatus?

It was obvious to us after only a few pages that Schwab had upped the stakes, upped the ante and with them upped the quality with which she writes with. The opening chapters from A Conjuring of Light come from different points of view, more so than we were accustomed to, but we have no complaints about them. The writing was beautiful. It flowed in black like the power that is Osaron and it wove deep into our mind.

We could see London clearer, see the characters clearer and it was fantastic. We wondered why Schwab didn’t infuse such vividness into A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Magic, we wondered was it because they were building blocks? Because they were…an introduction of sorts into multiples Londons and into the heads of the inhabitants of those Londons?

We wondered for a while before we grasped something. A Conjuring of Light is the only book where we truly appreciated the savagery of White London and the destruction of Black London. Where we appreciated all that is wonderful and wrong in the London that shines red and where we finally felt connected to the London that is much like the one in our own world with its lack of magic and its want for magic.

So, to truly kick off our indepth review we’re going to talk about Holland.

This book made us fall in love with the man who’d died and lived and made himself King by hosting something without conscience. We can truly say that we adore his character so very much now because we got to know him in the same way that we’d gotten to know Lila and Kell and Rhy. We got to see his past, experience his hopes and fears, his accomplishments and his failures.

His journey as a character is something we can appreciate. His actions as a man and his actions as an Antari were clearly defined in this book. To us, Holland is human first and Antari second and we were, by the end of the book not even remotely disappointed when he lost his magic after the battle. We were happy, actually to see him without the thing that had caused him the most pain throughout his life. We were happy and then we were sad to say goodbye.

We were sad to say goodbye to so many of the characters from this series. We’d made homes from them all in our heart, in a beating place inside our chest and to lose the threads of their stories after only three books was almost tear worthy in a way. Everyone and everything was embellished just that little bit more than Schwab probably intended due to our mind and knowing that we possibly won’t see where they travel and who they become over the rest of their lives is hard.

Matters of the heart certainly came to the forefront in A Conjuring of Light. There were the romantic matters and then there were the familial matters. There was Kell and Lila, Alucard and Rhy, Maxim and Emira on the romance front. Interesting how their relationships were so entirely different and then there was the relationship between Kell and Maxim/Emira, the brotherly bond of Rhy and Kell…

It was all too much and too little in some ways.

After hundreds upon hundreds of pages, we are still entirely unsure about the pairing of our dearest Lila and our self-pitying Kell. This book brought the teasing kisses and out of reach romance of the two together and we found ourselves affronted by it. Somewhere before the middle the two had this heart stopping romantic moment, or at least that’s what we think Schwab intended it to be. To us it was awkward and we could have done without it.

We’d have preferred Lila to stay single and Kell to stay…pining after her? It’s cruel, but we really would have liked it.

Alucard and Rhy on the other hand were and are sheer perfection. We enjoyed the fact that A Conjuring of Light allowed us to delve deeper into their history and see what was broken between them. Seeing Alucard out of his mind when Rhy was dying and then when Rhy was dead made it clear to us how much he cared, but not clear to the charismatic prince. Alucard’s devotion and Rhy’s acceptance came the hard way.

Maxim and Emira need only three words for their relationship. Beautiful and Heart-breaking.

Individually, the two were oh so interesting.

Maxim’s reputation as a warrior Prince and a powerful magician in his own right became really obvious as we made our way through the book. His need to protect his people at any cost and protect his family was something that was definitely shown and not told in A Conjuring of Light as we gained access to his own wonderful perspective. And what a heavy one it was.

Maxim really bore the weight of so much and in a completely different way to the way his son did. They both have responsibility being the reigning monarch and the heir to the monarchy respectively, but Maxim’s was so much more active. Although, it became increasingly evident as A Conjuring of Light progressed that Rhy was taking on more and becoming more with his glowing armour and his perception of himself.

Emira’s point of view was thought provoking to say the least, it was just as heavy as Maxim’s, but there was an elegance to her that resonated with us. She gained life and personality in this novel and she showed both her strength and her weakness whether it was with her inability to determine her relationship with Kell or her keen intellect and ability to listen to all the goings on in the castle.

We found her completely and utterly fascinating.

But we found her final moments disappointing. In our mind, she had taken on the shape of someone who would, when it counted forget her fears and show only the strength and capability that her son and husband showed. In reality or rather in this fictional reality created by Schwab she fractured.

We were not impressed.

In the months coming up to the release of ACOL Victoria Schwab was active on twitter in a manner that hyped up everything surrounding this novel, when we saw her say that it was thirty-five percent death we thought she had to be joking.

She wasn’t.

So many delicate walking and talking constructs died that we’re still having a hard time coming to terms with it all. We didn’t like anyone dying and we didn’t like the way that it was mainly people we felt we had come to know. This lady has absolutely no problems killing off her mains and her sides and the faceless beings you’re meant to perceive as people.

We must, of course mention prominent reason why most of these characters we haven’t named died.

Osaron, the magic without humanity or the possession of a soul. We got creepy Voldemort like vibes with his italic styled talk and the fact that it was eerie mind speech. How we’ve gone this long without talking about our beloved villain is beyond us.

What we like most about Osaron, is that he’s not inherently evil. He’s misguided and completely delusional, but surely if you had unmatched power and an unquenchable desire for new things and seeing potential wouldn’t you overlook the human lives you’re ending and then demand more?

No? Just us then.

Being something so powerful, we found the attempts to defeat him to be clever and enjoyable, but his actual defeat seemed to come and have passed without us realising it for more than a few pages. It wasn’t anticlimactic. It was, however, easy to miss for a moment.

There are areas in which we believe A Conjuring of Light failed to deliver and we’re going to list them for you.

  • A brand-new character, who we find intriguing called Nasi was introduced. We imagined her to be the future Queen of White London, but she was there and gone without any resolution. What’s with that Schwab? She’s definitely spinoff potential. We could totally do with a nine-year-old ascending to the throne in White London as it begins to breathe again.
  • We were teased with Kell’s hidden memories and then never got them. Granted he didn’t want them when the opportunity presented itself, but screw his wants. Ours are far more important.
  • The people with silver scars? More on them is needed.
  • The ramifications of the final battle need to be explored. Kell feels pain with his magic. Lila is Antari (we knew from book one that she was), but she doesn’t seem to posess the same level of power as the other two. We would have liked if she’d turned out to be something more unique.

So, to conclude A Conjuring of Light is a book we love dearly, but can’t help pick apart because we’re critical and analytical. It gave us so much that we enjoyed and left us wanting even more which really is a job well done. There were moments that were utterly perfect and we will never hesitate to recommend this book and the trilogy that it’s part of.

THANK YOU ALL FOR READING THIS REVIEW! What did you think? Did you like or love A Conjuring of Light? Do you think Schwab is on bored with giving us readers more adventures in the four Londons or maybe just White and Red London with Nasi as the focus eh? Hint hint. Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on:

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Arkon, Annie and a creator.

Anoshe.