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Tuesday, 13 June 2017
Review: Red Sister
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher!
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…
With Red Sister we kick off a brand new series from Mark Lawrence, and while it took me a little bit to get in to it, it's promising to be a brilliant series! The Convent of Sweet Mercy, the main setting of the book, is a bit like a badass version of Hogwarts, but for nuns! It's brilliant! Red Sister kicks off with the best opening line I've come across recently too...."It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size." As soon as I read those words I was like okay....settle in, this is gonna be a good one!
From what I can gather, this isn't as dark as Lawrence's other series, but I wouldn't know because they're on my TBR still, shhh! I'm going to start with the few little niggles I had that made this a four star rather than a five star read before I crack on with all the awesome bits!
First off, like I mentioned, it took me a little bit to get in to because there are a lot of characters and I kept getting confused and forgetting who was who, especially as some of the nuns had two different names if they where a teacher. I basically found it hard to keep track and my brain got muddled, and added to that the book was a bit slow for most of it. Having heard brilliant things about Lawrence's dark books, this wasn't as dark as I was expecting, and I was a wee bit disappointed by that. But then..this is only book one and it did get pretty dark at the end, so maybe I should pace myself :')
Now on to all the gloriousness of the book! I found the world to be very vividly created and rich. We only got to see a small portion of it as most of the action is set in the Convent, but we got to glimpse other parts. I'm so intrigued by the world of the book, and its history and who the Missing are and so on. I'm excited to find out more about the world and it's past in the next books! The magic system was epic, I was so intrigued by it! All the girls in the Convent are descended from one (or in some cases two or three) of four tribes, each tribe having a different ancient magic that the girl would possess. It was fascinating, especially as Nona has one type of magic, that is different for each person! There's basically plenty in this book to interest me and that I want to know more about!
I really loved the nuns and their different classes, like I said, it was like a badass Hogwarts. Except for the geography lessons, I'd have preferred less of that and more of the Path lessons or Blade lessons. The problem was, that none of the interesting things kicked off until some point over halfway in to the book I think it was, so while all the nuns and the different lessons where fascinating at the start it reached a point where it slowed the whole book down and I was a wee bit bored waiting for everything to kick off. I know some setting up has to be done, but it seemed like there was too much time spent on the lessons and everything once we'd already established everything.
Nona was a brilliant main character, it was interesting to have the story told from the perspective of the Shield, rather than The Chosen One! What I liked the most was that when we start the book off, we have mini Nona, and then she grows up and we see her grow up as she lives and trains at the Convent, and it was nice to journey with her as she grew up and as the story grew with her. She's brave, fiery and stubborn, and ridiculously loyal. Like she's loyal to Clera who's not a very good friend, and is a particularly shady person, but because she's Nona's friend Nona is loyal as hell to her.
That's one of the nice things about the book, there's all the gory, stabby stabby scenes, but the cast of characters are mainly female. Now, there's competition and a little bit of cattiness at the beginning, BUT for the majority of the book, there's a lot of bonding and camaraderie between the girls, they work together, and look out for each other and help each other. I really enjoyed the female friendships in this book, I'm not going to lie!
Like I said, there's a lot of female characters, I loved most of them! I really loved Arabella, in the beginning I really wanted to like her and was hoping she wasn't as much of a cow as she appeared and then I ended up loving her, and her friendship with Nona. I loved it. I can't even begin to find the words to describe how much I loved watching their friendship grow and what it was at the end! Your impression of Ara kind of changes as Nona's does, once the...interference goes away. I also really loved Hessa, brave and brilliant Hessa. I actually can't talk about her much right now, it hurts *ugly sobs* Abbess Glass was intriguing, and I want to know more about her past and her motives, there's more to her than meets the eye clearly. I also really loved Darla and how she ended up being a kind of older sister/friend to Nona, as well as the rest of Nona's group, Jula, Ruli etc. It was heartwarming seeing them all help Nona and banding together.
I have to mention the nuns really quickly because they are so badass, especially Tallow, there's a scene and she has this line and I was like YAAAASSS! It was epic. I also really loved Apple and Kettle too! Apple was like the Snape of the Convent....but nicer. Mostly. Kettle I just loved for no reason other than she was pretty epic! I have to say, some of the things in this book reminded me a little of Nevernight, and Apple and her predilection for poisoning her own students did especially.
As for characters I didn't like...well there's plenty of characters for you to love to hate. First up is Clera. I never liked her from the beginning, something with her didn't seem right to me and it wasn't long before it was confirmed. She's really not a good friend to Nona, she's only Nona's friend until things get hard or don't go her way. Like when Nona was in trouble at the beginning of the book she acted like she didn't even know her, and then at the end she only helped for her own purposes. She got shadier and shadier to me over the course of the book, and I had a sinking feeling I knew what was going to happen but I was still surprised because I was hoping she wouldn't go that far. I don't buy that she didn't know they were really there for Nona though. Not at all. Let's see if she's redeemable in the next book because it looks like Nona isn't going to give up on her!
Zole I hated as soon as she made an appearance, but by the end of the book I wanted to like her and was looking for a reason to but I'm not sure how involved she is with the Plot by the Emperors sister. Who I also didn't like. The High Priest aka Jacob is a total love to hate character. He's a total d*** and I was rooting for him to get what was coming to him! The same can be said for good old Raymel who just won't stay down....or die. I have systematically hated every single Tacsis character in this book, Raymel most of all, and I'm anticipating hating them in every book.
Despite the slowness to the first 50% of the book at least, and the focus on the Convent, the story of Nona's past and the different ways she tells it is one mini plot that keeps you intrigued until the point of the book when all the other sub plots kick in and things pick up! The book has some glorious political backstabbing going on, and dirty deals with Tacsis and so on, which was interesting but the sub plots coming in at the second half of the book where brilliant! They wove together and kept you guessing and hooked you right in.
The prologue kept the intrigue up too, especially when it continues at the beginning of the second part of the book and you realise it's not the past you're seeing but the future. And who the character is...and then there's the little mini cliffhanger it has! I really enjoyed how the prologue provided a kind of mini story! You get a third and final part to it at the end of the book and all becomes clear and it got me so pumped up for book two to find out what's going to happen next! I've made some assumptions about how the prologue came about and I'm wondering if we'll see it in full in the next book, either way I'm intrigued by the direction this is heading!
Red Sister may start off slow and focus a smidge too much on the lessons and such at the beginning but once you reach the point where the sub plots kick in and the monsters come out to play it gets gorily brilliant. I was completely hooked from that point and unable to turn the pages fast enough. There's poisoning, betrayal, stabbing, fighting, more stabbing and Nona has a fascinating and emotional struggle with her own inner monster. The finale is drenched in blood. Like....the pages should be dripping! There's some fantastic plot twists, a fresh take on The Chosen One thing, and an ending that'll leave you wanting more!
Red Sister is an intriguing start to a new series, that promises to be full of blood and killer, stab happy nuns!