Thanks to NetGalley and Ace for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: April 4th, 2017
Synopsis: 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…
It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Covenant, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.
And with that beginning I knew I was going to be in for one heck of a ride! Red Sister is the first book I’ve read by Mark Lawrence, which has left me questioning “Why?” The main character, Nona immediately grabbed my heart right from the beginning as she’s waiting to be executed for murder. Once she’s rescued and brought to the convent, she begins training to be a holy and deadly warrior. The nunnery is somewhat similar to those seen in other fantasy series such as The Kingkiller Chronicles, and even Harry Potter. It also was slightly reminiscent of Nevernight, by Jay Kristoff. There’s that connecting theme to all of them that have the main character possibly being a “chosen one” being sent off to some form of boarding school with tough teachers, and bullies, yet also features close friendships being formed. In this book though, this theme takes on a far more darker and sinister tone. The style of writing is evocative and almost lyrical, which further sets it apart from other fantasies. Everything in Red Sister, from the world-building, the magic system, and even the characters themselves, takes the reader on a journey quite unlike any other. I was a little confused in the beginning as far as the way Lawrence’s world actually works, but I wonder now if this was done purposefully. As I kept reading, it seemed as though I was learning alongside Nona. The ending completely blew me away and it’s left me anxiously waiting for the next book. I do need to bring up the absolute brutality in this book, particularly as it relates to children. This complex world that the author has created is unapologetically bloody and violent. The first chapter has the line:
No child truly believes they’re going to be hanged.
I knew right then there were going to be some stomach-churning moments and I was right. So just beware, particularly if you cringe at violence being directed toward young ones. Otherwise I cannot recommend this highly enough to fans of fantasy. I guarantee that from the very first page you won’t be able to tear yourself away until the end which will leave you gasping!