This review is based on a complimentary book I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Purchase at: Amazon ◊ Barnes & Noble ◊ Book Depository ◊ Google Play ◊ Kobo ◊ IndieBound
I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.
But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.
Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…
While reading Red Sister, I could not help but realize that this story would appeal to fans of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. There are similarities in this story to both of these books. Do not misunderstand though, this novel is its own animal. If I had to narrow down what I felt the similarities were it would be that this story has members of a religious order that trains the candidates to become fighters and learn the art of poisons etc. similar to the characters in Grave Mercy and Nevernight. The main character Nona also reminds me of the main character from Nevernight. Nona is not without feeling but everything is black and white with her. She processes things on a different level than most people.
The world development of Abeth was just so creative. The planet has been encased in ice with only a small portion called the corridor that is inhabitable. While imagining this world I imagined Earth encased in two mile high ice everywhere with the exception of a long strip that followed the equator. Loved that! Within this corridor is where all the action happens. Imagine that the entire population was squeezed in such a small place. There would always be fighting between clans just due to over population.
Nona’s story is a bit misleading at the start. Her story is told between past and present time transitions and when she shares stories they are sometimes false. You don’t know that her story was untrue until later on when she explains the falsehood but when you do get the full story it is amazing! What I did know from the start was that she was given up by her tribe to the child collector for free. Usually this act is one in which the child collector pays for the child. He buys the children that parents are willing to sell for money and that he believes may show signs of ancient blood lines. Showing a strong bloodline from one of the ancient tribes is usually a good indicator of one’s fighting prowess and in a civilization that is barbaric that is a good thing.
On Abeth the people descended from four tribes. These tribes were the Gerant (large in size), Hunska (very fast), Marjal (able to tap into lesser magic), and Quantal (can do greater magic). The closer the person is to full blood the greater their abilities. Once bought these children are then sold to respective buyers who are looking for certain bloodlines. Nona was sold to a man who kept the children until they either showed their full potential or he re-sold them. His purpose for the children were to be used as prize fighters. It is there that Nona’s life was shattered and she began on a new path.
We meet Nona as a little girl who literally has a noose around her neck. If it was not for the quick thinking and deceptive ways of Abbess Glass she wouldn’t have a story to tell. Nona was taken to the Convent of Sweet Mercy and this is where a majority of the story takes place. This might be a turn off to some readers as a large portion of this story is training and the changes that the characters go through. Such as friendships, betrayals, angst, teacher-student relationships and dealing with the past. A whole plethora a life experiences.
The story follows ten years of Nona’s life and of the other characters that live at the convent as well. At the start, all the backstories are surface level. As the story goes on the characters develop layers and it quickly becomes a very satisfying read. Do not mistake this for an easy read though. There are scenes that are without mercy and compassion and just downright cruel. In this world though, there is very little room for such things. The story-telling is vivid, engaging and hits you on an emotional level. It makes for a truly amazing platform for a series to build on. The ending is powerful and quite a cliffhanger. You will not be disappointed in Red Sister!
*Thank you to NetGalley & ACE for this eARC of Red Sister*