Red Sister

RED SISTER (Book of the Ancestor #1)

Written by Mark Lawrence

Published by Ace, April 4, 2017

My star rating – 4 stars


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… Find it on Goodreads

spoiler free graphic


My thoughts on this book are so confusing and conflicting! On one hand I felt that certain things were lacking, while on the other hand I think it was the most well done of it’s setting. On one hand I felt it was slow in pace, then on the other hand I appreciated its detail. I’ll try to keep my thoughts straight for you!

This wasn’t the easiest book for me to get into. The pace was slow in the beginning, and you were thrown into a situation with little to no explanation as to how you got there. You get answers in the long run, but this is the type of book that you need to just accept it and enjoy the ride. If you struggle with it like I did – trust me – it does get better!

Here’s where my thoughts conflict with each other. I feel like this book really lacked world building. We’re told that there’s an Emperor. We are told that there’s a world that is slowly losing its moon and ice is taking over the world, making it hard to survive in the now icy climate. And we get hints of the politics between royal and religious rule. But there isn’t a point where all of these things are laid out. I definitely could have used some good old fashioned info dumping! Or, at least, having the character learn along with the reader. The main character is also very confused about how this world is run as she lived a very sheltered and small life.

The conflicting point of that statement – the fact that there wasn’t as much world building left the author time to dedicate to the Sweet Mercy convent 100%! This isn’t your typical convent! Here, girls learn combat, poisons, spiritual connection, and so much more. If you like books with a magical school/training setting – THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU! Aside from Nevernight, this was the one of the best written school settings I’ve ever read! We got detailed accounts of the many classes, many levels of training, and everything that came along with it. We also got to learn what they were training for and what their futures held. So, on one hand, I missed the world building, but being able to be in the moment of this school was fantastic!

The other thing that I felt was missing was the types of abilities, how they’re detected, what they can accomplish and more. Throughout the book there’s mention of full blood, half blood, and so much more. There are different types and each type has their own abilities. These characters are still very young, and still haven’t come into their abilities yet, so I have a feeling we’re going to get more detail about this later in the series.

I also loved the nuns!! They were all SO different from each other but they existed together and made a well rounded convent. Some were sweet, some were brutal, some were tough, some were weak, and some were spiritual. But in the end – they were all totally bad ass women!!!!

The main problem I had with this book – the ages!!! We’re talking a convent of trainees who are around the ages of 11 years old. First of all, they didn’t sound their age! I get it – this is fantasy, and this world seems brutal, but they didn’t seem young at all! They were so mature and they’re all there learning how to wield weapons, maim, poison and kill. They were forced to brutally fight each other and were poisoned by their teacher just for fun. It read more like girls in their late teens. No matter how many times their ages were mentioned, I just couldn’t equate it in my mind.

Even though I struggled to get into this, and even though I don’t agree with the ages of the characters, this book was incredible! I LOVED the setting and thought this was one of the best written school/training settings I’ve ever read! And even though the pace was slow at times, the detail only allowed me to feel this book more deeply and immerse myself into the lives of these characters. I can’t wait to continue with the series!

Until next time, happy reading!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. I’ve been meaning to read this book and now I’m doubly excited to get my hands on a copy. Great review!


  2. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    Great review! I’ve tried to read this a couple of times so it’s good to know I’m not the only one who’s struggled with it and that it does get better. Usually I’d admit defeat and DNF a book I kept putting down like this, but I KNOW I could love this series because assassin nuns are my entire aesthetic. Clearly I need to give this one another try really soon!


  3. CJR The Brit says:

    Great review! I bought this the other day as it was on sale on Amazon!


  4. evelynreads1 says:

    I’ve been meaning to read this for ages! At some point I was about to pick up the audiobook, but I think this boo is to confusing for me on audio.. So better pick up a physical copy 🙂



  5. Glad you kept going with Red Sister. Brutal worlds, as this is, unfortunately make kids have to grow up quickly. The relationships are what make this book work so well. I’m sure there will be more details about the world in the other two books. Greatly enjoyed this book – 100% recommend.


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