The international bestselling author of the Broken Empire and the Red Queen’s War trilogies begins a stunning epic fantasy series about a secretive order of holy warriors...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.
A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies.
Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona’s secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself.
Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way.
Lawrence (the Broken Empire trilogy) grips readers from the opening sentence "It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size" of this successful fantasy series launch. The prologue setting up a battle between a Martial Sister and a force of 200 men ends just before the first blow is struck. The main narrative is a lengthy flashback recounting the story of Nona Grey, a young girl who was given to a childtaker; she's introduced moments from being hanged for attempting to kill a powerful noble who was hurting a friend of hers. Her life is spared through the intervention of Abbess Glass, who takes Nona to the Sweet Mercy Convent and puts her through rigorous training. The contours of the plot will feel familiar to genre fans a young orphan, possessed of special gifts, receiving lessons in a cloistered community on how to realize her potential but Lawrence makes it seem fresh through evocative prose and three-dimensional characterizations.
At last, something of interest and good enough to hold the attention. Great storytelling, great characters, great writing. You can’t ask more of a book.
Almost dropped this book, but so glad I didn’t!!
The first 30% is a 3/5.
30-50% is a 5/5.
And the rest of the book is between 4 and 5/5.
I almost dropped this book around 30%, but I reminded myself how much I loved Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns and I kept going. I’m so glad.
This book has a lot of things going for it: fascinating world-building, an interesting main character, and an engaging history of Abeth’s powers and magics.
The main issue I had with this book was how slowly these things were revealed. Of course, slowly unraveling a plot is critical in storytelling to create intrigue and suspense, but it happened wayyyy too slow in this book. To put it plainly, the first 30% of the book is just boring. You barely learn anything about the characters or Abeth, only little teases here and there.
Past the 30% mark (or around there), Red Sister is an entirely new book. And once you hit 40-50% the ball is rolling and it doesn’t stop!
I loved this book, and if you’re struggling to read the first part I promise it gets better. It gets amazing and so, so satisfying. Can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy!!
I’ve read Mark’s Broken Empire and Red Queen books and found them to be very well written. This book lacks much of the passion, fire and imagination I have come to expect from him. To me it comes off much more as a youth fantasy book. I can’t recommend it and will likely not continue with the rest of the series.