Review | Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

“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…

Title: Red Sister

Author: Mark Lawrence

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

[Disclaimer: This review is based on a proof copy I received in an Illumicrate box, please note there may be some changes between this and the finished copy.]

Sign that you’re reading a good book: You just can’t put it down without getting that nagging feeling like it’s going on without you!

That was Red Sister for me.

Now, I do have to warn some people who might not get the hint from the sheer size of the book: this is a heavy fantasy book. There are a LOT of terms and titles to remember, and it took me a while to get the hang of them myself. I hope there’ll be some sort of reminder of these in Grey Sister or else I’m likely to forget most of them by the time I read it!

This will put some people off, but it’s also really helpful to immerse me in a different world. The titles were similar enough in most cases for me to understand the importance of some characters, and it definitely made escaping into the book universe a lot easier once I’d got to grips with it.

Interestingly, this book very much reminded me of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. This is definitely a book ‘you’ll enjoy if you enjoyed’ Nevernight. The class structures are very similar with what the nuns are teaching the girls, it’s a school for warriors in a remote location, and the main character wants revenge for a past wrong. Aside from that, it’s very unique, but if you loved those plot points in other books then you’ll absolutely love them here too.

At the beginning, when Nona is being introduced to the school and we’re learning about how someone learns to become a nun, the different types of nuns, classes etc. we also learn that there is some sort of ‘chosen one’.

Of course I obviously thought that this chosen one is the main character since that’s usually what’s foreshadowed, but this book just keeps throwing twists in that particular story! One minute you think it’s Nona and the next you think it’s another girl, then another. It kept me on my toes which I really appreciated.

The pacing was also nice for me, a little slow in some parts but generally it kept moving forward and a little time jump was good to show how much Nona was learning on her way to becoming a nun.

One thing about the Nuns themselves though: How many names does one person need??

Every nun had a Sister XXX name and a Mistress XXX name, not to mention their original name too I suppose even though that was rarely mentioned if ever! I was glad for the chart at the front of the book, but half the time I was just confused.

Me: Sister Apple is the… poison Mistress? Wait… how old is she again?

And so it removes me from the story a little, smidge annoying.

Maybe if there was an obvious feature or mannerism I could hold on to a bit better, that would have helped me remember more easily who I was talking to in any particular scene.

However the action scenes! I really couldn’t fault them. They were interesting and chock full and easy to follow what was happening. Even with the abstract Path stuff and speed of things I never felt lost. Mark Lawrence does write a good action scene.

This whole book felt like it had the moral of: it doesn’t matter if you take a different path to other people, the best path is the one that suits you. Nona really embodied that, and I appreciated it very much. Overall, it was a very good read.