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


red sister cover

Published by Harper Voyager

5 stars



It’s not until you’re broken that you find your sharpest edge

A brilliant new series from the bestselling author of PRINCE OF THORNS.

“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…

This is a book I’ve been putting off for ages (sorry NetGalley!), I tried the first chapter and I knew it was going to be vast and challening. So I put the book down and saved it for a rainy day – this happened to be the week that Mike had his first bout of flu in about a decade so I settled down on the sofa next to him and read this book while throwing the occasional cough lozenge in his direction.
I was definitely right about the vast and the challenging. If the rest of this trilogy follows these lines, I’ll just wait for some beautiful print editions to become available before reading them and get the set!

The world building was unparalleled, this book introduces the reader to several of the different factions/tribes/academies in the world and gives us a basic understanding of what they stand for, without feeling like an info dump. No doubt they’re going to be featuring more heavily in the future installments so I already recommend reading them in order! The magic in this world is very original and follows a well thought out set of rules.

In this world, there are four magical bloodlines which can still be found in certain individuals. Each bloodline has its own power and qualities, which are highly valued in warriors and academics – which is why our hero, Nona, a little girl who has been sold by her village to the Child Collector, is picked up by a Convent and trained to use her abilities.

At this point, I felt there were some very slight and sweet similarities to the Harry Potter series – four different groups, magic and poisoning lessons and a bunch of teenagers who resolutely refuse to tell the teachers when they’re ill or in danger and just take matters into their own hands. I only noticed the parallel because of the last point, which I always found funny in the Harry Potter series (FFS, just tell the supremely powerful headmaster/mistress).

Nona is an excellent main character, having been sold by her village and generally abused by everyone around her, she’s not a trusting child and plays her cards very close to her chest which makes her an unreliable narrator, but one you can sympathise with. She’s not all butterflies and light, which makes for one of my favourite tropes – homicidal little girls.

The other girls in her class don’t have quite as much page time as I would have liked, there are a few that are fully described but otherwise you have ‘the nice one’ and ‘the goody-goody’. That said, the book would probably go on forever if they were fully characterised…

The writing was totally immersive and the action bloody and violent (woohoo!) – I don’t feel like I can really do this book justice, it kept me hooked from beginning to end once I knew I was ready to throw myself into it.


*Thank you NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

5 thoughts on “Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence (Book of the Ancestor #1)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.