Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence
Published by Ace Books
Release Date : 27th March 2017
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…
“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.”
This line is the first thing that you read and very much sets the tone of how EPIC the story will be. The prologue itself gives no context at all for what is happening, placing the reader in the middle of a battlefield. From there we jump back to the past following the story of a girl named Nona Grey as she navigates through the harshness of the world she lives in. She evades death and is saved by a nun, who brings her to the convent of Sweet Mercy. There, she learns to hone her skills to be a “Sister”.
Throughout the majority of the book, we spend time to understand the world, the magic system, and the other characters together with Nona. The magic system is very interesting, it took me a while to understand what has what ability and what term is related to what ability. I had to go back a few times to read the Author Notes, I didn’t mind doing this and it did not rob me from enjoying the story at all. Instead it helped me a lot to immerse myself with Nona as the story progresses and as she learns more about herself.
As a character, Nona manifested really well within the pages. It is clear that the author understood his character as a whole and he writes Nona with such consistency. I praise Mark Lawrence for writing Nona’s dialogue and thoughts so beautifully. I’m sure in real life I never met a Nona before but I could imagine her existing if the world that Mark created became real.
Some of my favorite moments in the book was probably the classes, personally I have a soft spot for school settings. It is much more interesting to learn as you go with the characters about the world and the skills they have to achieve. Because of this it kept me guessing on what’s gonna happen and kept me on edge. I want to praise Mark Lawrence on how he paced this book. It flowed so well from start to finish, the plot points was clear and delivered expertly. Which made the experience of reading this book much more enjoyable.
During the battle scenes it happened quick and brutal. When the characters get hit, they get hit hard. That specific scene with the candle still leaves me awestruck every time I think about it. There’s no miraculous recovery or anything like that, the recovery was slow and painful. I get goosebumps every time Nona had to fight because I could not guess the outcome because she was still a trainee. Sometimes though she surprises me with her rage that propels her to higher levels of grit and tenacity.
Even though Nona is a ruthless and savage killer, she values her relationship with her piers and her teachers. Her innocence and optimism towards the cold harsh world melted my heart to jello. She would go through great lengths for them as it is shown in many occasions. I want to point out a certain relationship she had with one of the characters, Hessa; Her and Nona complete each other like peanut butter and jelly. Hessa is calm and peaceful while Nona is a fire cracker of rage, they are opposites but work well together. They care and looked out for each other from the beginning until the end. I did not expect the bravery from Hessa at all and what she went through still hurts. The last few pages of the book solidified Hessa as one of the other characters that stood out to me. I would protect her to the ends of the world just like Nona.
Mark Lawrence’s writing style is beautiful and the way he writes long monologues is like no other author. Each dialogue had purpose to give readers an understanding (in a not so info dump type of way) to push the story forward without it being corny through his characters. The world he created is well thought out, Sweet Mercy reminds me of the convents I used to go to spend the weekend with my classmates to pray and “reflect” back when I was still in catholic school (minus the hot pools and anything that encourages violence). This book is a perfect example of a very good start to a series. I made the right choice to buy the whole series because I certainly will continue reading the other two sequels after such a phenomenal first book.
Thank you to Mark Lawrence personally as I did not imagine for you to see my tweet. I apologize in advance for any mistakes I made while writing this as I am still learning. It’s an honor to receive encouragement from you to make this blog. WOW! Thank you thank you thank you!!