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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2017)
The international bestselling author of the Broken Empire and the Red Queen's War trilogies begins a stunning epic fantasy series about a secretive order of holy warriors...

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don't truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.

A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass's care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies.

Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona's secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself.

Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way.

467 pages, Hardcover

First published April 4, 2017

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Mark Lawrence

72 books51k followers
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Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. Before becoming a fulltime writer in 2015 day job was as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say 'this isn't rocket science ... oh wait, it actually is'.

Mark used to have a list of hobbies back when he did science by day. Now his time is really just divided between writing and caring for his disabled daughter. There are occasional forays into computer games too.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,749 reviews
June 13, 2018
I just reread this book again today in preparation for starting book 2, and it is just as good as the first time :)

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.
Man, what a hook.

This is classic Mark Lawrence in that it's extremely violent, unflinchingly bloody, and gives no fucks, which may be bad for anyone who isn't really fond of brutality involving children (seriously, the first chapter starts with No child truly believes they will be hanged Eeee! EEEEEE!!!) and, well, nuns, but you know me.

I don't know why I'm so excited about children dying, but let's leave the psychoanalysis for another time.

Remember Harry Potter? When little Harry joyfully leaves Privet Drive to enter a school full of magic and hopefully escare his miserably cousins. This book is kind of like that, only little Nona is 8 years old and is entering a very interesting convent to learn to kill, after having already killed someone at her young age.

They grow up so fast.

This book isn't one for wimps. The world development is very intricate, and there is a pretty big cast of characters. It helps that there is a guide at the beginning of the book. For example, there are four Tribes in this book, each of which has their own prized characteristics, and all of whom are sought after for their blood and the potency thereof. I can't describe the world building as anything other than freaking brilliant. It is highly complex and remarkably imagined.

Nona is our main character, an orphaned child sold for the potential of power in her blood; through some...complications, she ended up being almost hanged for murder until she is brought to Sweet Mercy's Convent for Young Girls. From then on, we have a school setting, again, like Harry Potter, but not. I love school settings, and this book did not disappoint me. We are immersed into a very, very close setting full of women and girls, and despite the odd setting, the familiar issues of school and of adolescent are still there; there is plenty of backstabbing, competition, friendship, and even romance (!) among the girls, as they train to be one of the four paths:

- Holy Sister: maintains the faith
- Red Sister: skilled in fighting and stuff
- Grey Sister: skilled in shadowy arts and sneaking around
- Holy Witch: some magical thingamajig

You'll be glad to know Lawrence is more articulate than me in explaining these.

The trouble with most bad-ass female assassin books is that they tend to wimp out. The girl will eventually turn out to:

1. Not really be an assassin at all
2. Develop some bullshit view that LOVE IS THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL

That's not true in this book, which is a relief, given her age o_ô.

I enjoyed this book, as I've enjoyed all the other books by Mark Lawrence books I've read. His style remains consistent, and I love the way he writes.
Thorn stood without motion, for only when you are truly still can you be the centre. She stood without sound, for only silent can you listen. She stood without fear, for only the fearless can understand their peril.

Thorn waited. Fearless as flowers, bright, fragile, open to the sky. Brave, as only those who’ve already lost can be.
I really can't emphasize how much I love Lawrence's writing. It is intricate, dramatic, intensely lyrical. It makes combat and death seem like art of the highest order. If I haven't made it amply clear yet, I highly recommend this book.

A copy of this book was given to me by the author for review.
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51k followers
October 14, 2022
There's going to be a top end, illustrated, signed, numbered special edition omnibus from Grim Oak Press.

"Thorn waited. Fearless as flowers, bright, fragile, open to the sky. Brave as only those who’ve already lost can be."

Have you read Red Sister?

If you enjoyed Red Sister then don't forget to tell someone else (or hundreds of someone elses :) ). All authors depend on word of mouth, and it is always appreciated.

The Girl and the Stars starts a new trilogy in the same world. The Book of the Ice trilogy (complete) increasingly overlaps The Book of the Ancestor as the trilogy continues.

STOP PRESS! Library Journal gave Red Sister this starred review.

“In this stunning, action-filled series launch, Lawrence (“Broken Empire” trilogy) establishes a fantastic world in which religion and politics are sharp as swords, with magic and might held in the hands of wonderful and dangerous women.”

STOP PRESS! New York Times #1 bestselling author, Tamora Pierce, has read the book and said:

"Dark, passionate, tense, with a female hero anyone could relate to -- I was utterly fascinated! This is no pretty, flowery tale, but one of vastly different people struggling to survive."

Check out the reader art that has already appeared for Red Sister!


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Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
February 18, 2021
The experience of reading Red Sister is akin to getting onto the wrong train—the story draws you relentlessly in and you can’t see the journey ahead, much less guess what it holds. An equally daunting and exciting interruption of the mundane. Depending on the reader, you might decline the adventure and choose to disembark at the next stop. Or you could stay, drifting, allow yourself to be jolted out of your habits and see it through ‘til the end.

I’m glad I chose the latter.

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

From those first lines we're hurled unwary into a world where darkness abounds, where powerful children are traded for money, for favors, where priests are drawn to the lure of power, and where nuns schemed and skirmished, made alliances and broke them, called women to battle and sent them home again.

The touchstones of Nona Grey’s life had all been thrown into disarray when she was sold to a childtaker. Or perhaps, it was long before that, when she had been all of three or four years and held bloody hands to her mother and said, “this was inside him.” Or maybe that came long after, when Nona brought down near-death and woe upon Raymel Tacsis for hurting her friend and did not count the cost.

Perhaps it was the moment when she was yanked back from the brink of a descending death sentence by Abbess Glass who had seen in her a wild streak that could bloom into something magical if it was only allowed to flourish. Chance, fortune, fate—Nona didn’t really know what name to give to it. Her life was crowded with too many ghosts and all the horror of those memories was bound up in another.

Nevertheless, in the space where Nona’s story was gleaning words, legend was among them.

‘I was born for killing –the gods made me to ruin.’

Red Sister is the first book in a three-books series, and so, it falls upon it to do a lot of heavy-lifting. And it succeeds in doing so effortlessly. In spare prose of great clarity (the quotability of this book is staggering), Lawrence builds a vivid, densely believable world with an intriguing confluence of history, politics, religion and culture. His world-building is a labyrinthine sprawl of past, present, and future. The layered narrative across the decades is more like bloody footprints steering you wildly into the dark than a walkway threaded with light burning lines through the reader’s mind. But Lawrence makes it work beautifully: we come to learn about Nona’s past along the other characters as memories are returned to her, unsought, from the ether. My mind was awhirl with thoughts, and, at the center of everything: the mystery of Nona Grey.

The story takes a while to get in gear, though. Red Sister is opaque in plot and glacial in pace. Large portions of the story involve lengthy accounts of Nona’s classes and extended lectures on the Ancestor. A reader who is expecting a more organic experience might struggle with the style and pacing. But here's the thing: don't be fooled by Red Sister’s meandering plot, the way I nearly was. This novel rewards commitment, and by the time the world's magic grows from a whisper to a scream, what was sluggish has become enthralling. Like the way it’s always quiet just before a thunderclap erupts, the descent-into-hell plotline is splashed out in bright, bold strokes. Revelations about the characters struck me like a hammer blow. And by the book’s end, there is a brimming promise of the world widening even more.

The sprawling cast of mostly female characters also springs to life. The villains are frighteningly effective, and the development of the plot in tandem to how the main characters get to know each other is well played out. It’s no easy feat to handle the fraught, delicate balances of teenage female friendships as well as the terror and violence of an imminent war, but Lawrence does so masterly. I relished seeing these girls learning to form bonds with their peers, to empathize with them, to draw strength from each other instead of setting out to destroy each other in ways that a sexist system would benefit from. I’m honestly a huge button when it comes to lady friendships in books and this book new just where to push.

Red Sister is also a brilliant and triumphant reworking of the “Chosen One” trope, one that doesn't radically deconstruct it so much as examine, test and explore it more extensively and profoundly. With one thought chasing the next in endless circles, I was snatching at hypotheses, turning them over in my head and promptly dismantling them. I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.

I absolutely adored Nona’s character. Her character contains multitudes. Nona is many things. A mixture of indomitableness and vulnerability boils behind her eyes, and there’s a roil beneath her ease that I wanted to see revealed. It was also fascinating how involute and multifaceted her character is: she’s the girl who always wears her heart on her sleeve, like a bright banner to attract the world’s snipers, the girl who holds onto her closed ones with a desperate, almost fear-laced quality and to whom friendships are more sacred than any faith. But she’s also the girl who often surrenders to the deeper pull of darkness, her bloodlust unslaked, letting the rage inside her loose in a spasm of violence, the girl who could never tamp down the beehive thrum of hate and rage and despair. This was Nona Grey's gift, grotesque and marvelous, and absolutely riveting to read about.

