Review: Grey Sister
This is another one of those books that got buried a little too deep in my TBR pile last year and got lost. I am ashamed. Thankfully, I have awesome friends that remind me about missing out on books like this and then telling me that I’m running out of time before the sequel is released. You just can’t put a price on friends like that. Because seriously, if you start doing things like that, pretty soon all your friends are six feet under and no one new wants to be your friend anymore because they know what happens to those that happen to say the wrong thing…
Okay, maybe that got a little dark, but after all, what good is a book review about an awesome dark fantasy novel without a little morbid humor to kick us all off in the right direction. 🙂
GREY SISTER (Amazon) is Mark Lawrence’s second novel in the Book of the Ancestor series, and I love the way that Mark Lawrence writes. Oh. Did I say that out loud? Was just planning on weaving that opinion in a little more subtly. Guess it’s out there now though. Dude just really has a way with words that makes me soak into the pages of anything he writes and makes me forget for a while. THIS is why I read.
The world of Abeth is one of ice, but for an narrow channel of land spanning the equator of the planet. There are technologies and powers providing access to that land that are beyond the ken of any that now reside within the world, but there is still the ability to control, and so those in power will play their wicked games to have it fall within their grasp. The races of men grow them large, or fast, or adept at controlling certain magics, depending upon the ancestral blood that flows through their veins. Those in the Convent of Sweet Mercy train girls to be more than they would otherwise be, and to their ranks they have added several with multiple bloodlines that will help them to survive the days that are ahead.
This story, at it’s heart, is about two individuals: Nona Grey and Abbess Glass. These two characters, and their respective positions within the story, remind me of the parts played by characters like Harry Potter and Dumbledore, or Rand al’Thor and Moiraine Damodred, or perhaps even more appropriately, Maria Rainer and the Mother Abbess from the Sound of Music. There is one that is young and is special and is dealing with the problems immediately surrounding them, and the other is in a position of responsibility and is protective of the first to a certain extent but more importantly sees the wider picture of what is happening in the world. Both of these characters live within the walls of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. Abbess Glass as their leader, and Nona as a student of the art of the nuns.
Nona finished the previous book having progressed from Red Class to Grey Class, a step up in difficulty and direction in her training as a nun, and also having removed a certain antagonist of hers from the gene pool after he came for her at the end of RED SISTER. Doing so didn’t do good things for her relationship with the antagonist’s noble family. It rarely does when a nobody-peasant is to blame. Still, Nona is safe for the time being within the walls of the convent, and in that time Abbess Glass plays her game of politics of the wider nation in which they all reside while overseeing the instruction given to those in her care. However, it doesn’t take long for the combined effects of Nona’s actions and the covetous nature of some few of the ruling families of the nation to bring another round of conflict to the steps of Sweet Mercy.
The first half of this book focuses almost expressly with Nona and her time in learning the ways of the nun. In her classes, and with the relationships she’s formed. There are lessons that she learns at her instructor’s urgings, and some others in breaking the rules, as so many put into such learning environments tend to do. And along the way she also gains another enemy. This one though resides within the walls of the convent instead of the one without, which she dealt with in RED SISTER. During this time, we see Abbess Glass receiving representatives of the ruling families and the church alike. Through her we begin to see the closing of the ranks and can almost see the walls that are encroaching upon their demesne.
Until those walls have advanced enough, that is, and the conflict finally breaks. Then the story REALLY takes off.
This was absolutely one of those stories that made it nearly impossible for me to close the cover and go back to work each day at lunch. I loved reading it. Every minute and every hour that it game me. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I thought it was perfect.
I really think it would have helped the story if we’d had a little more insight into what Abbess Glass was thinking: what she knew for certain, and what she only surmised. Mostly, I think this would have made the impact toward the climax of the book considerably more powerful. Throughout the story, we see her play with those that are trying to control her. But also, in a way, it felt like the author was playing with the reader as well, instead of giving us the whole story.
Also, despite the fact that it was ridiculous-awesome to finally see these girls “walk the path” and fully use the skills that they’ve been taught in the convent, it was a considerable surprise to see just how powerful they really are. Just, whoa. Some more ramp up with introducing their skills might have made this eventuality not be such a big surprise when those powers are finally unfolded. But still just as wicked cool.
And last… yes, I still think the guy needs to use more commas. What can I say?
Grey Sister expands the world of Abeth and many forces working within it to provide a tense, engaging, and personally affecting story that readers will love
There is a part of me that almost doesn’t want to start reading Holy Sister quite yet. That wants to be able to enjoy this world and this story a little more before the trilogy is over. Then again, from what I understand, Mark is already deep into writing Book 2 of the Book of the Ice. Another story that, if you know something about the world he’s developed here in the Book of the Ancestor, you might recognize as being connected to this one. Something to be excited about for sure.
Roll on, Holy Sister!
- Recommended Age: 18+
- Language: Very little. And well-written enough that it doesn't need any
- Violence: Lots and lots. And lots. These girls know how to get a party started.
- Sex: Nope