Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
Narrator: Heather O'Neil
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
Published by Ace on April 4, 2017
Length: 19 hours, 21 minutes
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.
I waited a long time to start Red Sister. It’s fantasy which I never quite believe I will like. Fantasy can be dark, violent, even brutal with almost no humor. Audio is a way I slip myself into the story. I wanted to try this author. I’m so glad I did.
The world-building here is huge. It has the fantasy standard of feudal groups fighting for power. There is royalty and there are peasants. Our girl is a peasant. We follow Nona’s life from small child to older child, I guess. There is a religious aspect which I usually dislike but this felt more political, which religion often is political. The backdrop of all the places in Nona’s life is richly painted. The magical system is unique and the details unfold somewhat throughout the story.
The characters are also huge. Nona struggles to grow and learn, never quite believing herself worthwhile. She has no one to trust or to rely upon for support. There are many supporting players which we have a sense of their integrity and goals but none are so complete as our storyteller Nona. Some seem good or evil or varying places along that spectrum, but few feel trustworthy. I care about Nona and her cohorts.
I enjoyed Heather O’Neil’s narration very much. I did listen at 1.25 speed. Her voice felt true for Nona. She did an excellent job with different characters and genders, giving them each a touch of unique characterization. She brought forth the emotions in the characters and for me.
This is gritty and often brutal, somewhat normal in fantasy,. The unfairness of social castes is clear, as it always is. The build of knowledge and various people’s goals is steady, but not fast. I hurt for the burdens Nona took upon herself and others heaped on her. The steadfast nature of her choices is heart-wrenching. I support Nona and worry for her and cheer her successes.
This is the first in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy. I’ll be looking forward to Grey Sister projected for next April. With the title, I wondered if it was the perspective of another sister. But it is the continuation of Nona’s story with a view to another option based on her blood. So, WOW, I am going to have to read more by this author.
Listen to a clip here.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Anne: 2017 Audiobook Challenge
- Anne: 2017 New Release Challenge