‘Those that burn short burn bright. The shortest lives can cast the longest shadows.’

In conclusion, I am a heroine addict. I need leading ladies in order to survive. And this book, with an intriguing magic school setting and an all-female cast of deadly nuns, ticked all my boxes! Highly recommended!


My one other quibble with this book is how it treats its only disabled character, Hessa, who steps entirely onto the page and plays a major role in the resolution only to be killed off at the end. I was very disappointed when that happened. Disabled representation is already so scarce in Fantasy and I felt robbed out of a character with an incredible arc and so much potential.

If you liked this review please consider leaving me a tip on ko-fi !

Profile Image for Petrik.
675 reviews43k followers
May 18, 2020
ARC provided by the publisher—Harper Voyager—in exchange for an honest review.

The magic of rereading Red Sister strikes a gold mine.

Other than a few changes or grammatical fix, I rarely rewrite my full review. However, Red Sister merits one because I loved it so much more than my first read; the quality jumped from great to amazing in my criteria. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I decided to reread Red Sister in order to refresh my memory before I continue with the series, I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much and I certainly didn’t realize how much I forgot and failed to appreciate in my first read.

Red Sister, the first installment in Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy. The story revolves around Nona Grey, a nine-year-old girl brought and raised to become a killer in the Convent of Sweet Mercy. It usually requires ten years in order to become a Red Sister; a class of Sister specialized in armed & unarmed combat. The majority of the story in the book takes place in the Convent and focuses its narrative on Nona’s coming-of-age story. I loved this book. Red Sister is a character-driven coming-of-age fantasy with a battle/magic school setting. If you’ve read and loved Blood Song by Anthony Ryan, I envision you’ll find a lot of things to love in this book. Friendships, faith, sisterhood, money, life, and death were some of the main themes implemented that I immensely enjoyed reading.

"Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch."

The main story and themes were great but it was the characters that shone. Almost all the characters in the book were female; they were splendidly written. Nona as the main character was simply relatable and compelling to read. Although the narrative was told almost in entirety from her perspective, I found every single side character to have their own clear personality. Nona treats friendship preciously; it’s her life, her treasure and she’ll do anything for her friends. Reading about Nona’s new found friendship and family was endearing. Arabella, Abbess Glass, and the badass Sisters interaction with Nona provided a sense of addiction in the narrative. If I weren’t before, now I’m definitely intrigued to find out how the relationships between the characters will develop in the sequels.

Picture: Nona Grey by Francesca Resta

Action scenes were also integral in improving the quality of the book. Bloody, vivid, and well-written; the action sequences were placed at the right time after a superbly build pacing. Plus, instead of one, there were two climax sequences that happened in the book; at the end of the first and second half. I’m just going to say that these two climax sequences were incredible. For example, the votive candle and the Shield Test scene—especially on my first read—made me grit my teeth due to how fantastically written it was.

“I have been too young to know, and I have been too old to care. It’s in that oh so narrow slice between that memories are made.”

What made this reread experience so much better? I wasn’t able to appreciate Lawrence’s prose and the world-building this book back then. Sometimes when I finished a book, there’s this feeling that I should’ve loved it more; the problems might lie with me and my mindset rather than the book itself not working out for me. That was me with Red Sister. In my first read, I was dumbfounded and confused by the world-building. I also had a difficult time adjusting myself to Lawrence’s prose back then. Now though, on my reread, I came to realize just how much I missed—especially in world-building aspect—on my first read. In my honest opinion, Lawrence’s prose is not too suitable for new entrants to high fantasy, they’re more difficult to appreciate compared to, let’s say, Sanderson’s highly simplistic prose; I feel like I was able to appreciate and understand it so much more now. The world-building was original and interesting. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world under a dying sun; unique and destructive magic system originated from an old bloodline; I simply can’t wait to learn more about the world that Lawrence has crafted in this trilogy.

“A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat them with respect.”

I’m really glad I decided to reread Red Sister. Having finished it almost two years ago, sometimes this book appeared in my mind telling me that I should give it another go one day. I'm super pleased that I did because right now, I think of Red Sister as an amazing beginning to a trilogy. This was the first Mark Lawrence’s book that I read and reread. It has also become the first book by Lawrence that entered my 'favorites' shelf. I'm super excited to find out whether Grey Sister or Holy Sister will topple it. If you're a fan of coming-of-age fantasy with battle/magic school premise, accompanied by well-written female characters and a beautiful literary prose, you really can't go wrong with giving Red Sister a read.

Official release date: April 4th, 2017 (US), April 6th, 2017 (UK)

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 509 books403k followers
August 22, 2018
I've been a fan of Mark Lawrence's gritty 'grimdark' fantasy novels for a long while now, but I think Red Sister may be my favorite. (Sorry, Prince of Thorns. I still adore you.) Elevator pitch? Okay, it's reductive, but imagine Hogwarts as a nunnery that trains young girls to be assassins. The world of Abeth orbits a slowly dying sun. As a result, most of the world is encased in ice except for an ever-shrinking corridor along the equator, where humanity is squeezed together, fighting for survival. A satellite mirror, the "Focus Moon," passes over each night, reflecting the dying sun's concentrated light along the corridor in a losing battle to keep the ice at bay. It's a world in which magic and science co-mingle. Four bloodlines, from the original human inhabitants who came ages before, sometimes manifest themselves in present-day children. Gerants are huge and strong. Hunsa are fast and dexterous. Marjal control shadowy and elemental magic. Quantal have the ability to walk the Path -- pulling on the subatomic strands of the universe's fabric to see the future, connect their minds to others', or even manipulate reality. Our hero Nona Gray is a child from the edges of society, sold into slavery by her own mother for reasons not quite clear. She is about to be hanged by a local constable for a heinous crime when she is rescued -- if 'rescued' is the right word -- by the Abbess of the Sweet Mercy Convent. Nona is taken in, and her training begins . . . Fabulous, in-depth world building, great characters, and as always with Lawrence, plotting that is fresh and unpredictable. Upon finishing, I went out immediately and bought the sequel, Gray Sister. If you like fresh, take-no-prisoners fantasy, this is for you.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.6k followers
October 2, 2018
(4.5) I was craving a good fantasy book and this was perfect for it!

School setting, fun magic system, badass nuns?! YES!!

Loved the characters, the world (although I need to know more!), the magic system, the story... I need the second book ASAP!

Totally recommend :D
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,470 reviews9,633 followers
February 11, 2018
Do not mess with these nuns . . .

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men

No child truly believes they will be hanged. Even on the gallows platform with the rope scratching at their wrists and the shadow of the noose upon their face they know that someone will step forward, a mother, a father returned from some long absence, a king dispensing justice . . . someone. Few children have lived long enough to understand the world into which they were born. Perhaps a few adults have either, but they at least have learned some bitter lessons.

First off you must know there are a bunch of jerk holes in this book. Taking children from their homes to sell for different reasons. Mainly to fight for some other jerk in the rings. Children being killed for whatever stupid reason. And there was one part with a horse that pissed me right off and I wanted to kill everyone in the immediate area. But I digress.

Nona was about to be hanged but she was saved by one of the sisters and carted off to the nun school. Here she will train with the best and become what she is to become. You find out if you have powers and what you will actually be. Killing with poison, a stealer, a flat out killer with blades, your mind, etc and so on.

Some of the teachers were beyond bad ass. Sister Tallow for one.

"More importantly you will learn about pain, fear, rage, and control. You will learn how to balance the first three to achieve the fourth. and you will carry those lessons into Grey Class where I will put weapons in your hands and teach you what it is to be a Red Sister. In Grey Class I will teach you how to make the fuckers bleed.

Pretty awesome!

I'm not going to go into all of the classes etc. Why? because I don't feel like it and spoilers and you can read the book.

There are mixed reviews on the book. Some people think it was too boring and some loved it. I loved it and you need to decide for YOURSELF what you like. I can't wait for the next book out this coming year! Because I have a feeling that it's going to be the one that takes this to whole new level. Now don't get me wrong, there are some bloody killings in this book but we will get to the main stuff in the other books I do believe.

Happy Reading!

Mel ♥

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
April 4, 2017
Ah, this is going to be a hard book to review. I have a lot of mixed feelings about Lawrence's latest work and I'm going to try and organize my thoughts as best I can.

What I love most about Lawrence's writing is the fact he's - to be frank - dramatic as fuck. He knows how to create a nail-biting, bloody, on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of scene. Red Sister opens with an army coming to kill a nun:
It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

Then the novel's timeline takes a step back into the past as we join eight-year-old Nona on her journey from almost being hanged to her time training at Sweet Mercy's Convent for Young Girls, spanning several years.

Being someone who grew up alongside Harry Potter, magic boarding school books have a special place in my heart. I love the inevitable jealousies, rivalries and friendships that form between the students. And, hey, it's almost like the four Hogwarts houses because here the girls train to become either Red Sisters, Grey Sisters, Holy Sisters or Holy Witches.

