10/10 – Originally posted on Fantasy Book Review.
I received an advance reading copy of Grey Sister in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Mark Lawrence and Ace Books for this opportunity.
The second entry within the Book of the Ancestor trilogy picks up events approximately two years after the exceptional and breathtaking finale of Red Sister. Nona Grey: the black-eyed and shadowless novice is still studying potions, blade-path, kingdom histories, thread-weaving, and all the other dedicated and required lessons a potential religious assassin nun should be partaking in. Yet, she’s no longer quite the same Nona Grey that we witnessed previously.
“But I must warn you, sister, that a sickness runs in me, and if you fashion yourself my enemy I will make a ruin of your life, for I am born of war.”
Due to Nona’s often unpredictable skills and intelligence, she has been promoted to Mystic Studies, the next stage of qualifications at the convent of Sweet Mercy, where all revere the Ancestor. She has issues at this level with potential bullies, problems in certain studying areas, however, our main protagonist is deadly and she is haunted by her past actions, literally. Lawrence is known within the fantasy scene for possessing two extremely respected qualities throughout all his stories and both are showcased here in great fashion. He is arguably one of the darkest and most brutal writers currently working yet he’s also the author whose words, prose, and unbelievable quotable segments can capture readers in a trance. Engaging almost like it is all subliminal written linguistics controlling us to emphasise the movements, moments and excitement that frequent every single one of his narratives. There is a reason that on Fantasy Book Review- he is one of the most consistent, top-rated current authors and his approximately yearly novel output puts the majority of his peers to shame.
Red Sister was mainly focused on Nona Grey regarding her relationships with fellow students and side players being the focus of the action. Here, we have two, perhaps even three point of view perspectives. Nona is still the main individual and the most interesting to us even though she might not be the most important in the grand scheme of things. The other scripted perspective is Abbess Glass who is the leader of the nunnery. She’s very wise, deep and oozes goodness but her narrative doesn’t follow the sort of path the description may predict. Her chapters seemed to be shorter than Nona’s and to begin with I only really cared about when Nona was there included and seen from Glass’ viewpoint. They are very important; however, and towards the end, you equally want to see what happens to her just as much, and perhaps even more so than the trilogies lead cast member. In addition to their being more viewpoints, I found the so-called side characters much more fleshed out. Especially Zole, Ara, Kettle, and a newer entry called Keot. My mind is often dark so he was my favourite character in the whole story. Powerful perhaps, definitely mysterious and I read his words and voice with an intensity that is rarely created. “Tonight we will slice their throats as they sleep.”
I have to commend Lawrence for how deep and complex his world is that he has created within the constricting miles high walls of ice that are closing on the remaining villages and cities of the corridor. Grey Sister is brimming with religions, races, family trees, exquisite archaic books, bizarre poisons, more complicated antidotes, and a potential prophecy that certain characters may orchestrate then manipulate to try to destroy or save the world.
The pacing and plotting are well worked out for the majority of readers. There was a section about half way through which caused me to not pick it up as frequently as I maybe should have. I love action, however; upon completing the book I saw that everything Lawrence did makes absolute sense, which is why he is the writer and I am not. About 30-percent through there is a twist that throws everything “into the wind.” Then the last 30-percent is genius and unputdownable. This ending sequence follows two brilliant yet highly different variants of characters motives. The action sequences in these truly fluid segments were the sort I adore and often make me speechless. I had to re-read certain chapters. Not as I didn’t understand what was stated but because I truly wanted to relive that scene once again before I moved on to the ever heightening and expressive climax. These sections included especially some of Keot’s moments or when characters ‘walked the path’. Even meeting the Noi-Guin, old favourites like Regol, and hearing rumours about Yisht, there is so much going on here that fans of the series will truly adore.
When I finished Grey Sister I then put the book down, took a deep breath and just reflected on what had taken place at the conclusion for the next half an hour. When a book has that effect on a reader then you know it is excellent and hits in all the correct emotional places. The finale is so surprisingly well worked. This book is full of elegant statements and deep passages. The whole ensemble shine. Blurb for publishers: Book of the Ancestor is Mark Lawrence’s finest series by a great distance and Grey Sister is a far superior outing than the critically acclaimed first entry and his previous works. The characters are brilliant, the magic-scheme I raved about in the first book has impressed me far more this time for its creativity and intricacy sevenfold. The more devilish Nona gets the more intriguing she appears to us all. Blurb for readers: It’s Mark Lawrence. So stop reading me and buy it.