Red Sister – Mark Lawrence

About the Book

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.

469 pages (hardcover)
Published on April 4, 2017
Published by Ace
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is a different animal from his other books. There are a lot of reasons for this. The main character is a young girl. The book felt a lot less grim than his previous books. The world is secondary and ice bound. The story is told in the third person.

So yeah, this book is totally different than his others, but don’t let that stop you. While I do think in some respects this book could be pretty polarizing for its readers, I think this also opens up a new audience for the author. Readers who might have struggled with his other books might find a better fit with this one.

This book tells the story of Nona, a young girl who is rescued from hanging at the age of eight by a woman from a nunnery, and whisked away to a school where she spends most of the book learning things, and growing. Yes, I will freely admit that I did feel some young-adult vibes in parts of this book, especially during the training school. I will also admit that I struggle with education-type scenes mostly because I’m weird like that.

That being said, while Lawrence does march out some tropes, he kept them interesting in his own unique way. Nona grows and develops in ways I didn’t expect. Secondary friends and enemies are introduced, which keep things interesting, and while a lot of the book focuses on school and learning, the plot moves ever forward, and while the tropes are kind of predictable, Lawrence is the kind of author that can make all of that fade out of view for the larger, more elaborate picture he’s painting.

The world is, as I mentioned, secondary, and I felt like a lot of this book was spent developing things, establishing how things work, laying out the “rules” so to speak. There are hints at bigger things, and there was so much development that it should be pretty easy for Lawrence to pretty much just build on what he’s established so well here. That means more time for plot, in a world that is stunningly well developed and outlined, and all of this thrown together could easily make this series something spectacular.

I didn’t really feel like this book was as dark as his others, which was kind of refreshing to me. I’ve read a lot of Lawrence’s other stuff, mainly things that he’s put up on WattPad, and he’s an incredibly diverse, versatile author who really brings detail and focus to everything he writes, and it’s no less so here. In fact, one thing I truly love is when an author sort of veers off their established path. Lawrence is a good author, and a versatile one, and Red Sister sort of showcases all of that.

So, the first half of Red Sister is really spent establishing things, setting up the world, developing the cast of characters, and introducing readers to the Sweet Mercy convent, where they are in school. The second part of the book is really where all of this flips the script. The game is completely changed. No longer are we focused on Nona and her adventures in school, but now things are different. The big threat is introduced. People change. Secrets are revealed. Goals are changed, and this crew of characters that Lawrence have developed are now suddenly active participants in this plot that is really quite gripping and incredibly absorbing.

Red Sister was a book that unexpected. It’s a very different style from his other works. It was less dark, more of a coming-of-age story. The world building was incredible, and the second half was absolutely fantastic. I love diverse authors, and Mark Lawrence is one of those. He can master just about anything he sets his mind to. His prose are incredible, his plot is vibrant and rich, lush with detail, and his characters always seem to fly off the page.

Red Sister is different, and it’s stronger for it.

More! More! More!


4/5 stars




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