Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

25895524Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

Published by: Ace

Publication Date: April 4th 2017

Genre: Adult Fantasy/LGBTQ

Pages: 432 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★

HUGE thanks to Ace, Netgalley, and Mark Lawrence for the eGalley of Red Sister in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.


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…


My very 1st Mark Lawrence read & boy was it something! nothing could’ve prepared me for what lay ahead but the first few pages in the first chapter did manage to leave me wide eyed. Right off the bat we are introduced to a 8 year old Nona & the harsh reality of the world she lives in. The opening scene had me asking strangers on the train “oh! so no man, woman, or CHILD is safe under Mark’s pen huh?!?!” well the answer to that is NO! no one is safe & plenty are hungry enough to sell their children to avoid starvation. Nona is literally saved from the noose at the very last second by a Nun from Sweet Mercy Convent which is by no means your typical convent. This also won’t be my typically styled review, I finished this book days ago & have gone above & beyond to avoid a book hangover. I will try my best not to fangirl all over this review, back to the Plot…

Sweet Mercy Convent gave me Hogwarts mixed with a Ludus (like in Spartacus) vibes. The nuns at Sweet Mercy all specialize in one skill or another ranging from fighting to magic. Everyone in this world is a descendant from of the following four tribes:

Hunska: Speed (faster than your average human)

Gerrant: Physically large & strong

Marjal: ability to do magic on a smaller scale

Quantal: ability to walk the path & more complex magic

The students who enter are sorted by the abilities they’ve shown a inherent skill towards or in the case of Gerrant & Hunska, are visibly on display. The girls also attend classes in various subjects pertaining to each skill and go through ranks in the following order: Red Class, Gray Class, Mystic Class, and Holy Class. Nona will have 10 years of education in the convent in order to become a Red Sister. During her time & training in the convent there are outside forces at work seeking retribution for old wounds. Nona has secrets, ones that she doesn’t want her peers to ever find out for fear they will see the darkness within her. Nona has a bloody violent history leading up to the noose where she would be hung for her crime. We follow her progress in Sweet Mercy Convent as she learns to hone her skills all the while dealing with inside & outside threats.


We follow Nona from age 8 to about age 11 in this first installment in the Book of the Ancestor series. She has only known violence & the need to survive when she is brought to Sweet Mercy Convent. She is shrouded in mystery & likes it that way, often times making up stories for her past. Perhaps Nona’s biggest weakness is her unquestioning loyalty to those that call her “friend”. In Sweet Mercy we are introduced to the Abess & sisters who run the convent & teach the classes. I found myself enjoying some of these characters like Sister Apple for her specialty which I won’t reveal since it is spoilery. Also, Sister Kettle who watches over the library, won me over with her threat to anyone caught folding pages in books. Besides the vast array of sisters, there were three other girls in Nona’s class we get to follow closely. There’s Clera who has a love/hate relationship with Nona, Arabella who fiercely watches over Nona, and Hessa who is connected to Nona & often plays the voice of reason. Friendships play a center focus in Red Sister, we see Nona learning the highs & lows all the while living in a competitive setting. Arabella was hands down my favorite & seeing their friendship unfold was awesome since as a reader of Young Adult, I don’t often see positive F/F friendships. This was a change of pace & there were definitely betrayals & double crossings in the mix but that’s to be expected in this world where violence is the law of the land. I like my characters flawed & complex and Lawrence delivers with Nona as well as her friends. No one is wholly “good” or “evil” & therefore nothing is ever black or white in this world, we get a ton of gray til the very last page.


I finished reading Red Sister some time last week & was left speechless…so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to write this review. I needed to digest what was my first ever Mark Lawrence book & gather my thoughts. From start to finish, Red Sister held me in its grip for various reasons including the no holds barred violence that follows our main protagonist. The world building at first seemed like it would overwhelm me but Lawrence weaves in the ranks & paths so well, that there really was no need to refer to the glossary. About the glossary LOL! MAJOR points for placing the glossary at the very beginning of the book as opposed to the very end where no one ever thinks to look haha! although as previously mentioned, it wasn’t necessary other than as back-up info to this world. The writing is very detailed but in a useful way if that makes sense, it wasn’t overkill. The fighting/training scenes were the most detailed & I was able to get a vivid picture almost as if I were watching a movie. Told in third person POV, Red Sister’s opening pages starts you off with a glimpse of events taking place in the future. This alone was a HUGE motivator for me as far as page turning goes, I needed to find out what that whole scene was about & how everyone managed to get to that point…WHAT WENT WRONG?!?!?! to say that I loved my 1st Mark Lawrence book is a HUGE understatement, I’m in it for the long haul my bookish peeps! If you’re a mostly Young Adult Fantasy reader & are considering taking the leap into Adult Fantasy, this may be a great place to start. For fans of bad a** female heroines, vivid  fight scenes, positive female friendships, positive LGBTQIA representation and elements of the Potterverse…this book is for YOU! 😉

