Synopsis: 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…
Author: Mark Lawrence
Title: Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1)
There are some books you’re genuinely excited to read and, for me, Red Sister was one such book. I wanted to read Mark Lawrence’s books in order (not that you need to!) and indulged in The Red Queen’s War at the end of last year, having read The Broken Empire a few years ago.
I fell in love with his writing and was expected strong things from this.
None is a ten-year-old girl thrust into a world of blade-work, poisons and – the trickiest of all – reading and writing. She is at home though, surrounded by girls with similar powers to hers.
Nona is different though. Her power is advanced and grows stronger, granting her more abilities than the other girls and even her tutors. To survive, Nona must embrace all of these skills.
…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 books with respect.
Nona’s character is likeable. She isn’t afraid to stand up to herself, whether against her fellow classmates or her fierce tutors, regardless of the consequences. As her powers develop and Nona begins to understand what she is capable of – and how she differs from everyone else – the reader, too, learns abut the world Nona is now part of.
Nona is determined and head-strong, but also loyal and protective. You see her fear: she isn’t immune to knowing when she is in over her head, but you also see how she values friendship. Once you’re Nona’s friend, there is nothing she wouldn’t do for you. Nona grows throughout the book, in herself, in her skills and in her determination to protect what she holds dear.
The other girls and nuns are all strong characters in their own right. I particularly liked that Nona and Ara become friends, despite their initial animosity,– I thought it was going to be a cliché enemy-for-life situation. Hessa is Nona’s centre point and keeps her grounded, while Clera encourages her recklessness, although for her own agenda rather than helping Nona.
Red Sister reminded me of Nevernight, just with younger characters and less smut: the skills the girls are taught are similar. I initially believed this wasn’t going to be as violent as some of the other books I’ve read by Mark Lawrence, but there were still fight-scenes that left me holding my breath.
Perhaps it is worse because this time, it’s a ten-year-old girl orchestrating the violence and wanting more?
There was also a scene, quite near the beginning, that made me squirm, which is always interesting when sitting on a train. Without spoiling the reasons how this event came about, it involved a candle, a hand and a refusal to move away. The description was so powerful that I was clenching my hand and shuddering while reading it.
With in-depth characters, a good pace and increasing tension, Red Sister was just as enjoyable as I both hoped it would be and expect from the books by this author.
If you like Mark Lawrence’s other books and don’t mind a female protagonist instead of a male, then this is a definite must-read.