Published: 4th April 2017
It’s not until you’re broken that you find your sharpest edge
“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.
I’m not sure where to start with this book – except to say WOW! Rarely have I read a fantasy book so compelling and intriguing. I will give a word of warning though, if you are of a more sensitive nature or are not keen on violence then is not a book for you. The opening scenes start with us seeing a child of 8 being hanged for murder – this does set the tone for the rest of the book.
Nona Grey our main protagonist is accused of murdering the son of one of the most influential men of the empire, the repercussions of which play out throughout the entirety of the book. She is rescued from the gallows and taken to the Sweet Mercy Convent to be trained as a Red Sister, the main body of the story takes place at the Convent.
One of my favourite chapters sees some children telling each other the stories of old, the world building is beautiful, especially when seen through the eyes of a child. The descriptive language that Mark Lawrence uses pulls you into the narrative, it is almost intricate in its telling. The action is fast paced but there are also slower sections of the book which allows you time to digest and absorb what you have read.
I particularly enjoyed the parts of the book that take place at the ‘school’, you can recognise characters from your own schooling and it is a really interesting juxtaposition – reading about girls in a school setting but being trained to kill.
Ordinarily I devour books in very few sittings but I took my time with this one, I needed to take breaks to absorb what was going on – this is a complex world with a vast array of characters, however the story flows beautifully and it is easy to keep up with who is who. I was left with a lot of questions at the end and I am hoping some of these will be answered in Grey Sister, which I will be reviewing next month.
If you enjoy the fantasy genre you must put this on your reading list!