Some of my closest book blogging buddies have already read Red Sister & I will spend Monday visiting their reviews to finally read their thoughts & complain about the wait til’ book 2 haha! Is anyone else reading Red Sister? If you have a review up, please drop that link in the box below & I’ll gladly swing by for a chat 🙂

Author: LairOfBooks

"I didn't choose the Book Life, the Book Life chose me"

30 thoughts on “Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence”

  1. Ah Lillian, I have been waiting for your review! 🙂 So glad that you liked it, it really is a stunning book, agree with everything you wrote, it’s definitely his most accessible book to date and for all the Y-A fans who read Nevernight, they really need to give Red Sister a go, it is just that good!

    Ha, very true, starting the book like that certainly made you want to find out what sh#t went down to get to that point! 🙂

    Awesome review and yeah, roll on book 2, at least Lawrence is a quick writer, a book per year so it’s gonna be a year, but at least it’s not gonna be like Game of Thrones waiting time! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Drew! you’re responsible for my Mark Lawrence obsession now, I’ve been contemplating ordering The Broken Empire trilogy from Book Depository. It’s as good as done lol. I’d also really like to get to Nevernight soon.

      THAT ending though!!!!!!! The way it all started had me thinking something completely different than what was actually the case in the end lol. Thank goodness, Mark is no George, otherwise I’d be kicking myself for falling into the trap once again. BRING ON BOOK 2!!! I have questions Markie Mark 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, blame poor Drew, that’s the norm!😂

        Both his other trilogies are great, The Broken Empire is very dark, it’s definitely grimdark but Jorg is a wonderful protagonist.

        Lol, yeah, that’d definitely be true if he was another George, let’s be fair one George is bad enough!😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Baha! Ain’t that the truth 😂😂😂 I like dark so I think I’ll go with Broken Empire next, I’ve also heard a ton of Jorg. His reputation precedes him 😂 George is killing me slowly smh lol

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure what kept me from picking up his books but I am really regretting it, now I just want to get to all of his books. Maybe this will be what I do while I wait for the 2nd installment in the Book of the Ancestor. Hope you enjoy when you get around to it 🙂


  2. This is a KILLER review! Thank you. I haven’t read any Lawrence yet, but only because I was recommended against it due to graphic violence. It sounds like you got a lot out of this- I can’t wait to read it myself!

    Thank you for pointing out a positive f/f relationship. I agree with you, we don’t see enough of these in literature at all. Do you feel like our protagonist was a realistic 8-11 year old? That gives me a bit of trepidation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jackie! I’m not going to lie to you, his writing is very violent when it comes to fighting scenes but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Nona has had a rough life & being sold for the lowest value by her mother & village doesn’t help. She is realistic in the sense that at the age of 8 she is seeking friendship & is prone to make up stories. She displays a ton of characteristics common for her age group but by no means is she your normal child. I left out a bit about her abilities because I found that part fun to find out for myself. If you do decide to give it a go, I’d love to hear your thoughts 😉


