Review : Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

“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.”

  • Release : April 4th 2017
  • Publishing house : Ace
  • Series : Book of the Ancestor
  • Pages : 469
  • Book 2 : Grey Sister
  • Illustrator : Bastien Lecouffe Deharme

Spoilers ahead

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…

Character :

Nona Grey : We are introduced to the eight-year-old Nona as she is waiting for her execution on the gallows for having attempted to kill a famous pit-fighter whose father is one of the wealthiest men. She is saved by Abbess Glass who takes her to the Sweet Mercy Convent, thus escaping death.

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

Nona has a lot of shortcomings as she did not have an education. She begins her training to be an assassin (mastering the Path, the poisons, the weapons…). The majority of the story is set within the covent following her daily activities. From time to time, the nuns bring the novices to other parts of the world to fight against other »schools ».

“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.”

The various flashbacks about Nona’s prior life added a real layer to her character ! Her secrets make Nonna questions what she’s worth and what she is.

There’s a real development in Nona’s character, from a peasant girl with no education and who has trouble communicating to someone more self-assured, who can write and create friendships with others. The book lies heavily on relationships and developments.

Story :

Once again, Mark Lawrence’s prose is really meaningful and excellent. His mastery of the words makes the writing really stand out and interesting.

First of all, there are four tribes :

 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.

At first, the magic system may seem a bit complicated, but I think that, as Nona, we discover the various possibilities. To tell the truth, I wasn’t lost as I had read The Girl and the Stars before it.

« 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 »

Once they become nuns, they can choose a path amongst :

Bride of the AncestorHoly Sister : Honors the Ancestors and keeps the faith. Martial SisterRed Sister : Warriors skilled in armed and unarmed combat.
Sister of DiscretionGrey Sister : Masters of stealth and potions with shadow work.
Mystic SisterHoly Witch : Walks the Path and manipulates threads.

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

I’ve really loved the worldbuilding. Mark Lawrence weaves into each page little parts of worldbuilding. All along the book, a lot of information is given to us about the history, the covent, the people and so on. It also has interesting elements such as the dying sun, the iced globe, the falling moon keeping the globe from being completely frozen, the different abilities.

Red Sister is a really good start in the series. It may have lacked a bit of pace, but the world is so interesting that it made up for that. He has succeeded in making me feel a lot of emotions, like in his previous works. I’ll gladly pick up Grey Sister to follow Nona and her adventures !

Note : 4 sur 5.

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