Book Reviews | Fantasy

Red Sister: Review

August 5, 2017

I know, it’s been a while since my last blog post! I think my hobbies are catching up to me, along with a renewed focus on my health and fitness, but that’s not at all bad! I feel pretty great in general, though definitely a little guilty that I haven’t been reading as much as I used to! I did finish Red Sister, by Mark Lawrence recently, and I’m excited to share my spoiler-free thoughts with you!

Goodreads Summary:

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…


I’ll start with a caveat that I absolutely went into Red Sister thinking that it would be similar to Nevernight, by Jay Kristoff. After all, both feature a deadly young girl being trained in a school where the deadly arts are honed even further.

While the premise may sound similar, the writing styles are a bit different. If you have no problem reading lengthy prose (think, The Hobbit), extremely verbose dialogue, and a very complicated historical premise, then great! You’ll enjoy Red Sister. It reminded me of the old-school fantasies and science fiction books that I used to read, by Orson Scott Card, Terry Goodkind, etc. The beginning starts slow, as readers witness flashback after flashback to help set the scene for when we finally meet Nona Grey, but once the magic systems are fleshed out, the book picks up tremendously, with tons of action.

What I couldn’t wrap my head around was how young little Nona Grey and her classmates are. Granted, she’s… meant for special things. Still, we watch this wisp of a seven-year old girl grow into her skills, and it’s jarring to not have a clear sense of time progression, or maturation. Nona’s time at the Convent of Sweet Mercy jumps around and it’s not clear how classes are technically organized, or how long the girls must attend each one. I was also skeptical of how little puberty was addressed in the book. Surrounded by girls her own age, or even older, I expected Nona and her classmates to fully own their female bodies and their natural processes and needs, but these things were hardly addressed. Maybe they would have taken away from the aggressive pacing of the story, but maybe these details would have added an element of reality, that grounded Nona and her classmates as humans, regardless of the traits they carry in their bloodlines.

The lack of character development is the reason why I dock a star from Red Sister. There are amazing action sequences and exciting plot twists, but it was hard for me at times to get behind the hyper-mature (or hyper-naive) decisions being made by a group of ten-year-olds.

I rate Red Sister 4/5 stars!

Read on,

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