The beginning and end of the book are awesome. It opens action-packed and dramatic, and ends likewise. The writing is superb. The more I learned about the world and magic system, the more excited I got to explore it further in the next book.

Unfortunately, it was the middle chunk of the book where I felt let down. To be honest, it was just quite... boring. It's a fairly medium-length book, and it's on the shorter side for adult fantasy, and yet it felt so very long. While I enjoyed the various character dynamics and the training/learning for a short while, it quickly became repetitive. Nona and the other sisters-in-training go to lessons, train, talk about the Path, train some more, go to more lessons...

I feel like the author has a great story to tell here, and the final quarter is where we get some payoff for the long, dragged-out wait, but for me, it wasn't quite enough. I found myself unfavorably comparing this book with other "dark" and/or "adult" magic school books like Skin Hunger and The Queen of Blood. I enjoyed both of those more.

Also, I found Nona - and the characters in general - to be a little stock. She interests me enough to pique my curiosity in the sequel, but she falls into the same old badass female assassin mold that's become the norm in fantasy. I look forward to her character being more developed in the next book.

I will definitely be reading the sequel. The ending drops off of a dramatic cliff and seems to promise many exciting things for the future of this story and world. Despite the pacing issues, it's hard not to want to come back for more of this bloody, nasty drama.

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Profile Image for James Tivendale.
311 reviews1,330 followers
May 13, 2019
I received an advanced copy of Red Sister from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to announce my gratitude to Mark Lawrence, Ace and Berkley Publishing Group for this opportunity.

Throughout this narrative, we flaunt within the mind of and follow the actions of Nona. Our protagonist is a young girl who we are introduced to initially whilst she is awaiting execution via the gallows for killing a renowned pit-fighter. Luckily for Nona, it just so happens that Abbess Glass, who manages the Sweet Mercy Convent has taken such an interest in her hardships that she offers her the option of joining the nunnery as a Novice, thus escaping the impending death sentence. A large contingent of the interested parties are not particularly happy with this outcome. Perhaps the reason being that Nona did murder the son of one of the wealthiest and proudest men in the world. The repercussions of this singular act ripple throughout the tale.

Nona, a fiery but slightly damaged peasant with talents she doesn't truly understand then finds herself in the establishment where the Sisters of Sweet Mercy frequent. It is here where they train future nuns within certain art forms and most importantly, where all revere the Ancestor. Did I mention that these novices are trained to become some of the deadliest killers in the land for their Holy purposes?

"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men"

The nunnery is reminiscent of the magic schools such as those created within The Kingkiller Chronicles and A Wizard of Earthsea. Claustrophobic atmospheres, close friendships, harsh teachers, bizarre traditions, bullies and the ultimate shaping of the raw talents shown by Nona, and others; into what their potential will allow. Nona reminded me of Sonea from the Magician's Trilogy. They are similar with their poor upbringing, attending establishments of special education against the wishes of many influential individuals and also, whispers that they are some kind of "chosen one". This is a lot darker than Trudi Canavan's trilogy. The vein here is more sinister, despondent and Nona's past seems extremely more tortuous than Sonea's did.

A large percent of Red Sister is set within the convent. The trials and tribulations here, in some aspects, are similar to youth experienced by all young girls such as making friends, dealing with bullies and disliking teachers amongst other dramas. What isn't similar to our world is that the novices become trained in extreme fighting (using fists, knives and throwing stars), taught about poisons and other skills that readers would describe as magical. The convent also has what is known as the Blade Path, which is a timed assault course like activity which would put army endurance tests to shame. In addition to the antics at the convent, the nuns and novices travel elsewhere in this world should their studies find it befitting, such as training with other youths at The Academy. The escapades elsewhere mainly lead them to the capital city of Verity, however; I will not say much about the storyline when the sisters are "unleashed" from their habitual establishment. A highly intriguing aspect of this book was the ingeniously placed flashback sections regarding Nona's youth prior to being found guilty of murder. Examples include juggling lessons and her being abandoned by her family. Each flashback adds an extra layer to Nona's already intricate, complex and perhaps even notorious character.

In Lawrence's envisaged world, the moon is falling, there are two miles high fields of ice encompassing the majority of the globe leaving The Corridor where the action takes place and also, one of the finest "magic-systems" I have ever seen depicted in fantasy.

The "magic-system" is labyrinthine in its complexity. I used quotation marks with that phrase as to describe it as being as simplistic as that statement is underwhelming for what has been created. For precision, complexity and potential - the magics are potentially on par with the Warrens used in Malazan and Allomancy in Mistborn. At the moment, as stated, I would say they are on par, however; we have no idea of the full possibilities. We were given glimmers throughout of the extra powers certain characters witnessed without understanding and which they could learn when older to manipulate to their will. It is exciting. There is a good mix of John Woo: Stranglehold like slowdown of time, thought control, mind sharing, walking "The Path" to obtain phenomenal destructive power, Witcher-like tracking senses amongst other talents. The skills they have acquired depend on which of the four legendary Abeth tribes these novices descended from.

The fabrication of the abnormal powers seems confusing at first but I believe this is intentional. Nona is of course, in an educational environment and as she learns about the magic, possibilities, poisons and histories of the world, then we as readers learn it also. Our gaps in knowledge are filled as the tale progresses, with the necessary information as Nona learns herself; which equals heightened affinity to our protagonist because we are going through the same learning issues and symptoms.

This book has scenes of macabre and harrowing happenings but it will then switch back to a pleasant scene in the Convent's dormitory where Nona, as a 9-year-old is gossiping about the happenings in the nunnery and also chatting to her fellow novices about families and friends as young children would. These scenes brought me metaphorically back down to Earth where I had to put the book down for a second and re-analyse that these girls were that young going through what would make many grown men weak at the bladder. It is a great juxtaposition and unifies Nona's relationship with important characters such as Ara, Hessa, Zole and Clera.

The finale of this story was utterly breathtaking. Nona is one of my favourite characters in fiction. Lawrence has created one of the most engaging fantasy worlds that my mind has allowed me to visit. At the finale, the second book is set up exceptionally well. It hit me yesterday that because I have an advanced copy of this, that I have to wait even longer for the second book. That is quite upsetting. When it is released officially I will buy this as it deserves a prime of place on my literal favourite bookshelf in my library. This tale was so extraordinary in my mind that I am questioning my previous ratings of other similar stories in this genre. So, note to authors; if I take a star or two off your rating then it is Mark Lawrence's fault, not mine.

James Tivendale x
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,172 reviews98.2k followers
February 13, 2020

ARC provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

“A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one.”

This story surrounds a young girl, given away by her mother and village after a frightful night. Yet, even being given away, our young protagonist, Nona, proves that there will always be room in your heart to love. The children that are given away to be sold are worth as much as what is in their blood. There are four tribes in this world, and the purer the blood you have, or the more tribes you have in your blood, makes your worth incredibly more valuable.

“What good is holy if it watches my friend die –not because she did something wrong but because her blood wasn’t good enough?”

Four Tribes that the people in this world can descend from:
Gerant - Great size and strength.
Hunska - Quick speed.
Marjal - The ability to tap into lesser magic.
Quantal - The ability to walk the Path and work greater magic.

Nona is sold and has a lot of potential because of her blood, but after Nona is found guilty of a very violent crime, she is sentenced to death. That is, until she is stolen and taken to Sweet Mercy's Convent for young girls, because her blood and potential should not be wasted. Unfortunately, Nona is harboring secrets that are constantly making her question her worth, no matter what's in her blood.

“That’s my secret and my shame. I’m Nona Grey, war is in my veins, and the screams of my enemies are music to me.”

Four Classes in the Convent for the novices to learn as a group:
Red Class - Ages 9-12 typically.
Grey Class - Ages 13-14 typically.
Mystic Class - Ages 15-16 typically.
Holy Class - Ages 17-19 typically.

In ten years, Nona will be educated and taught everything she needs to know in the ways of blade and fist while becoming a Red Sister, but there are going to be many hurdles in her way. This book spans only three of those years, but we already get to see the political, power, and religious problems that will not be ignored or easily fought.

Four Paths for the novices to take once they become nuns:
Bride of the Ancestor, Holy Sister - Honors the Ancestors and keeps the faith.
Martial Sister, Red Sister - Warriors skilled in armed and unarmed combat.
Sister of Discretion, Grey Sister - Masters of stealth and potions with shadow work.
Mystic Sister, Holy Witch - Walks the Path and manipulates threads.

“The hardest lesson I ever learned was that every bad thing you see a friend do to someone else they will someday do to you.”

This story puts such a heavy emphasis on friendship and the importance of believing in others even when you've been hurt in the past. Friendship truly is the constant theme of this story, and how beautiful and cruel it can be. Trust is something we should never give willingly, but it can reap so many beautiful things if you choose to put your trust in the right person.

