Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence
Published: April 6th 2017 by Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy (YA -I think)
Rating: 4.5/5 stars – I loved it
Synopsis: 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.
I’m so glad I finally bought this book. I’d already anticipated it before its release date, but as usual never actually picked it up. In fact, I pre-ordered the sequel, Grey Sister, yesterday when I don’t often pre-order books at all. I ended up loving this book! Let me tell you why.
Here are the positive aspects of this read.
First of all, this is a book about nuns who are assassins, spies, ‘magicians’, and so on. YES PLEASE. I’ve always enjoyed reading books about assassins (does that say something about me?). But assassin nuns are somehow even better!
It’s also about training and set in a convent which is basically like a boarding school. One of my favorite settings and situations! I really like to read about characters training, because there is nothing that I loathe more than a character that just happens to be good at everything without training.
Speaking of characters that are good at everything: I like that Nona wasn’t like that. Yes, she was incredibly fast and a talented fighter/survivor. But so are the other girls. She still has to train incredibly hard to ensure the other girls don’t kick her ass. I loved that not everything came easy to her!
“You’re sure I can’t just kick her in the face before she starts?”
The Sisters are absolutely incredible too. They are the fiercest, kindest, smartest and sassiest women! Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Abbess:
“A mother’s instinct perhaps overwhelmed you. It is not uncommon in women of a certain age, but you chose poorly when picking this one…” he waved a hand towards Nona, “… to adopt.”
Abbess Glass straightened her back against the yoke’s weight and managed a wry smile. “I have many faults, high priest, too many to try to conceal. But even my enemies have yet to accuse me of owning a soft heart. I believe the word most often used against me is ‘cunning’. So it pains me to see you leap so swiftly to the conclusion that I stand before you yoked by my own stupidity.”
One of the best things about this book is that it consists of like 98% women. The vast majority of characters are female, which I could not be more grateful for! I also truly adored the female friendships, bonds and relationships in this book. The relationships are side character ones, because Nona and her friends are 8 at the start of this book and like 12 or so at the end. But the friendships! Nona would truly do anything for her friends, and I admire that about her. At one point, I was afraid it was going to pit two girls against each other just because one is poor and the other royalty but Lawrence managed to surprise me by turning that around! Yes to women supporting women.
The last thing I really appreciated is the the villain or ‘evil’ in this book isn’t some otherworldly power threatening to trigger the apocalypse. Instead, it’s a man. A terrible, wealthy, privileged man -probably the scariest villain of all. It made Nona’s struggle and fight feel so relateable and real, because the ‘bad guy’ feels so realistic too.
The truth is a weapon and lies are a necessary shield.
I do have two small negatives too… Sorry! They really are just tiny remarks.
A few times throughout the book, Lawrence used the typical let’s not tell the adults what kind of trouble we think the Convent is in because they wouldn’t understand or believe us anyway trope. I’m kind of tired of this one, to be honest. I was a bit annoyed at one point, but before it really reached ridiculous levels and got out of hand, they went to tell the Sisters.
At the end of the book, Nona purposefully keeps some things from the reader to prevent them from guessing the true twist at the end. I mean, you kind of do see it coming but she keeps vital information from you so you won’t anticipate what happens next. I hate that. Especially when you’ve been reading through her eyes for an entire book and it has never happened before.
I absolutely adored this book. I’ve pre-ordered the sequel already, and I can’t wait until it gets released and I can finish the series. It’s got amazing female friendships (and more to come?), stabby nuns, a Poisoner and the most realistic villain ever. I can’t recommend this enough!