Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister
Book of the Ancestor, book 1
by Mark Lawrence

Saved from the noose by an abbess, Nona Grey is taken to the Convent of Sweet Mercy to train among the nuns in their martial and magical ways. There, she must learn to accept her prophesied future as she tries to hide from her bloodstained past.

Although I didn’t think this was particularly graphic, there is a good amount of bloodshed in this book.

The story follows a young Nona Grey as she’s given away by her mother to a man with a cage full of children. After being bought and sold and sentenced to death, she’s spared by an abbess on her way to her hanging. At Sweet Mercy, Nona learns everything from reading and writing to harnessing magical energy. She learns about trust and betrayal, her future and her past. There’s war and politics and a world in crisis.

The story is told through Nona’s perspective. I loved Nona as a main character. She’s troubled and terrified, but loyal and fierce. She lies about certain things and when she tells the truth, she tells the truth she believes. This leads to us having a somewhat unreliable narrator. But not in a way that makes it difficult to tell the lies from the truth, just sometimes we have to wait a while for the real truth to come out.

I don’t typically like the ‘magic school’ trope, but this setting was so interesting. The world as a whole was interesting, and we spend enough time outside of the convent and classroom settings that I never got sick of it. There’s so much intrigue and misdirection, amongst the students, the nuns, the nobles, and everyone else in the world. I was so invested in Nona’s life and well-being, as well as the variety of characters that surround her. Figuring out who was behind certain events and awaiting the reveal of certain truths kept me hooked as the story unfolded.

I loved reading this book and I’m so excited to get my hands on the rest of the trilogy.