Red Sister by Mark Lawrence



Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1)
By Mark Lawrence
Publisher: Ace
ISBN13: 9781101988855
Expected 4/4/17
Pages: 423
Genre: Fantasy


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…


Let me just air my shame right now, this is my very first title by Mark Lawrence. Yes, I know. I am just now popping the Lawrence cherry. There will be no comparisons to previous work. I am actually thankful for this embarrassing  fact (although I was about 100 pages when I immediately ran out and bought the entire Broken Empire series) <– Spoiler, this book is flipping good! As I excitedly dove into this 400 page beauty, I discovered the an unbiased approach was going to work in my favor because this is going to be a tough review minus any previous conceptions or comparisons.

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient skill.”

The sun is dying and in a world encapsulated and limited by ice. One young girl has been bought and sold. Nona Grey has been labeled a monster and cast aside. When she finds herself staring through the noose of her finality, rescue comes in the unlikely form of a nun.

Taken to the Convent of Sweet Mercy, she begins the arduous task of training and transformation. She is to become a Red Sister. Devoting her life to the Ancestor, she enters a journey of self discovery and metamorphosis that will challenge her to face her inner demons  head on and learn to hone the very skills that have terrified and haunted her throughout her short existence.

But why have the nuns chosen to spare Nona and take her in? Why is she still sought after? During her transition and time at the convent, Nona Grey will uncover answers and a world she never knew existed. Is she prepared to accept her fate and fight?

“The Path had filled her and in doing so had woken her to the understanding that for all her life she had been hollow.  It turned her flesh to gold, her mind to crystal. She wanted more. Even as the power of it terrified her and she felt her body shaking beyond her control, she wanted more.”

Instead of concentrating on the plot of a story you should be reading, I want to discuss the elements to make this worth the time of any fantasy fan. Red Sister is a slower but steady and rewarding read. At times I felt mentally tapped after pouring through the pages, but in the greatest of ways.  I was heavily invested and there is a lot to digest. Nona Grey is complex and consuming. She is delivered to us as so much more than one could expect to comprehend at 8 years old. Her sheer rawness and brutality draw you in immediately, refusing to release. Walking in her footsteps, we soon realize that the fact that she is a child is often lost because she instantly becomes so much more.

This is a highly character driven account that presents a tale of the fight for survival through an amazing ensemble of individuals and lavish world construction. Lawrence has created a cast of children, Sisters and adversaries that manage to deliver on the grandest of scales.  While the gore and action are very much present, I found all emotions being fully accessed and tapped into to create a truly unique and provoking experience.

The plot manages to go beyond engaging as I found myself almost exhausted at times. I was completely immersed and committed to Nona and her personal battle. And it did feel very  personal. There are many things occurring within the Convent and out, but Nona’s internal struggle is a pilgrimage.

“Those that burn short burn bright. The shortest lives can cast the longest shadows.”

The world that Lawrence has constructed is elegant. The fluid transition of flawless narration between past memories and the present solidify this beautiful composition, adding a real sense of  depth and vastness that I have come to expect from true epic fantasies. An innovative magical system is set in place that is not only refined and well thought out, but captivating while carefully avoiding any unnecessary complexities.

I found myself in great admiration of the Lawrence’s ability to develop an amazingly strong yet imperfect world of female protagonists. The writing carries throughout each page with such ease, almost poetic at times, inviting your further. For all of the bleakness and dark, there is an amount of sophistication and poise present that make this a deeply gratifying and beautiful read.

“A single flame in the dark. A single note hanging in an empty place. A single sparkle upon a wind-rippled lake.”

Well polished and seductive, this is a story best left for the reader to discover and devour on their own accord. Red Sister tempts with many promises and delivers and caters to even the greatest of expectations. A gripping, yet open conclusion has left me yearning for more. I have fallen for Nona Grey in the most spectacular of ways.

*I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for this opportunity. The above review is my own, unbiased opinion.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Pre-Order Links:

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58 thoughts on “Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

  1. I’ve actually never heard of Mark Lawrence, but the fact that you said this book was really character driven and engaging to the point of exhaustion makes it sound like just the kind of book I’d like to give a try. That, and the fact that everything else you had to say about it was glowing! Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a fan of Mark Lawrence. I loved The Broken Empire (and Jorg!) to death, and loved Red Queen’s War just as much (though I liked Snorri better than Jalan)
    Red Sister is so different from both of those and it was an addictive page turner for me. It doesn’t start as fast paced as Prince of Thorns, but I loved all the mysteries and intriguing plots unfolding chapter by chapter. Nona is already my favorite female fantasy character. Glad you enjoyed the story!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This book will be my first Mark Lawrence book as well *shame on me* lol! Great review thought because I ran to barnes and noble online to pre-order my copy. I’m okay with slow-paced fantasy books, sometimes I feel like they work out better that way because of the world building in first books of a series. You said the work poetic in your review, so I’m kind of drooling.I’m excited to read this!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Glad to see you like it. I placed it on my TBR couple weeks ago because badass nuns just sound cool. So far, I’ve seen one other review of it but it was a negative one so now it’s balanced with your positive review. I’m curious to see what I think. If I read it soon, it will be my first Mark Lawrence book.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You aren’t alone! I haven’t had my Lawrence cherry popped either- but I hadn’t heard of his works until recently. Drew gets all the credit for that. I can’t wait to dig into this– your review has totally sold me on this. Feminist kick ass fantasy? yes please. Have you read any of the Wheel of Time? This covenant reminds me quite a bit of the Aes Sedai. But with more knives and less magic (still magic, but just less overall). I can’t wait to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not started that series! I have some of the first books here, but keep putting them off. I am not ready to committ to something of that size haha. I feel like I am always behind as it is 😛 But I may have to so I can compare!


