Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – Review

Cover- Red Sister

Published: April 4, 2017

Publisher: Ace

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 432 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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…

Red Sister, the first book in Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series, which is a brand new world and completely unrelated to the Broken Empire. That statement was for all you people that couldn’t get past Jorg Ancrath’s callous exterior to his broken interior and find out that he was only about 90% the bastard you thought he was. Rest assured, Nona Grey is much more likable than Jorg but just as much a killer, thus fulfilling all your grimdark needs.

This book had me at hello or rather those killer opening lines which, upon reading, should make anyone immediately run to purchase this book.

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.

Seriously people. Battle-nuns. I didn’t know this was missing from my life until it was there. Nona Grey comes to the Convent of Sweet Mercy at a tender young age, having narrowly escaped the gallows for the attempted murder of the son of a wealthy and powerful man. At first glance you may think that going to a convent will tame Nona and turn her into a pious girl, but nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the Convent of Sweet Mercy trains girls who have the blood of the ancient tribes to be killers.

At the convent Nona meets many other girls around her own age and surprisingly makes a solid group of friends. I anticipated a rivalry between Nona and another girl, but was pleased to find that they end up being closer than any of the others. That was definitely a petty, mean-girl catfight that I didn’t want to deal with for an entire series and I breathed a sigh of relief when it didn’t happen. I greatly enjoyed all the characters, whether student, teacher, or enemy. Nona in particular was wonderful and as many reviewers before me have said, Red Sister was a classic coming-of-age story. Abess Glass is cunning and if she were in Game of Thrones, she would sit the Iron Throne or run the spy network. The Sisters who teach each class are ridiculously proficient and tough and the whole teaching system reminded me of that featured in Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

Mark Lawrence also managed to squeeze some fascinating world building in between all that nun training. Abeth is a planet on the brink of death- the sun is dying and ice has encroached on much of the planet. Only the nightly heat from the focus moon (which I suspect is a type of satellite or space mirror) has kept the ice at bay from a narrow strip around the planet and even that can’t hold doom at bay forever. Abeth’s magic is fueled by the blood from the ancient tribes (gerant, hunska, marjal, and quantal) and enhanced when in proximity to the shiphearts. Most of the shiphearts are lost under the ice, but one resides below the Convent of Sweet Mercy, providing toasty warm water and easier access to the magical Path. Did I mention that there’s intrigue, prophecy, and some exciting subplots?

Overall, Red Sister was an excellent book and definitely one that will appeal to a broader audience than Mark’s previous two trilogies. This is one series I’ll have to have hardcover copies of, because they’re too good to not be gracing my shelves. If Red Sister sounds like your cup of tea, check it out on April 4, 2017!

9 thoughts on “Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – Review

  1. Thankyou for making mention of how this is in regards to his previous books. Jorge turned me off so bad in his first book that I’ve never even considered reading another Lawrence book. And every other review has just focused on how much you’ll love this book if you liked the Jorge books.
    So while your review has not convinced me to read this, it certainly has opened me to the possible possibility of reading it, at some day in the future 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really did think Prince of Fools was the book that should cross to a new audience as it was much lighter (though still action packed and violent) than Prince of Thorns. To me this book felt much more like the opening to the first trilogy.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree with you about Prince of Fools, definitely lighter than Thorns. Have you read Nevernight by Jay Kristoff? It was released last year to a lot of fanfare, especially amongst the Y-A fantasy brigade, I read it, definitely not Y-A, worst rape/sex scenes in any fantasy including grimdark that I’ve read, and lots of violence too, more so than Red Sister, that’s to me why I think it’s his most accessible book as if any of those who read Nevernight, read Red Sister, it’s a far better book and might…..might open them up to trying other more adult fantasy titles.


  2. Pingback: Top 5 Reviews of 2017 | Powder & Page

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