“Truth is an ax. Without judgment it’s swung in great circles, wounding everybody”

Four girls whose paths cross regardless of what they wanted:
Nona - Our sweet cinnamon roll protagonist.
Arabella - From royal blood.
Clera - Father/family in great financial trouble.
Zole - From the Ice Tribes and the ward of a very powerful woman.

No one is truly all good; everyone comes with failures and faults. Good people can do terrible things just as easily as bad people can perform righteous miracles. Believing in someone else can be a great treasure or a horrible curse, but believing the bad or the good of yourself can be catastrophic.

And the writing, oh the writing. This writing is slow and meticulous and meaningful. It's different and unique and reflective on things going on in today's world. It's mesmerizing and lyrical and completely unforgettable. I honestly feel like I could have highlighted this whole book! I will definitely be rereading some of these quotes for the rest of my life.

For me, this story has seeped its way into my body and embedded itself into my heart. I was unable to put it down, and I still am so invested in Nona's character. Nona is the best character I've read about in years. If there was a way for me to put myself into this story, I would and I would fight by her very side because I believe in her that much.

“A juggler once came to my village. He was my first friend.”

This is a story about a chosen one, but it is done in such a perfect way that you are left constantly questioning what is true and what is false. This isn't your typical chosen one cliché in the slightest. The prophecy in this book is unlike any other you've read, and the battle for the truth is such a treat to read about.

“It says that the Ark will open when the four tribes demand it with one voice.”

And I mean, ultimately this is a story about magical warrior nuns fighting a war from many different sides! How much more do I need to say to sell you?

Okay, let's talk for a minute about *holds breath and pauses for dramatic effect* SCHOOL SETTINGS! Most people, like me, in their mid to late twenties, grew up with Harry Potter which has bewitched all of us to absolutely love and devour books set in boarding school settings. All the different nuns, with all their different specialties, were so reminiscent of Harry Potter, too, that I couldn't help but become addicted to reading this. (Side note: Apple/Mistress Shade is everything I wish Snape was in a Potions Master, and she filled my heart with so much happiness.)

This story also beautifully features lesbians. In fact, I do not believe we even see a hetero relationship in this book. There are two nuns in this book, who are teachers and obviously together, which no one ever shames or questions, but treats the relationship how it should be treated: as normal. There is also a good discussion on being young and having feelings that you aren't sure are "correct" since the feelings are not of the 'norm" of society. One of the other younger girls in the Convent is discovering she is gay, and the transition of her realization is somewhat painful, but so very important. It is never stated that Nona is gay herself, but I truly feel like she is, and I am so excited for that development that could grow, you have no idea. Let the record state that all I want in my life are lesbians in my high fantasy novels and this portion of the story made me completely biased. Also, thank you Mark Lawrence for making a Convent, for only women and girls, have lesbians, because many other authors would have skipped the obvious and made everyone straight.

My one and only criticism:

“Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated.”

Overall and needless to say, I loved this. It was so immersive and so all-encompassing. I never wanted to put this book down, and all I want now is the second book. The characters are on a whole other level, the writing is nothing short of phenomenal, and the story is so very captivating and addicting. This book will easily make my "top books of 2017" list. Please, do yourself a favor and pick up this amazing book on April 4th, 2017.

“There is, in the act of destruction, a beauty which we try to deny, and a joy which we cannot. Children build to knock down, and though we may grow around it, that need runs in us, deeper than our blood.”

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Profile Image for Elena May.
Author 11 books692 followers
June 16, 2017
It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.

Are you kidding me with this hook?!?

Is this the best opening sentence in the history of fantasy or what??

Okay, I know. It’s the Prologue. Many books have action-packed prologues that don’t match the rest, so let’s move on to Chapter 1...

No child truly believes they will be hanged.

This was my first Mark Lawrence book. I’ve been aware of his works for some time, and he once again got on my radar when he became the main A-lister in the Fabulous Fantasy Giveaway. And now I can’t wait to read the rest of his novels!

I’ve seen many reviewers describe this book as a Harry Potter for adults, with lots of blood and gore. On the surface it’s all there – a magic boarding school, wise teachers, four paths the students can take. We even have a poor, orphaned, dark-haired protagonist who is unfamiliar with the magic world, and the rich and blond school nemesis. And the headmaster abbess herself takes a special interest in our protagonist – she brings her to the school under unusual circumstances and supports her with advice and protection. But this is all where the superficial similarities end, and nothing about this book feels derivative . The author never stops playing with the Chosen One trope and takes it to unexpected places!

My favorite thing about this book is the world-building. Abeth is amazing! The focus moon, that allows the Corridor to exist between the blocks of ice! All the different cultures living across the long Corridor! The tribes hunting on the ice, among the ruins left by people who no longer exist! Magic tribes, shiphearts, ships sailing among the stars! I’d love to visit and just travel around though it sounds dangerous and cold. It’s quite intriguing and terrifying how everyone is in a war with everyone, instead of uniting forces to avoid the coming natural disaster, but it’s also very realistic.

The book has a large cast of characters, and most are well developed, with their own distinguishable personalities. Nona is fascinating – due to her upbringing, she doesn’t understand people, and if you’re her friend, you have to spell it out for her, or else she’ll never know. She’s extremely undiplomatic – she can never pretend to be civil with someone she hates, and is ready to go on a murder spree even if it could lead to an absolute disaster. She’s also strangely devoid of anxiety at some points. If I were her, after arriving at the convent, I’d be driving myself crazy with worry the Tacsis family would be coming, but she doesn’t spare it much thought. I would have liked to see more of her character development happen onscreen. We start with the girl who can’t understand people in Red Class, and move on to someone joking around with the friends in Grey Class, and all of it happens during the gap we never get to see.

Overall, a solid and enjoyable fantasy novel. Looking forward to the next book in the series!

Can you think of a book with a better opening sentence?
Profile Image for Anne.
3,922 reviews69.3k followers
October 21, 2022
100% badass from start to finish.


When I think of nuns my mind doesn't immediately leap to a group of violent assassins.
Or, at least, it didn't use to.
Now? Well, now perhaps I'll think twice before I try to put the smackdown on a Sister. Who knows what sort of training they've had or weapons they're hiding under those habits?!
You can never be too cautious with those religious types...


So, yeah this is basically a story that centers around a little girl with supernatural Wolverine claws who's trying to find her place in the world. She gets sold by her village into slavery, convicted of murder and sentenced to hang, and recruited into the Medival Ninja Nun convent - all by the ripe old age of 9. Make no mistake, this kid is a vicious killer.
And I loved her so much!


Ok, I can see why some people might want to compare the convent to Hogwarts, but...no. I mean, yes there are kids being trained in a 'school setting' to use different forms of magic, there are friendships and rivalries, and there is a prophecy about a Chosen One who will save the day.
Yadda, yadda, yadda...
Still. This is not a retelling of Harry Potter and his band of loyal friends.
This is a story about a very dangerous, very bloodthirsty little girl...with a heart of gold.


I don't hand out 5 stars very often anymore, but this was a phenomenal book. I'm kind of scared of saying anything about the plot because I'm afraid it might ruin someone else's fun, but I have to mention how much I loved the way Lawrence pulled off those flashforward/flashbacks - whatever you want to call them. They were a brilliant touch that took the reading experience to a whole new level for me.
Highly Recommended!
Profile Image for Sofia.
258 reviews6,495 followers
December 5, 2021
Everyone is talking about how Goodreads needs to add half-stars, but what I need right now is a sixth star specifically so I can give it to this book.

Elmo Hell GIFs | Tenor

Living in a land with a dying sun and a failing moon, Nona Grey was just a young girl when she was bought from her family and trained as a ring-fighter. But when she defends her friend and almost kills a man, she is noticed by Abbess Glass, head of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. There, she is trained to be a skilled killer as her old blood begins to show itself. But she is hiding a dark past and demons that threaten to destroy her.

Before starting this book, I would recommend making sure you understand what each of the bloods mean.
Children of hunska, gerant, marjal, or quantal blood inherit special powers.
Hunska = very, very fast
Gerant = giant and tall and strong
Marjal = can use lesser, more practical or physical magic
Quantal = can use greater magic such as thread-work and Path-walking

My favorite part of this book was the character development.

Nona is such an amazing main character. She's fleshed out and realistic but not boring because she has many sides. She has trouble dealing with anger but has great emotional maturity, meaning I was hardly ever annoyed. Lawrence did such a good job writing her. I felt what she felt. She values honesty and friendship more than anything else. I want to give her a giant hug. She does terrifying things, but she's still a really good person. I love her.

[Nona] had vowed that she would never let a friend down, that she would do anything, anything at all, to protect them. A vow more sacred to her than the Ancestor, more holy than the church from tallest spire to lowest crypt.

