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…
Red Sister is a slow burn. You’re there, learning about the world and the bundle of murderous delight that is Nona, and the rest of the nuns and then all of a sudden everything is happening! Some people may find it difficult to stick with because of that, but I really liked the sense of false security – you know bad things will happen, they aren’t hidden as the book progresses, but when they finally happen in their most stabby glory, it’s almost a surprise. Kind of like being on a rollercoaster – one minute you’re slowly creeping up the first incline, and the next you’re hurtling towards death.
The characters were all fantastic as well. The competition between the girls as they grow and learn was fantastically portrayed. I haven’t seen many books that capture the spirit of loyalty and determination and competition so often found in teenage girl relationships as well as Mark Lawrence manages, and I found it to be a very positive portrayal of how complex relationships can be. It was also great to see that secondary characters – primarily the adult nuns – weren’t neglected with their personal stories and relationships. There’s a great sense of who they are as people, not just as the girls’ teachers and role models.
The worldbuilding is also a huge standout. I didn’t feel like I was getting bogged down in details, but I still had a very good understanding of the world these nuns live in, and that’s a very good indication of the writing skill throughout the book. Mark Lawrence has a great way with words, and while Red Sister is quite different to his previous two trilogies, it has the same high quality throughout.
There is very little that I didn’t love about this book. It’s full of women going out there and Getting Stuff Done, pretty much regardless of the consequences, and that really warms the cockles of my heart.