Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) ★★☆☆½

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Title: Red Sister
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
Author: Mark Lawrence
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 467
Words: 170K


From Wikipedia

The planet Abeth was originally settled by four tribes with various abilities. The hunska have superhuman speed; the gerant have superhuman strength, the marjal can work elemental magic; the quantal can work larger magics. Children born on Abeth may have access to one (or rarely, multiple) bloodline powers. Abeth’s dying red giant sun cannot generate sufficient heat to prevent a global ice age. Abeth’s man-made moon refracts sunlight onto a narrow strip of land circling the globe. This Corridor, only fifty miles wide, is the only unfrozen land on the planet. It comprises several kingdoms fighting for control of the planet’s resources.

Nona Grey is a peasant girl living in a remote village in the Corridor. She is purchased by a slave trader who recognizes that she has hunska blood. She is brought the to capital of the Empire, where she attacks a noble named Raymel Tacsis. She is saved from execution by Abbess Glass of the Sweet Mercy Convent.

Nona trains in the arts of combat and subterfuge at Sweet Mercy. Along the way, she meets fellow novice Arabella (Ara). Various nobles believe that Ara is the Argatha, a savior destined to save Abeth. Abbess Glass convinces the nobility that Nona is the Shield, destined to protect the Argatha. With her training, Nona recognizes that she also has quantal and marjal talents. Nona also meets a mysterious student named Zole and her bodyguard Yisht. Nona realizes that Yisht is attempting to steal a valuable artifact from Sweet Mercy: the shipheart, which was left by the original settlers of Abeth. With four shiphearts, one can control the moon which is protecting Abeth from a permanent ice age. Nona and the other students defeat Yisht and save the shipheart.

In a frame story, an adult Nona and Ara are attacked by members of the Empire’s nobility. They are betrayed by Clera, a former student at Sweet Mercy. Nona attempts to convince Clera to join them against the Empire’s army.

My Thoughts:

Well, this book confirms that Lawrence is an author I cannot read. Between nuns sleeping together, young almost prebuscent girls flirting with each other, psychopathic killers (who aren’t the bad guys), a failing sun, a hopeless world being encased in ice, the devolving of technology and failing technology, plus the absolute soul destroying underlying philosophy, I got a soup that was pretty as anti-me as you could get.

While Nona was more likeable than that hellbound Jorg, she wasn’t really fun to read about either. While I didn’t hate my time reading this, by the end I had to ask myself if I cared about anything in this story enough to want to read another book’s worth (and that’s not taking into account that this is a trilogy). I answered with a resounding “NO!” If there had been even a hint that the “moon” could have been repaired, or that someone had even entertained the idea of repairing it, even that tiny, small shred of hope probably would have been enough to keep me going.

But that was the whole problem I have with Lawrence. There is no hope, anywhere. I looked high, I looked low, I even looked at sub-minor-side characters. No where did I find any hope. All I did find was an existential existence for 10 year old girls who had a choice of being raped/tortured/killed or becoming merciless killers themselves. On the killer side things, there was no justice. There was no Justice because there was no Law. There was no Law because there was no Law Giver.

As much as I despise Lawrence’s philosophy, I do have to admit that he is honest enough to take it to its logical end. It is just that that end is a maelstrom of  death, despair and destruction.


48 thoughts on “Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) ★★☆☆½

        1. Once you learn a fellow reviewers tastes and how they overlap, or don’t, with your own, you simply can’t beat having others do reviews to help you decide if a book is for you or not.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve yet to read Mark Lawrence. His books usually garner lashings of praise, so it was refreshing to read a critical review, especially because you clearly indicated what didn’t work for you. Despair seems to be prevalent in a lot of genre fiction these days. It can work well in a story so long as it doesn’t take over the narrative. Is there much humour in the story?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I too have heard almost nothing but praise for his work. Which is why I gave him a second chance even after being almost scarred for life with the first book of the Broken Empire trilogy.

      No more chances though. What and how he writes gets my goat…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaa. Isn’tit weird how we all can read the same books and yet have completely opposite reactions?

      I’m guessing you didn’t bother trying his YA sequel to this trilogy?


  2. I think you’re right in saying that this might be an author-reader relationship thing where his ideas and vision of the world he builds just won’t suit what you’d like to read hahahah This was fun to read though. It just proves how differently you approach books compared to a lot of other SFF readers! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found this to be just okay for a different reason; I think I might be over the whole special schools for kids thing. (I do agree that Nona wasn’t an overly enjoyable character.) I might pick up the second book one day just because we’ll hopefully be past the school bit and dark stuff doesn’t bother me much. But, it hasn’t been anything I’ve been waiting to come out since I read this, so that speaks for itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I only tried this trilogy because the whole thing is now done. But if you were iffy on this, I can’t see the next 2 doing anything for you.

      With the word “machetes” in your name, no one is surprised that dark doesn’t bother you 😀 😀 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have not found a Mark Lawrence book yet that I’ve liked – or that I’ve finished. Thank you for saving me from trying another one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like your assessment. It really is all about the bleak. I usually need a spark of hope to keep me going in books as well. I found Nona interesting, but definitely not likable. I haven’t decided if I’m abandoning the series after book 2. I had a lot more issues with that one. A good bulk of it felt like an unnecessary tangent to the end goal of the series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if you had even more issues with book 2, I’m glad I stopped with book 1.

      I don’t handle bleak books with no hope. I am not mentally and psychologically capable of dealing with that kind of thing.

      It’s good to see you here again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It takes me being in a specific mindset to handle them, but if it goes on too long I get fed up on principle. I might… MIGHT read the last one, but only because it was free. It’s not high on the priority list lol.

        Thank you, I’ve been regaining my feet and finally feel good enough to get back into all the things I love. Glad to see you’re still devouring books. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, I’m not a Lawrence fan. I might give him another chance, but that’s not very probable. This looks like a more angry version of Nevernight, and I was so fed up with that one that now I’m forever over schools for teenage assassins 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was hoping that while I would never be a lawrence fan that I could at least enjoy this trilogy. Now I know not to touch any of his stuff, it just isn’t for me.

      I don’t know if I’m over certain tropes or not yet,to be honest. I am sure I am, I just haven’t given it much thought…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t HATE Nona, which put this book so far ahead of Prince of Thorns. But yep, I now know that Lawrence and I are simply not compatible.

      If there was ever a site like, we’d not hook up 😀


  7. Having been unable to connect with Jorg as a character, I’m comforted to learn that this story’s MC is more approachable, even though the overall narration did not prove to meet your tastes. I will have to try this one – one of these days… 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really hated his Prince of Thorns books but loved this series. Also loved ‘Impossible Times’ trilogy (that’s time travel and not grim dark. Really entertaining writing style, too).

    I read the first book in the sequel series to the Book of the Ancestor and hated it. For me, he’s far too hit and miss. He’s at least a reliable ‘writes a book every year’ kind of guy, so at least when he scores a hit I’m not waiting as long as Rothfuss or Martin 😦

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have been eyeing Lawrence for a while, but your reviews for a previous book or series put me of from trying it out. That and the current TBR I am just not getting through to at any time soon.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. yeah, don’t start with the Broken Empire trilogy. That was just …… horrible? Even now I have a hard time accepting that people like the series so much.

          But considering how many WH/40K netgalley books you have, you are right. Maybe you can try Lawrence in a couple of years 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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