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Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence. Book Review

May 13, 2018

Book cover of Grey Sister

Nona Grey is reaching the stage where she must choose the path that will define what type of sister she is to be. A warrior Red Sister, a Grey Sister of assassination and stealth, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the religious duties of a Black Sister. But her world is in turmoil, and once again Nona is right at the centre of the maelstrom.

Having already consumed Red Sister in great excitement, I was probably approaching Grey Sister with a considerable amount of bias. But, then again, this meant I was expecting a great deal from this next book in the series. It did not let me down.

As Mark Lawrence helpfully fills in for those who may not have read the first book, this does save the usual exposition through dialogue as the characters explain the previous events in conversation. So it is possible to start the overarching story arc at this point. But if you do you will have missed a real treat in Red Sister, with its immaculate character development and world building.

This book really does focus on the spiritual journey and coming of age story with regards to Nona and her companions. There are a great many characters involved and the story shifts locations, but at no time does anything feel as if it has been shoehorned in for effect or because it is expected by fantasy readers.

There is a tremendous involvement with the characters and a sense of breathlessness as they encounter all kinds of danger which they must overcome by stealth, combat or patient fortitude. Lawrence knows how to squeeze the tension then let it go, then build it up again so you feel as if you’re in an emotional vice of anxiety. You feel the hurt, the injury, the exhaustion and the need to haul yourself up to deal with your aggressors. There is also the take home message that revenge might not be as satisfying as you think, and that heat of the moment actions have consequences, whereas careful consideration might be as powerful as brute force.

Although Nona is the central character, she is not the only one the stability of her world revolves around. There are others who have just as much to contribute, if not more. The outstanding character is the poised and self-contained Abbess Glass, a woman for whom life has been less than kind, yet this has not diminished her compassion. What a woman. She is really put through her paces in this book as she attempts to manoeuvre her way through a politically impossible situation which more than likely will end her life, as her opponents bay for her blood and that of the incumbents of her convent. If this series is ever filmed (which it should be, but as a TV series, because a film would leave the story wanting) the Abbess would have to be an actress who could carry all the subtleties of this complex woman with dignity and restrained power.

It might be that I am much nearer to Abbess Glass’s age than Nona’s, which is why I’ve singled her out. But the way Lawrence has written the book means that although a reader might have a favourite, there is something unique and fascinating in all the characters which allows emotional connection with all of them. This makes the “Book of the Ancestors” series one of those reads grabbed off the shelves by both young adult and adult readers and a fantasy classic in the making.

Grey Sister was courtesy of HarperVoyager via NetGalley.

  1. I can’t wait to read this book. It sounds amazing. I’m also abit biased as I really enjoyed the first book.

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