  6. I am a big Lawrence fan and while Red Sister is way different then his other books the almost poetic prose is in all of them. I did love this book I started it in the early afternoon and finished around 7 am the next day. I couldn’t put it down. Great review and I am glad you liked it Cant wait to hear what you think of Jorg.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review and glad to see you finally popped your Lawrence cherry, welcome to grimdark baby!😂

    I’m not sure when I’ll read this, really looking forward to it and of course I have a signed ARC but keeping it for when I need something I know I’ll love.

    You should really enjoy both The Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War trilogies to.😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a purely epic review my queen! Wow, I’m speechless! Nona’s character seems to be so complex and so much more than just a protagonist, and her journey a true voyage. I felt the intensity of the read through your words and I just feel like this book is just more than just another a book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s always great to discover a new author to love :-). I’m happy you’ve found one for you to add to your list of fav authors. I have no idea how many books there are in the Broken Empire series, but I have a feeling I’ll see the name of Mark Lawrence quite a few times in the future ;-). Even though it’s not my genre, I can see why you love it: complex, great character building, a nice balance between action and emotion.. everything a really good book should have. Fab review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Inge ❤ You nailed it! This book had a perfect blend of action and emotion for me. It was deep but not unnecessarily complex. Sometimes authors reach too far in fantasy and it becomes tedious. Between his fluid writing and perfect attention to details, it worked fantastically. Broken Empire is a trilogy 🙂


  10. Fabulous review… I had no doubt that you were going to love Lawrence’s work and I can’t wait for you to read Broken Empire trilogy as well… everything you said in this review reminded me why I loved Broken Empire and I will most definitely try and fit Red Sister into my reading soon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Liz ❤ I am excited to start Broken Empire. Although it probably will not happen as soon as I want. I am actually thinking I reopened for review requests too soon and may have to close shop on that again.. blah. 8 pieces of mail this week alone. I have things on my own shelf I want to finish. I hope you are having a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah yeah, I haven’t opened my review requests yet and still get contact in… I don’t feel bad about rejecting the requests though because I have said on the blog I’m not accepting… eh… I hope you don’t feel too bogged down with the requests and remember to say NO 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have been saying no.. or at least I thought I had haha. Somehow my pile has doubled. Oh well.. I have stated that I am now accepting them on a very limited basis. If I need to close shop again. I just will. I think other real life stuff is maybe making it feel worse than it is if that makes sense ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It defo makes sense… I can’t remember previous years being so packed with daily troubles as the last year up to now has been… it’s strange… but, hopefully things’ll calm down again and we’re not feeling the heat 😉 ❤

            Liked by 1 person

  11. As always, this was great reading. I love how you include quotes from the books you review. It helps me to get a feel for the book, which helps me to comprehend your review better in the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ohhh geez, what a wonderful review. I’m so glad to hear that your first experience of Mark Lawrence’s books has been this good. I can’t imagine how much you’ll enjoy his more.. popular series. I really love the sound of a character-driven fantasy story. This sounds like soooo much fun. How would you compare it to something like The Lies of Locke Lamora though? Would you be able to say one is better than the other? In some categories, maybe? Or are they both just different and unique gems that everyone should experience for themselves? 😀

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Comparing it to Lies would be so hard because they are nothing alike. I will say that they both provide outstanding characters and depth. If you are seeking a more instant gratification, then The Lies of Locke Lamora is the way to go. If you are looking for a steady read that you can sink into for a few days, Red Sister. Tough question haha. While they book both win big, they deliver in truly individual ways. Both are worthy of reading and experiencing on a personal level 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Jeez woman! I LOVE your review! it took me DAYS of turning & tossing on what to write to do this one justice & randomly stopped sweeping my daughters room & just did it! lol smh. Looks like we will be following the same path with mark’s books because I need the Broken Empire trilogy like yesterday & have been window browsing Bookdepository hardcore smh haha! I couldn’t have said it better tan you, this book did leave me feeling a bit tapped whenever I put it down but in a good way. I was also thoroughly invested in Nona & her friendships. I kid you not every single time she fell off the path I wanted to punch a wall for her! ha! I also had to keep in mind that she was 8 years old when we meet & follow her cuz she’s had one hell of a rough life up until that point & although it gets better in some aspects, its still tough. Whelp, now all we have to do now is sit & wait for book2 *taps fingers* 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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