  3. Wow this sounds like an amazing book Lilly, and you’ve definitely helped convince me to add this one to my to-read list. I enjoy adult fantasy as much as I do young adult fantasy though it’s been a while since I picked up any book in the former genre. I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about Mark Lawrence’s books so I already have high expectations for Red Sister.
    The premise kind of reminds me a little of Nevernight. Have you read that one? Do you think there are similarities between the two books if you have? Even so the fact that it gave you Hogwarts vibes, though mixed with Ludus, has only helped convince me I need to pick this one up.
    Great review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Beth, I’m glad to have picked up Red Sister as his 1st book as it was a phenomenal read & I think you’d enjoy it as well. I have not yet read Nevernight although I own a copy from the U.K., it’s on my more general TBR for 2017 haha! I do however know bloggers like Drew who have read Nevernight & made the comparisons. From what I am to understand, Red Sister is just a step up from Nevernight, the adult version basically. Of course this has only heightened my interest in reading Nevernight which I was very much looking forward to reading when i first obtained my copy. I held off though because at the time, Jay Kristoff was getting a ton of hell I didn’t want to read it in the midst of all that. Now I can read it & form my own opinion w/out the book community drama. Hope you enjoy Red Sister when you get around to it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right, and if you picked up Red Sister first and loved it then I’ll have to do the same . If I’m going to start reading his books I should start with the best and it sounds like this is the one! 😀
        Well in that case I do hope you enjoy Nevernight as well. I think the thing you’ve got to be careful about with going into a book that’s similar to one you’ve read before is to not compare them you know? If not you’ll try and hold Nevernight to Red Sister’s standard and it won’t match and you’ll end up disappointed which is a shame because Nevernight is a good book I think. I hope you enjoy it without the book community drama Jay Kristoff has had.
        Thanks Lilly, I hope so as well. 🙂


  4. Absolutely great review! I am thrilled you share in the enthusiasm with this one. I was blown away with Lawrence’s ability to develop such a raw and powerful female lead. I love Nona. He also seems to have a way with developing complex worlds and magic, but presenting it is such an easy to digest manner. I admit I ran out and bought all of Broken Empire after I read it haha. You review is just stellar ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Danielle! Nona has to be hands down the strongest female lead I’ve ever come across. This being my 1st adult fantasy book in years, i’m glad that it didn’t overwhelm me & that is due to his style of writing. I am following in your stead and purchasing the Broken Empire trilogy, it’s inevitable haha! I honestly had such a tough time gathering my thoughts as is usually the case when I read a PHENOMENAL book such as this one. I even Instagram storied for the 1st time my “writers block” with this review LOL! thanks again Danielle 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a fantastic review! I just recently finished reading and reviewing this myself!!! This book was GOLLLDDD! Totally agree with everything you said. After that ending, I just can’t wait to see what the next book is going to be like. I have a feeling this series is going to the whole idea of friendship to a whole new level and maybe even make me cry at the end!! 😛

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lashaan! and yes it was GOLD! that ending left me hanging though, left all of us wanting more really haha! the friendships in Red Sister are deeeeeep! I’m interested in seeing how certain bonds turn out. The end was def sad but Nona is so hopeful that it gave me a ray of hope lol. Thank you for stopping by 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve heard some great things about this one, I’m not sure how it wasn’t on my radar. I’m judging some of the names of the characters but I do love characters who are morally grey, it makes them more interesting.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. The buzz has been very positive for Red Sister, i’m so glad I stopped procrastinating on taking the plunge back into adult fantasy. This one has motivated me to p/u the rest of Mark Lawrence’ books. Morally Grey characters RULE!!! they certainly are the most innnnneresting hehe. The Glossary placed at the beginning only makes the MOST sense! haha 🙂


  7. After seeing you mention this book on your blog several times I added it to my TBR but after reading your review I need to get my hands on it ASAP. This book sounds like everything I love and want to see in fantasy. I feel like it could become a favorite and be right up there with The Bone Season for me. And even though it gives off vibes of other book worlds it also sounds so unique. Plus, I mean kick ass female heroines and great female friendships? YES PLEASE! I’m going to have to download a copy of this soon and read it within the next few months (once I get past Lord of Shadows and ACOWAR LOL). Great review as always, Lilly!! 💕😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Melissa! i’m not big on recommending my favorites for fear that my book friends will dislike one of my beloveds but a more perfect fit for you there is none! This book has your name written ALL over it! your love for epic world building and well developed characters will make this one an instant fave. I say go for it, I have a strong feeling you will LOVE IT! 🙂

      P.S. We ALL go into hibernation on May 2nd for ACOWAR LMAO!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It really does feel like this one has my name written all over it lol 🙈. I am definitely going to be adding it to my list for this year and probably reading it in June, if I don’t hit a fantasy slump. 😂
        And right? I swear I won’t be coming out of my reading hole once I have my hands on that book. LOL


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