None of the characters are cliches. Reading books about magic/fighting schools is always a toss-up because sometimes characters fall into the tropes of bully, speshul powerful kid, smart kid, kid who will tell his father about this, et cetera. I love the side characters so much. The relationships between them are complicated and realistic. They all have bad traits and good traits, just like a normal person. They're not perfect at everything. They come from different upbringings and each bring a different point of view to the friend group. Each one has a distinct personality and the way they interact with each other is exquisitely relatable. Certain characters, like Abbess Glass, are written really well. She's smart and sees the whole picture. She always has a plan, even if it doesn't make sense in the present moment.

I would jump in front of a train for so many of these characters. 😌💅

I love Lawrence's writing so much. It's compact and not purple at all. It's dramatic without being cheesy. It's readable with no pointless sentences. Also, everything makes sense. The lessons taught in classes at Sweet Mercy are thoughtful and interesting, and some of them can even be applied to the life of a person who isn't a killer with magical powers.

"I want to know-"
"People always want to know things... until they hear them, and then it's too late."

Sister Kettle is every reader.

"The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat books with respect."
"I can just... read them?" Nona asked.
"Any time you want. Just make sure to put them back when you leave. And don't damage them. They're my babies. My old leathery babies. And I have a very unpleasant poison from Sister Apple for anyone who so much as folds a page."

There are like three men in this book. Not including the cat.

”Someone let that damned cat in here! He’s peed on my underskirts! Sister Rule should drown the thing!”
“Malkin’s nice,” Jula said, not looking up. “Just a bit old and confused.”
“Needs drowning!”
“The only male in the convent and he spends his time pissing on everything.” Clera from her bed.
“There’s the roosters too.” Jula still not looking up.
“Who spend their time crowing and strutting about,” Clera said.
“And the pigs.”
“Who eat and shit,” Clera said. “I rest my case.”

*What a Wonderful World starts to play*

Red Sister is an exciting, action-packed book with some awesome tender moments as well. The ending felt like a fever dream of pain and blood and death. It was amazing and I cried.

6 stars
Author 1 book358 followers
June 4, 2017
It had never crossed my mind that I would read a greater story than that of Kvothe the Arcane. I had never thought it was possible to find a greater character than the Emperor Jorg Ancrath. I had never even slightly considered that there might be a fantasy world out there toppling that of Τhe Final Empire, and most definitely, I had never thought that i could love a book more than The Night Angel. But here we are.

Nona, a young girl of eight, orphaned by her father and abandoned by her mother, is waiting her turn on the gallows. She committed a terrible crime; that of saving a girl that was not meant to be saved. But Nona isn't a simple girl. She has Hunska blood in her veins; a residue from a civilization long lost, blessing her with unique abilities. So, she is given a choice. Either pay for her crimes, or join the Convent of Sweet Mercy; a military monastery with the reputation of raising little girls to fearsome warriors. But even though Nona is determined to leave behind her violent past, her powerful enemies are not...

"There is, in the act of destruction, a beauty which we try to deny, and a joy which we cannot. Children build to knock down, and though we may grow around it, that need runs in us, deeper than our blood. Violence is the language of destruction, flesh so often the subject, fragile, easy to break beyond repair, precious: what else would we burn to make the world take note? Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch."

Mark's work is one of beauty and ingenuity. His great mastery with words alongside the excellent use of allegories and aphorisms result in a purposeful and interesting prose with no equal. A significant number of archetypes are reversed, twisted and contorted with the unique skills of a master craftsman, taken beyond functionality and turned into art. Worth mentioning is the exceptional handling of anaphoras in the two prologues and the epilogue.

The world-building is delicate and refined. Although most of the story takes place inside the convent, the world is explored through flashbacks and tales. The magic is complex and multi-leveled; you can say it's a mix of DragonBall and Mortal Kombat*. Finally, the characters are well-composed and far more compelling than the ones from the Broken Empire. I found myself caring for the fate of more than four nuns.

Being lucky enough to get my hands on this ARC already, i'm not sure if I have to declare this book the greatest work of fantasy fiction for 2016 or 2017. Well... why not both?

*You are going to see something like this:

You can find more of my reviews over at http://BookNest.eu/
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,481 followers
May 11, 2020
Sale Alert!!!: 11May20 This is the Audible Daily Deal. If you don't have it pick it up $5.95

I WON!!!!


The amazing Mark Lawrence is sending me a signed copy of this. I AM SO EXCITED!!!

I won it and now I've finally read in since Grey Sister comes out shortly. Full Review To Come but NONA is awesome.

Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
235 reviews3,117 followers
November 4, 2022
Check out my YouTube channel where I show my instant reactions upon finishing reading fantasy books.

A book with several strong parts, but has too many boring sections to be anything more than "average".

This one was a bit of a struggle for me, as I want so very badly to love Mark Lawrence as a writer - and I keep giving his books chances and they keep falling flat for me. He's such as awesome guy and I love what he is doing for the fantasy self published book scene. I read the first two books in the Broken Empire series and can't finish that series out due to how much I disliked the second book - but I've routinely heard from people that all his series are very different and just because I didn't like one doesn't mean I won't like the others. So I went into this with mixed expectations.

I thought this book started off extremely good. I loved the worldbuilding here, and without spoiling anything I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the unique part that makes this world different from other fantasy worlds is wonderful and intriguing. I thought the opening sequence of an army coming to kill single nun was fascinating and filled me with wonder.

As we then take a step back in time to learn about a young girl who is about to be hanged due to murdering someone, and subsequently joining a magic school were fun, and really set the stage for what could have been an incredible book.

The writing was very well done (much better than the previous Lawrence books I read), the magic system was fun, and the drama is cranked up to high levels.

But as the book went along the wheels started to fall off. Put simply, very, very little happens and it left me rather uninterested until the end of the book. Don't get me wrong, I don't need a lightning fast plot to keep me interested, but there is so little that happens it just feels monotonous and unnecessary. It's just a very long training montage that goes on for literally hundreds of pages.

The characters don't get too much depth to them, and even the main character feels like I've read characters like her a hundred times. And for a book with little plot to speak of, it needs extremely strong characters to carry this book - and they just aren't there in this book.

I thought the ending of this book really did bring things home and ramp up the tension again, but it couldn't save the huge portions of this book that were just a bore to read - and left me feeling that this book was extremely average.
Profile Image for Emma.
976 reviews976 followers
April 19, 2018
When I started this I was a bit worried.

Actually, it wasn't the start, the prologue was heart-thuddingly, pulse-poundingly exciting:

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

That opening sentence... Seriously, could you resist the lure of that dark promise??

Then the first chapter.

No child truly believes they will be hanged.

If I could do that scream emoji on here, picture that. It's the kind of beginning that makes you sit up in your seat, tense and jittery all at once, and read and read and read.

Then we end up in a school type setting and everyone is a bit nice or a bit mean. And Nona is hiding secrets but she's doing right by her friends. This is when I worried. Has Mark Lawrence gone soft? Is this long awaited (by me) female lead going to let me down? I met Jorg (Prince of Thorns), I know what this author can do, so why are there girls' dorms and nuns?? Is Mark Lawrence writing... cuddly fiction??

Well, the answer is clearly and definitively 'NO'. Anyone worried that he's lost his edge or changed his style need not bother. Nona is a character worth spending time with. She's a very different offering than Jalan and Jorg, but in no way less spellbinding. Not because the author has decided to make her some pantomime of 'girly', but because she has so much depth to offer. The training section is all about her hiding, from others and from herself, and who/what allows her to move on from that. This is when we get to see her and how she becomes our friend. Of course she has some serious kick-ass abilities and a serious anger control problem, but unlike the boys, it's going to be her compassion, loyalty, and friendship that makes her truly dangerous. After all, what wouldn't you do to protect your closest friends?? She is not cool self interest or mocking self depreciation, she is fire and death and devastation. Cross her at your peril. I was born for killing-the gods made me to ruin. And she does, trust me.

Even though the training section may feel too long at times (probably more as a result of just how good the action segments were than anything lacking in these bits), the writing was as incredible as ever, and the last two sections were so blindingly brilliant I had to read them twice over: first time in a desperate rush to get to the end and see what happens, second time to savour the details. Not only did I leave the book buzzing from the final sequences, I'm filled with anticipation for what comes next. The idea of Nona and her Sisters coming fully in to their own, as they do just a little (teasingly) at the end?!! Whoa. It's the kind of pleasurable tension that will make me stalk Mark Lawrence's social media for updates every day from now till it arrives in my hands. Just thinking over all the highlights to write this review is making me feel nervy and over excited, I can't sit still. Any book that leaves you that way deserves the full five stars.

ARC offered by the author.
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,044 followers
April 13, 2017
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths.

My rating is 2.5 stars.

Red Sister is a novel which has (rightly so, in my opinion) been dubbed the new Harry Potter for young adults. And, without a doubt, it follows the familiar pattern of children growing up and being trained by wise teachers at a specialized school for youth; the narrative fully embracing the whole coming-of-age and Chosen One mythos for good measure. Our main character’s unfortunate past and current travails chronicled in excruciating detail: every friendship, every enemy, every struggle, every triumph, every doubt, every hope. Mark Lawrence taking great pains to create a close knit community of young and old women bound together by their order and their emotional ties; massive page time devoted to the tough training and wise teachings the characters receive. And while that probably sounds like sugar coated candy for Harry Potter lovers, it left me more than a little disappointed.

