Mark Lawrence is an author I’ve been meaning to check out for a while, and I’m so glad I finally did! I read Red Sister and Grey Sister in quick succession, as I was so eager to carry on with Nona’s story, and I can’t wait to read the third book in the Book of the Ancestor series soon!
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
‘It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient bravery. For when Sister Cage of the Sweet Mercy Convent steps onto the battlefield courage is often found to be in short supply.’
At the Sweet Mercy convent, young girls are trained to be expert killers, a task that takes ten years and rigorous training in weapons, history, and the gifts of the old blood (types of magic that enhance their abilities). However, even the Sister’s of Sweet Mercy are out of their depths when young Nona Grey arrives at the convent. At eight she already has a blood-soaked past and enemies in high places, and she hasn’t yet even begun to grasp her true abilities…
This book wasn’t a book I was immediately sucked into, but I was so glad I persevered, as it was well worth it. Perhaps the problem was that the story starts with a bang – an epic fight between some kind of ninja nun and an entire army of men – and then slows down to talk about the childhood of the main character, Nona Grey. It takes quite some time and a few flashbacks to recount how Nona Grey ends up at the Sweet Mercy Convent, but things really picked up when she starts her training!
For one thing, I loved her meeting of the other novices and the friendships and enmities she begins to build almost immediately. It’s essentially a boarding school story, but where all the characters are trained in weapon, and it was so much fun to read about life at Sweet Mercy.
Nona as a character also really grew on me. She’s a little hard to get the read of at first, and in many ways, she’s your classic gifted main character, who seems to be amazing at everything. But as more is revealed of her and you see her grow up and start to form friendships you grow to love her. She’s feisty and fierce, but also quite dark at times, so she certainly isn’t your goody-goody two-shoes kind of
The world of the story was also intriguing and well-developed, even though you spend most of your time within the confines of Sweet Mercy in this book. Through flashbacks, you get to see Nona’s previous life in an isolated village, and more information about the wider world is cleverly fed to you through Nona’s lessons.
On the whole, this novel had it all: an intriguing concept (‘Hogwarts for killer nuns’ as I’ve been describing it!), a likeable main character who you can root for and an incredible, well-built world. I don’t often read sequels r
Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence
‘Never be so focused on picking a lock that you forget kicking down the door is also an option.’
Nona Grey has moved up to Mystic Class and is honing her skills at the Sweet Mercy Convent. Soon she must decide which of the four paths she will take when she has completed her training…if she completes it. Because her enemies are circling, more determined than ever to bring her down, and danger lurks around every corner…
This book as just as epic as the first, but with the stakes rising, it was much heavier on the action, which I loved. Whilst at the outset we get more of Nona at the convent, there’s definitely some sinister things at work in the caverns underneath, and in the far off court of the Emperor.
These things soon spill over, and with Nona forced to flee we get to visit more of the world of the book and see some more epic fights…because it’s now her life at stake. She has to fight off bigger and better enemies, and comes to understand how far-reaching her enemies are.
Whilst Red Sister was perhaps a little slow starting, what with it covering Nona’s childhood, this book picks up a lot quicker, and doesn’t really let up. I again found Nona to be a likeable main character, but I also liked getting to see more of characters who were further in the background in the previous books, like Sister Kettle. This book also showed more of the capabilities of the powers that exist in the four old bloodlines in the book, with Nona learning more about them, and learning to ‘walk the Path’, a process that is dangerous but gives access to incredible amounts of power.
I can’t wait to see where this series goes next in Holy Sister….if the stakes were upped for this second book I can’t imagine the heights they’re going to reach in the third (and final?) instalment! In my eyes this series is a must-read for fantasy fans…it’s shaping up to be one of the best series I’ve read in a long time!
So have you read Red Sister or Grey Sister? What did you think? Have you read any of Mark Lawrence’s other books?