Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence
Published by Ace Books
Release Date : April 3rd 2018
In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.
All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.
As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.
And in all this only one thing is certain. There will be blood.
“There is a purity in rage. It will burn out sorrow. For a time. It will burn out fear. Even cruelty and hatred will seek shelter, rage wants none of them, only to destroy. Rage is the gift our nature gives to us, shaped by untold years. Why discard it?”
*SPOILER ALERT FOR RED SISTER*
TW : violence, torture
Grey Sister is the second book in the “The Book of the Ancestor” trilogy, continuing Nona’s coming of age story. Last time in Red Sister, Nona was a young peasant girl who evaded execution and enrolled into a convent/school training assassin nuns called Sweet Mercy. She honed her natural talents and learns how to utilize them, all the while trying to not get killed by people looking for vengeance.
We start the story straight from where we left off in Red Sister. Nona just killed Raymel Tacsis and she just failed to save Hessa from Yisht, who stole the shipheart. There’s a tiny time jump after the events of the Grey trials. Two years since then Nona graduates to Mystic class together with Darla and Zole. While Ara and the others are still in Grey class.
Before I start, I would like to point out that we get two other different POVs in the book, they are Sister Kettle and Abbess Glass. I like their POVs and it’s interesting that the world and magic system also expands because we get to see everything in more experienced eyes. The stakes are higher this time around for all the characters in the book. I was at the edge of my seat the whole time, guessing each character’s next move (yet again). The physical world is getting smaller because of the ever encroaching ice that is slowly swallowing the world. People are fighting for power and territory at this soon to be Popsicle alternative fantasy world. Different nations are fighting for power and territory, all the while there is a political coup going on in the Empire.
From Abbess Glass’ POV we get to understand the politics that is simmering between her against a certain royal that is plotting a power grab to control the world. We get to learn Abbess Glass’ backstory, how she became the Abbess and what led her to the position. Abbess Glass is definitely a woman you can’t mess with; she calculates her moves and her words, and is very cunning and smart. Her wisdom when she faces her enemies is remarkable.
“The greatest threat to any faith is not other faiths or beliefs but the corruption and division of its own message”
“A parent’s grief runs deeper than words can reach, novice. We speak them to help ourselves.”
While Nona takes the violent route when facing her enemies, Abbess Glass plays psychological chess with her enemies. Her previous experiences definitely helped her to break through sticky situations that she has been involved in. Maneuvering through the political system in this world takes a lot of guts as everyone is attacking the convent from all sides. Abbess Glass still struggles but she didn’t let it get to her, she does not give in, she does not waver a single bit. Specifically, that candle scene. That disturbingly painful candle scene from Red Sister.
While from Sister Kettle’s POV we get to see her connection with Nona, as Nona sees her as a mentor and as a big sister figure. When Nona first came to Sweet Mercy as a peasant girl with no education, Sister Kettle was the one to help her learn how to read and write. This part is very memorable and has stuck to me ever since. The connection they have since then has grown as Nona helped Sister Kettle to call Sister Apple when she was on the verge of death after holding off the Noi Guin. Kettle has changed since the events of the Grey trials, being pushed into the shadows to save her life. Personally, I am happy that she didn’t die and we get to see her more in this book because she’s such good character to begin with.
We also get a glimpse of Sister Kettle’s relationship with Sister Apple. Something about these two strong and powerful women being a couple is just *chef’s kiss*. So for the people asking if this book includes a sapphic relationship, I can confirm Sister Kettle and Sister Apple is cannon. The scene that involved these two characters was a small part of the book but it was so beautifully written. It is not in-your-face romance moment but it was simple and subtle. In Red Sister, Mark Lawrence only hints at their relationship, in Grey Sister this relationship is on full swing. This satisfies my sapphic loving heart. I make a big deal out of this because I love them both so much!
“But children have resilience. Children scar and those scars remain across the years, but children grow too. Kettle grew around her hurts and learned to laugh again—learned wickedness as they taught her scripture—learned the swiftness of her body and the sharpness of her mind. She grew into a woman and learned to love and to be loved.”
Sister Kettle also has a few similarities with Nona, as both are the most powerful novices during their year and both have very rough childhoods. Sister Kettle is loyal, brave, caring, and very kind. She takes care of Nona like she is her little sister. They also share a more personal relationship in this book after Nona threaded themselves together. Being thread bound gives them both the ability to gain access into each others minds and (sometimes) take control over each other’s bodies.
The past events clearly had an impact on Nona, she comes out as a different and damaged person. Killing Raymel also has had its consequences as whatever entity that was inhabiting Raymel latched itself onto Nona after Raymel’s death. This entity calls itself Keot or as Nona likes to refer it as “Demon”. Keot is the voice to Nona’s anger and bloodlust. Hessa’s death has left Nona with an abundance of these emotions. Keot and Nona constantly battles for influence over Nona’s actions and emotions. Keot’s voice gets louder and louder the more Nona gives in to its temptation, but Keot is not just a voice it also gives Nona abilities like darkvision. She sees Keot as a hindrance at first but she slowly grows used to its presence in her body.
Nona gets more obsessed with the place where Hessa died. She believes Hessa left a clue behind that would lead Nona to Yisht and the shipheart. This obsession manifested as a vulnerability, one that allowed her enemy to capture her. She only realizes afterwards that it was her grief and vengeance that blinded her. This is a HUGE turning point in the story that left me SO emotionally devastated. I felt everything. The checks and balances of action and consequence was a marvel to read.
I am a sucker for action sequences. The action sequences in this book are fast paced and so well written. Nona is a beast of a character that suprises me over and over again. She gains more skills in this book and she pushes her skills at a full capacity that astonishes me (AGAIN). Mark Lawrence made her progression believable and realistic. She went through so much and trained herself to the standard that she is at now. One thing I love about Nona is, she is powerful not because of her innate abilities, she is powerful because she trained herself to BE powerful. Even while she is strong she still has legitimate weaknesses as well.
This sequel is brilliant. Mark Lawrence’s writing is consistent, it has all of the good things I mentioned in my review of Red Sister. The pacing in Red Sister didn’t once falter. Mark Lawrence’s writing is ridden with meaning and depth, things that I crave as a reader. The characters are fleshed out so well and each relationship is so distinct, you can differentiate the levels of intimacy between the main character and the other characters. I’ve never hated a character so much until Jolie is introduced (God, I love to hate her). She is written to be such a b*tch, really exemplifying Mark Lawrence’s ability to write characters you both love and hate. To be honest, I am skeptical about sequels in general. I fear being burnt by a crummy part two of a book I really like, but Mark Lawrence! He does not disappoint!! This book is one of the best sequels I’ve ever read, each character has evolved so well, and the story themes about friendship, sacrifice, and overcoming grief, are meaningful and enjoyable to read.
Please read this trilogy, I highly recommend to any SFF fan. It is one of the best trilogies that exist in this genre. I will remind you that this is not a happy fluffy coming of age story, there is brutality and suffering, but there are also heart warming moments.
HOLY SISTER I’M COMING!