The tale is told through the eyes of Nona, a young girl, who is waiting her turn for the gallows after committing the terrible crime of saving her friend from a violent man; a man whose father just happened to be one of the most powerful people in the kingdom. All that rescues Nona from death the timely intervention of a nun from the Covenant of Sweet Mercy: a monastery devoted to training women to be the most feared warriors in the world.

Once in her new home, Nona quickly meets and befriends a host of girls her own age; people whom she grows to care about in different ways. Each of them sharing their hopes, dreams and fears to one another as they attempt to survive the brutal training of their teachers; women who will do anything to train their pupils – even poison them when necessary. But while Nona attempts to lose herself and her past in the confines of the convent, her past will not leave her be; powerful people bent on revenge, not only against her but against the order itself and the nuns who run it. Much of this hate driven by an ancient prophecy and the social, political, and ecological events transpiring in the world outside.

Just as with The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War, world building is a real strength of this narrative; Mark Lawrence outdoing himself with a unique, compelling setting for his characters to play in. Nona’s world quickly becoming an intriguing place, filled with ancient mysterious, ominous prophecies, environmental issues, and technological abnormalities, which are only loosely explained; all of it blending together to create a panoply of lands and people which a reader will desperately wish to explore and learn more about. This fact made even more impressive when you realize the whole book basically takes place inside the walls of a convent with only the character’s conversations and brief flashbacks and flashforwards to future events being used to accomplish all this.

Populating this fantasy world is a cast of characters cut in the cloth of realism. Our main protagonist, Nona, a more normal person than prior Mark Lawrence leads. No sociopath princes to be found here. No cowardly heroes either. Rather, we have a girl with no family, no future, and no real idea who or what she wishes to become. A youth who grows and matures before a reader’s eyes, guiding by strong women; many of whom are involved in mature same sex relationships. (These relationships normal and matter-of-fact affairs.) Nona slowly revealing her troubled past, sharing her feelings, admitting her fears, and learning the cost and worth of real friendship. Her and her young companions slow march toward maturity drawing you into their demanding life of constant training.

And so we come to my main difficulty with Red Sister: the training. Once Nona arrives at the convent, nearly every moment is consumed by training. We learn about the different blood lines the girls come from – each with their own unique abilities hardwired into their genes; the “levels” each novice must go through during their training; we experience the numerous classes with the unique teachers – some friends and some foes; the “Paths” these youths must one day choose from when they finally become nuns. Nona’s martial education conservatively taking up around 75% of the narrative. Which might not be a bad thing if you love Harry Potter-like books or just really love endless training sessions. Unfortunately, I’m not a Potterhead and a little training is more than enough for my tastes, so the bulk of this novel was a horrendous chore for me to get through.

I know, I know, every fantasy reviewer out there seems to adore Red Sister. Five star ratings everywhere one looks. And I certainly understand why some readers would adore this story. But, on this occasion, I can’t jump on the bandwagon. For me, this novel was an okay read. Only reaching 2.5 stars due to the great ending. So while I know people will vehemently disagree with me about Red Sister, I’m perfectly okay with my opinion being in the minority here, because the bulk of the narrative left me cold. No, the book wasn’t bad at all, mainly because Mark Lawrence can make a discussion about menstrual cycles seem interesting (Yes, there is exactly this type of discussion in Red Sister.), but it just did not read with the same fire, same passion, same energy as other Mark Lawrence stories. Hence, the low star rating.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,258 reviews8,705 followers
March 26, 2018
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

First of all, b/c I've already been asked numerous times, YES, this is an entirely new trilogy, unrelated to Lawrence's previous works. So if you tried to read PRINCE OF THORNS and DNFed it b/c you couldn't tolerate that little shit of an MC (I've been assured that he gets better around 40%, but I haven't personally made that determination for myself), now's your chance to give Lawrence another shot.

Second of all, even after reading through it again when I finished the book, I still found the prologue to be absolutely baffling. Oh, parts of it made more sense, like the description of the landscape, but without any foreknowledge, I was violently frustrated over seemingly conflicting information: how could the coast be glimpsed through a sea of 1024 columns? How could BOTH the northern and southern ice be visible from one place? Then there's everything that comes after, "Here's a moment," which is when things got really confusing.

Fortunately, it's only a few pages in length, so if you find yourself similarly baffled, power through it, b/c those three pages are the real only complaint I have about the whole thing.

Is it dark? Yes, gloriously so.

Is it violent? Enough to satisfy me at my bloodthirsty worst:

There is in every delicate thing, no matter how precious, nor how beautiful, a challenge. Break me.

And despite being mostly about warrior nuns, it's also exciting. It's not a secret that I avoid most fantasy with predominant religious orders, b/c I find men (it's usually men) who don't drink, curse, or chase tail (<------gender neutral) deathly dull. #sorrynotsorry

Instead we've got a hunska small girl, sold into slavery and about to hung for killing a literal giant of a man.

You: How'd she manage that?

Me: READ THE BOOK. *twirls mustache*

Then things get really exciting.

You learn about a world on the verge of collapse, a thin corridor of civilization dependent on a failing moon that somehow keeps the ice at bay. You learn of nuns who, if they have the blood for it, train as poisoners and spies and warriors. Plots within plots within plots reveal the scheming hearts of the various leadership, and at the center of it all is a convenient prophecy about the one who will save them all.

But there are also whispers of older gods, The Missing, whose cities lie abandoned under the ice . . .

Sounds worth checking out, does it not?

Now for my SPOILERY speculation (and my one other complaint that boils down to my being a kill-them-all-kill-them-now kind of girl, so more an issue of preference than a "real" complaint).


Final verdict: Highly recommended.

Jessica Signature
Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,199 followers
Want to read
May 14, 2020
I need to read a Mark Lawrence book
Profile Image for Nicole.
732 reviews1,838 followers
February 23, 2021
"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size."

I went to a Catholic school for 14 years, nuns were the ones responsible there. Naturally, we disliked them, they were mean, heartless, and too strict. However, after this book, all I can say is wow, I wish that was my kind of school! Because you see, these are no ordinary nuns. I mean who would train the students to poison, kill, and destroy? Of course, in self-defense ;)

Meet Nona Grey, the female version of Kvothe (of course, no one is as cool but she's as close as it gets). So Nona is probably the most badass girl at age 8. She almost killed one of the strongest pit fighters and he only survived because of magic and not medicine! So naturally, I will adore her because I love my chicks to be kickass and don't take shit from anyone.



After she tried to kill the son of the wealthiest family in the empire, Abbess Glass saves Nona from an inescapable death and recruits her to join the convent of Sweet Mercy. Even though they are taught about faith and the Ancestor, the nuns of Sweet Mercy are not ordinary. They train deadly assassins and helps those with special talents to flourish. There, Nona makes new friends and develop her abilities. However, her past won't stop hunting her and her powers can't be kept a secret anymore...

One of my favorite things about this book is the friendship between the girls. Usually, in books, we see solid male friendships but so rarely females. Sometimes, it starts strong but they drift apart for some reason. Not in this book. I know it's natural since they live in a dorm and go to the same classes, but it was well done nonetheless. I liked how Nona developed a special bond with Hessa, how she held Ara precious and was ready to do anything to protect her. Nona's definition of friendship equaled trust. She'd never betray her friends and expected them to do the same in return. They'll be hell of a squad when they grow up. I also liked the nuns, especially sister Apple and sister Kettle. I loved how they treat the children, at least Nona, not as kids but as people who will understand and think for themselves.

The story started strong, addicting, and fascinating. It's told in the 3rd person from Nona's pov. While our girl is more mature than most of our YA heroines nowadays, she's no reliable narrator. She told her friends lies and I believed her until she told another lie and I learned to never do. She's always keeping something to herself or alternating past events. She played with the truth and reformed it. Yet, you can't help but admire her. Nona is brave, vicious, smart, and deadly. I just love her. Even though the cliffhanger in Red Sister is no major one, I want to read the next book so bad. She was already amazing at 10 and 12, so what will she become at 18?

The worldbuilding in this book is quite creative even if it was too confusing sometimes. The sun is dying, the moon is falling, the globe is iced, except for a very limted part called the Corridor. The moon is the only thing keeping the earth from being completely frozen. This is brilliant. The magic system is well developed. Some people have special abilities because of their blood, some more than others. You can be faster, bigger, walk the Path (greatest power), or have some minor magic but also impressive. Those who have more than one gift are rare and more powerful. However, scarce are those who possess more than 2.

