Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

My rating: 3.9 of 5 stars

“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.
…and so begins another familiar stranger in dark fantasy. And can I just say, “OHMYGAADSWHATAFRICKINGRIDE!!!!?”

So there are a few ‘change of script(s)’ to note right off for you Mark Lawrence fans, the first of which is that the dark is {in a word} SUBTLE. That is right. There is no opener of rape or a cagey ole biddy cursing her way through the family greed. Throughout this particular piece, the dark is in the heart of man…in his, or rather in her, motivations. In the past, Mr Lawrence has shown us the worst in a man’s actions and the snake infested mind comes second. Here we see the fine line between inner virtue and inner vice. And really, who are we to judge where that line ends?


“Don’t move. I won’t have time to look at you. I have to know you’re where I put you.”

The second thing to note is that while all his books seem to be about the slow strategy, this one is like watching a past game of chess play out to remember the moves in that important game whilst setting up the pieces to a game that started without all the pawns on the board. If that sounds confusing, it is…but also it is not. After all, most people use the same three moves to open up any chess game. So why would you not recall the game where the players develop their first three moves? In simpler terms- this book has slowed the game way down. It is told at a steady pace without a whole lot of flair. Definitely slower than his other books; and definitely aimed more out our thinking minds versus the action loving blood and gore parts.


“People lie, Nona, they steal, they cheat, they’re unfaithful. People hurt you, they let you down. They sell you out.”


“It doesn’t mean I have to be like that.”

The last thing that I feel the need to warn you about is this– between the pace and the content, if you are not enraptured by the characters this book will hold no interest. We are given glimpses of the plot that will take over in the upcoming novels ,BRIEF glimpses, but overall this is about introducing us to the characters, perhaps so that we can fully understand the complexities of what is to come. To a lesser extent there is a bit of world building. But that world building was confined mostly within the walls of the convent. In fact, that was my main peeve…what the heck is this whacko political system and why are a bunch of girls all so important? There needs to be quite a bit more rounding in the world development part. I suspect, given past series, that things were kept vague. But honestly if I was not so hooked on figuring just who was lying and why and how our big 4 would end up developing, I would have walked away from the book.

The fact that I not only kept going but rate this at almost, if not 4 Stars says a lot about just how intriguing these characters are. And anyway (I have said it before in another series start,) you had me at “killer nun.”

Now to the story!


“Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”

There is this religion. The one that is worshipped is the Ancestor and what holds power in the modern world are bloodlines. In the beginning of their world, their were four tribes (that number 4 again) and those tribes had to blend blood to survive a harsh land. But the traits that manifest are important. Particularly when prophecies and politics mix. Enter into this world convents that train notes from youth in all manner of worship: discretion (spies,) the holy (scripture bound religious,) the path (magic workers of a specific energy flow,) and the red (soldiers of a sort.) Each has a rather murky (WORLD BUILDING!!!!) purpose in the grand scheme but each gives up even their name to serve after years of schooling.


“…you appear to have been purchased wholesale, along with your staff and office, for something as worthless as money.”

And where there is religion (especially killer nuns,) there is power. And where there is power, there are politicians and old families and family members grasping and clawing at each other. In this world of magic and religion, a prophecy and a few old relics serve to guide murder and scheming. And at the dead center of it is the princess, the murderer, the liar, and the spy. Four children who are bound to play out roles in an uncertain prophecy while the adults fight around them.

THIS IS NOT A COMING OF AGE NOVEL. I REPEAT: THIS IS NOT A COMING OF AGE NOVEL.

This is an intriguing look into the past so that we can understand the present. (view spoiler)


“Even children deserve honesty in the dark.

As we delve deeper into the manipulations of the past, we begin to understand that something deeper and angrier and more personal may just be happening in the present. But first we have to decipher the lies from the truths. The cunning from the guileless. And it will be harder than we could think as past and present betrayals are blurring. Who is friend and who is foe?


” Trust is the most insidious of poisons. Trust sidesteps all of your precautions.”

As always, Mark Lawrence delivers on his seamless character interactions and lyrical one-liners. He engages our minds with quasi-philisophical prose and drags us into the foundation that lead us to a precipice where 200 armed face one nun years after that foundation has been set.

But seriously…world building. I needs it. I wants it. I am crossing my fingers for the next novel. Because as awesome as getting to know these characters may be, another novel with only characters and a moderately slow pace will drive me batty. Time for some of the hinted intrigues and subtle prods to manifest in blazing glory. And I have high hopes they will…because…well…THE ENDING!

I will not give it away…but it is well worth reading for! Also…IDONTWANNAWAITTOFINDOUTWHATHAPPENS!!!!

All in all this character based read was plot and world lite but still delivered in the customary dark intrigue that guides me to the author and has me hungering for more novels. But I suppose I will take a lesson from the nuns on that score…


“Anger had its place, it was a weapon not to be neglected, but so did patience, and Nona decided that control lay in deciding which to use and when.”

This ARC was provided by Netgalley for an honest review.

View all my reviews

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