Why not 5 stars? (minor spoilers sorry)
Everything was perfect until we reached the second half. As Nona learned about her world, we learned with her too. But eventually, it got boring. Even introducing Zole (hope they'll become friends) didn't help. From 50% to 80% of the book, I felt like I was barely making any progress. Luckily, the events picked up eventually, and I couldn't put the book down. This book isn't an exception from one of the most annoying cliches in books. Remember Harry when he never told Dumbledore what's happening even though it could've saved lots of trouble? I know things turned out okay and he learned his lesson but I'm not even sure things will be fine here! When kids know something, they should tell the grown ups. Sometimes they are bad but not here. Sister Abbess didn't show Nona but good intentions. I hated how they didn't tell the sisters what they discovered. It cost them dearly.

Other than that, this book was simply amazing. It's easily the best book released in 2017 I read so far. I highly recommend it even if you didn't enjoy Prince of Thorns. I haven't read it (yet) but heard enough about it to know it's nothing like this book at all. Mark Lawrence did a splendid job, the writing style was gripping and the characters definitely memorable. It was my first book by this author but certainly not the last.

Go read this book as soon as it comes out! You won't regret it!

arc provided via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Luna. ✨.
92 reviews1,215 followers
April 18, 2017
Full review now up!


"Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”

This ARC was provided by NetGallery in exchange for an honest review. Release date in Australia is 6th of April 2017

I went into Red Sister with apprehension, because I didn't love this authors other series Broken Empire. So automatically knowing this was a YA I thought I'd hate it. However I got it completely wrong, I actually really enjoyed reading this book and it was actually a fantastic coming of age, YA book. I honestly thought Mark would have struggled transitioning from grimdark and adult fantasy to a YA novel, however the transition was smooth and it was the best book I've read by him yet. However it had a few issues, that's why it isn't getting five stars from me, but I honestly think the rest of the series will be awesome and more then likely a favourite for myself.

"Truth is a weapon and lies are a necessary shield.”

The book is about an orphaned girl named Nona who has been accused for a crime and is to be hung, however she is brought by the sisters of the Sweet Mercy nunnery, where their girls are taught the way of the blade and fist. After ten years of training they become badass nun assassins.

Seriously this book is as good as it sounds.

Reasons why I loved this book;
• Nona is a total badass and I really enjoyed her POV. Nona is aged 9-12 through majority of the book but is extremely mature.
• The background characters were amazing.
• The world building was beautiful and VIVID.
• All storylines were interconnecting. So it was very interesting.
• The FRIENDSHIPS were so realistic and wonderful, like I wish the girls were my best friends in real life.
It was so BADASS! It had nuns who were basically ninjas and kicked butt, there was lesbian relationships and a whole lot of gore and delicious death.
• All characters were girls. Even tho it lacked the sass you'd expect from a female driven cast, it still was well written. Especially because a man wrote it. It touched on issues like periods and cramps and like I said before it explores bi-sexual and lesbian relationships within the nunnery. (please note: these relationships will likely be broadened in future books).
• The storyline is awesome and extremely well thought, obviously Mark Lawrence spent a lot of time planning this novel and it definitely paid off.
• It was BRUTAL and extremely STABBY, just the way I like it.

I found this image on google while searching for Nona fanart, funnily enough this is exactly how I picture my badass cinnamon roll.

Like I said before it wasn't all good.. In Fact I found a few issues, I didn't like the fact that majority of this book was spent in training. I get that the characters needed that training to develop, however it was kinda boring and I could have done without half the shit that I read, but that's just me and some people would have loved it because it was realistic and definitely had the usual things that come with training in a school eg bullying, making friends, learning skills etc. But I just find all that stuff boring. I live for the action and gore. I also didn't like the start, I've always found Marks writing hard to digest. Don't get me wrong his a wonderful world builder, there's just something that doesn't agree with me and it's his use of words and the way he describes things, it definitely needs to be read slowly and you must get used to that style of writing as it is very unique. After a few chapters I stopped noticing the writing and it was no longer a hinderance for me, it actually became quite beautiful. I also found this book to be abit of a slow burn some parts would be exciting then it would get boring then exciting again, which I don't enjoy I like consistent badassery. But those are my only three real issues with the book and are all very minor. I think most readers of YA and adult fantasy would enjoy this novel.

“Every star, turning in the black depth of heaven, burns for no better reason than that humanity raised its face to look. Every great deed needs to be witnessed. Go out there and do something great.”

Recommended to fantasy and to YA readers 15+ who are looking for a coming of age novel with a twist, it's very gorey and quite brutal, it had animal torture and castration. So don't rush out and buy it for your 12 year old daughter.

Buddy read with my sisters at the Sweet Mercy Nunnery; Petrik who is actually not a sister but a brother, TS , Haifa & Twinnie
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
July 23, 2018
my first two reactions to this book were basically
→so it's badass assassin nuns and some of the girls are not straight? bring it on
→I know right i didn't think i'd ever actually get to this either

and I fully admit that this book has a badass beginning:
Nona thought of Raymel Tacsis lying in his father’s halls surrounded by Academy men sweating to keep him from death. Saida was dead - Nona had seen her feet poking beneath the seat in the prison yard, their wrappings still stained with Raymel’s blood. She had no pity for him.
“I hope he comes back full of devils and they eat his heart.”

With an opening line like that, who couldn’t love this? But sadly, I am that person. Because the first two hundred pages of this took me fucking foreeeeeever to get into.

It is a very grim, gritty world, but the content really didn’t stand out for me, and without being in the mood for super complex fantasy, I just couldn’t engage with the narrative. It felt as if this book were depending on my interest in a fantasy series to enjoy this, and that just didn't come. I am 45 fucking percent through this 450-page book and I am so bored by everything and you know what, I don’t care. I’m not finishing it.

I might return to this someday. But for now, I found this… disappointing.

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Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books411 followers
May 13, 2023
My complete review is published at Grimdark Magazine.

Red Sister is a classic of modern fantasy, a perfectly crafted and beautifully written opening to Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy, which centers on a cast of young novices training to become skilled warriors, spies, alchemists, and mystics under the tutelage of Abbess Glass and the sisters of Sweet Mercy Convent.

It all begins with a young peasant girl, Nona Grey, an outcast from her small village in the brutal ice-covered world of Abeth. Only a slim corridor of green encircles the planet, kept alive by a mechanical moon that focuses light from a dying sun. The moon was created by the Missing, the original settlers of Abeth who possessed technology now lost to the current population. But traces of the four original tribes remain in their blood, giving heightened powers to a select few. Nona is one of the very rare individuals exhibiting traits from more than one of these original tribes.

The four tribes, in order of decreasing prevalence, are: (1) gerant, who grow to an abnormally large size; (2) hunska, who can move and react with fantastic speed; (3) marjal, who have access to the lesser magics, including shadow-work and mastery of the elements; and (4) quantal, who can access an alternate layer of existence known as the Path, enabling them to manipulate the threads of reality itself and form entangled bonds with the minds and bodies of other quantals. Children who exhibit traits of the original tribes are often captured and sold into fight-halls. The lucky ones find their way to Sweet Mercy Convent, where they can be trained to control and develop their powers.

The worldbuilding in Red Sister is outstanding, with careful consideration for all factors related to the geography, technology, religion, politics, and culture on a planet where only a small strip of land is inhabitable. Whoever controls the mechanical moon also has the fate of the entire world in their hands.

Best of all are the characters. Red Sister introduces us to Mark Lawrence’s most compelling cast of characters from any of his series. Nona Grey is an ideal main character, struggling with the dark realities of her past and her seemingly uncontrollable violent powers. But at her core, Nona is a very kind and caring person who values honesty and friendship above all. The other novices—Ara, Zole, Clera, Hessa, Juli, et al.—are all wonderfully developed characters, as are the sisters of Sweet Mercy.

Mark Lawrence’s writing is concise but packed with details and emotional value, without ever wasting space on filler. There are so many quotable lines throughout Red Sister, including its iconic opening: “It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.”

I especially appreciate Mark Lawrence’s attention to detail and the way he gradually reveals the truth about certain characters. Nona’s violent and heart-wrenching past is revealed after several misdirections, including her interactions with the peripatetic juggler, Amondo, and the way she saves her friend, Saida, from the brutal gerant Raymel Tacsis. We also learn about Clera’s true backstory as the copper penny she flips gradually changes to silver and then to gold over the course of the book. I also love how Mark Lawrence plays with classic fantasy tropes, such as the magic school and the notion of a Chosen One.

I really can’t recommend this series enough. With the Book of the Ancestor, Mark Lawrence has crafted the perfect fantasy trilogy, and I don’t give that praise lightly. I’ve read the series several times, and it keeps getting better each time through. Upon my first read of Red Sister, I already fell in love with the wonderful cast of characters and was blown away by the story itself. However, each time through, new layers emerged with subtle foreshadowing of future volumes in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy and Mark Lawrence’s subsequent series, the Book of the Ice.

Clever connections to Lawrence’s other trilogies also gradually reveal themselves upon careful reading. For example, those with gerant blood share a name with the abnormally large knight Sir Gerrant, who is mentioned briefly in both Prince of Thorns and Prince of Fools. In fact, the characteristics of each of the four tribes in Red Sister are connected to Mark Lawrence’s broader worldbuilding across his five trilogies, but only hinted at throughout the Book of the Ancestor.

I would advise readers who finish Red Sister to read Mark Lawrence’s excellent short story, “The Devil You Know,” before continuing to Grey Sister. You can think of “The Devil You Know” as a few extra chapters tacked onto the end of Red Sister, describing the aftermath of the final scene from that book and providing an important bridge to Grey Sister. Astute readers will also find subtle connections among all of Mark Lawrence’s trilogies buried in this short story.

When I finished the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, I was left hungry for more in this world of Abeth. Fortunately, Mark Lawrence’s next trilogy, the Book of the Ice, takes place in this same world. The Book of the Ice greatly expands the breadth and depth of worldbuilding on Abeth and also solidifies the connections to Lawrence’s greater universe. The third volume of the Book of the Ice, The Girl and the Moon, reads essentially like a fourth Book of the Ancestor and prominently features one of my favorite characters from that series, Sister Pan, a powerful quantal who serves as Mistress Path in Red Sister.

Five enthusiastic stars to Mark Lawrence for Red Sister, one of his finest achievements. If you haven’t already started Book of the Ancestor, pick up a copy of Red Sister today, and Nona Grey will become your friend for life.
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,828 reviews29.1k followers
November 11, 2019
3.75 Stars

The beginning was really good. The world-building was pretty solid and the writing was easily digestible. The middle, however...got a little tedious at times and felt a little slow.

Luckily, the ending more than made up for it.

It’s definitely a darker premise (thus the basis of its appeal to me)...But I have to say that sometimes, when the girls were working together to do certain things (example: Zole’s bodyguard...heist) it felt reminiscent of the HP trio and their hijinks. Except more violent. With more blood. As in, some seriously bloody gore. It was delicious.

The only reason I didn’t rate it higher was the aforementioned middle molasses. And the fact that sometimes the magic rules and events got a little convoluted in my opinion.

Other than that, I really enjoyed it and have already ordered book two.
Profile Image for Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky).
256 reviews433 followers
May 14, 2017
Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time's arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”

I'm not going to quote the opening lines as literally everyone else has but suffice to say this one grabs you by the privates from the beginning and drags you along for a very entertaining ride (even if you are on tippy toes and mildly terrified).

For a very long time I've been feeling a little left out. Everyone has something to say about Lawrence's books! He frequents a lot of the same subreddits as me as well so I see him around a lot on the interwebs. I can't escape the man, goddammit.

Well it only took you seven books Mark but I'm finally a Lawrence groupie. ;)

Part of it might be that this one was centred around women. I know... I know... if a dude on GR wrote that he prefers to read almost exclusively about men and male experiences he would be castrated... but, but, but about three years ago I realised that I consumed a lot of literature that was exclusively about men.

So I tried an experiment. For 9 months I only read novels and watched tv shows/ films where the MC was female. Bonus points if the media included POV representations of motherhood.

It fundamentally changed me as a consumer. When POC talk about wanting to see real representations of themselves in books and film I get it now. I have a lot less patience for female archetypes, sex prizes and vagina clad deus ex machinas. It ruined me for a lot of mainstream media.

I gave up my hard rule but I found that I don't have a lot of time anymore for books that have a male MC, three male supporting characters and one female love interest. I have said in reviews of Lawrence's other books that despite all the usual grim dark rape bullshit he does write round female characters. But I just never enjoyed his books a great deal. They were clever, funny and grim but I didn't love them. Partly perhaps because there was to much of a "male power fantasy" smell to it. And I don't know, maybe this works for me because it is a "female power fantasy".

Whatever the reason I loved this.

Like previous novels, Lawrence plays around with a lot of familiar tropes- unreliable narrator, time jumps to build tension, etc. and he fucking nails them.

He is an incredibly skilled writer and it shows.

Another bonus is the MC is a lot more likeable then some of his previous characters. She might be morally grey but that doesn't make you cringe away in horror.

I wanted to address two criticisms I heard about this book:

1.) It slumps in the middle: I disagree. This first novel is essentially a boarding school plot hiding in a grimdark fantasy. If you go in knowing that, you will get everything you could want from the novel.

2.) It isn't as dark as his other stories: I agree and I was glad for it. Anti-heroes are all the rage and I don't want to spoil anything but I was very pleased he chose not to go down that path. The MC thinks she is a monster but you don't. And personally, I was relieved by this. Anti-heroes used to be tragedies or redemption tales... these days authors mostly introduce you to an asshole and genuinely expect you to root for them for... reasons!?!?.

This is a kickass novel. There was really nothing I didn't like about it. I am looking forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
423 reviews467 followers
June 5, 2020
~ 22 April 2018 ~
Started Grey Sister, and even though there was a nice recap to start off with, I just couldn't remember enough of the tiny details of the first book. So, grabbed the first one again and reread done and dusted now. Still awesome.

4.5 Stars!

You remember when you were a tiny little girl and did very bad things and because of that found yourself in a convent being trained as a nun specializing in the deadly arts? Yeah, same thing happens to Nona, the star of this story. ;)

"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men"

So. You have seen a million and one five star reviews for this book and you’re thinking, can’t go wrong with this one… And you would most likely be right! It rocks. Big time.

I mean, badass assassin nuns being trained at a convent which is essentially a school for the gifted who are taught to become masterful practitioners of fighting and magic and all things stabby?!?!? PRE-ORDER, AM I RIGHT? These magical/fighting schools trope are catnip to me and I have not yet reached a point like some readers where I have had enough them. Keep ‘em coming writers!

As stated, Nona, our protagonist, finds herself at a convent being forged into both a weapon and a shield and most of the tale follows her training and the forging of relationships with her fellow sisters. You know when they have a training sequence in a movie and they play some Eye of the Tiger and the MC fast forwards through an avalanche of techniques and exercises and bam, they are done and Neo says I KNOW KUNG FU and the plot moves forward? They do that whole fast forward bit cause a lot of people hate the whole training part and find it boring. If you find yourself nodding and thinking I totally hate those parts then I have bad news for you friend - you might struggle with a large part of this book. Me? Not so much. Train away young padawans!

Of course, during the training some powerful enemies makes themselves known, and some fantastic action takes place, with Nona not shying back from any challenge.

"They expect her to run. They know she will run. And she does. But at them."

The basics round-up:
Characters – superbly written all around. Love them.
Worldbuilding – fan-freaking-tastic. The entire world is covered in ice. Except for a small corridor that exists between miles’ high walls of ice and is kept unfrozen by the moon. THE MOON? THE MOON.
The writing – very Mark Lawrence, which translates as awesome.

My only issue... The writing, while beautiful and immersive, sometimes veered into philosophical which left me confused and wondering what the hell was being talked about. Still, I loved it.

Mark Lawrence has written a superb first book in what is sure to become amazing series and I am VERY eager to get my hands on the next installment.

PS: Stuff that might not be for everyone:
An animal is tortured and killed by a bad guy.
There are same sex relationships between nuns in the convent, and the possibility of such future relationships between some of the MC’s.

Profile Image for Philip.
500 reviews673 followers
April 6, 2018
4/5/18 re-read in preparation for Grey Sister. I feel like I need to bump up my rating to 4.5ish stars. There is a lot of nuance I didn’t catch (or didn’t remember at least) from my first read. I especially like the science fictional elements of the world building with the corridor and the ship hearts and the focus moon, etc. Really sets it apart from other high fantasy. Very much looking forward to book 2, again with Heather O’Neil as the (fantastic) audiobook narrator.


4ish stars.

This is an adult book with what are, in my opinion, actually some pretty good characterizations of kids and teenagers. It's got my favorite "school of magic" since Brakebills. It's got a fairly complex "magic system" with a lot of potential. And it's about killer nuns, isn't that cool? Basically it's everything I was hoping The Name of the Wind would be but wasn't. This isn't frivolous, jovial high fantasy, but there is occasional humor presented in a mostly natural, unforced way. It's fairly grim and dark but, again, with some pretty decent representations of young people forming friendships, getting themselves into shenanigans, and growing up to be killer nuns.

There may or may not be a "chosen one," who's to say? That title is passed around to a few different characters based on a prophecy (that may or may not have actually been given?) and different characters' interpretations of it. There are a few other classic elements of magic schools and high fantasy in general but they're mostly done in a way that isn't cliche or stock.

Mark Lawrence writes very well. He doesn't mince words or try too hard to be clever. He does a good job balancing the dark story with some genuinely likable, almost warm, elements. I was surprised and impressed with the quality of writing. This is probably the most excited I've been about high fantasy in a while. Lots of potential.

The audiobook narrator, Heather O'Neil (variously listed as Heather O'Neill) does a really great job and I'll probably continue to listen to the rest of the trilogy. Recommended.

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
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