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Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
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I liked this, but parts of the structure didn't really make much sense, its very much written as a trilogy, and by the end of the book you're still left wondering a bit how it's all going to come together, especially the preludes to each Part which we don't seem to have reached by the end.

It's a very unusual world setting for a fantasy novel - much of which is never explicitly clear. Gene-altered space farers arrived a long time ago to Abbeth, and parked a rectangular solar mirror in orbit. This focused enough light and heat onto the frozen world to create a habitable Corridor around the circumference of the world. It's only about 50miles wide with towering ice walls covering the rest. AN ingenious solution to one of fantasy's common problems, where does everyone else live? Here there is nowhere else. Farming and rich cities are at the centre of the track and the Grey subsistence villages are found closer to the ice at the edges of the Corridor. Orbital mechanics unknown to the current populace slowly drift the Corridor across the face of the planet burying some civilisations under the Ice and revealing Missing artefacts occasionally. Somewhat lazily the four gene types are strong, fast, wise and mystic, standard gaming tropes. These days hardly anyone has more than a touch of pure old blood in them, but even that's enough to invoke special powers and the chances for better fortune than life as a villager.

As ight be expected our heroine Nona is a small girl growing up in the outskirts of the Grey penniless hungry and cold like all of her village. We join her story as she's shipped away on a 'child-collectors' cart where she tells the first of many versions of how she came to leave the village. She finds her way circuitously to Magic School (a fighting nun's convent) via a fighting ring, where she used her blood powers to wound a nobleman's son. His revenge is the driving force for the rest of the narrative arc, along with the usual magic school life.

I have a bit of a problem with SF crossovers when it's not clear the author has fully thought through the consequences of their technology. This is such a case, although the worldbuilding is very imaginative it doesn't really make sense, and there's no explanation for how the different bloods have obtained their powers, given that the rest of the universe appears to be functioning without magic - using spaceships and nuclear reactors etc. Equally not keen on having characters being able to pick up such power sources without burning to a crisp.

It's fun and fast paced, the characters as a school full of girls engage well, even to readers who don't fit that demographic. There's a few veiled hints at men, which is unusually shy, you'd expect more curiosity, but other than that well balanced. Plenty of jokes, strict teachers and favourites, interesting lessons and skill, but that's not enough to fully hold my attention any more.

But at the same time, it always has a bit of an odd edge which doesn't sit right, and I can't put my finger on it. Probably just the slight jarring from the worldbuilding above, but the characters interactions are sometimes a bit convenient too. I'll probably investigate the rest of the series to see if it does anything interesting with the world. ( )
  reading_fox | Apr 17, 2019 |
Without a doubt, this is the best book I've read all year. I'll be pre-ordering the next book in the series, which is an extreme rarity for me. ( )
  Lahkesis | Mar 16, 2019 |
I really wish I could finish this, because it is a book club read, but I have been struggling. The story is fine, the writing is good enough, but for about 150 pages now almost nothing has happened other than the main character's schooling, and a little interpersonal drama. I feel like I might have enjoyed it as a teen, when I was happy just to be immersed in another world, but at this point I need a story that...moves, and doesn't focus so much on daily minutia. In the last chapter I read, Nona and her "mother superior" have just been taken under arrest and bound for almost certain death/exile. The fact that I don't even care is a bad sign. ( )
  chaosfox | Feb 22, 2019 |
Not bad. Strong main character but the 'supporting cast' seemed to be people I'd seen before. ( )
  Elaine_Omwango | Jan 26, 2019 |
This is my first book by the author, read as part of monthly reading of SciFi and Fantasy Book Club.
The book is the first volume of the expected four-volume series.
The novel follows the early years of Nona, a special girl, taken to a Church to become a Red Sister – a warrior she-monk. The world is more or less classical fantasy setting in term of technologies and power structures (i.e. masses of dirt-poor peasants, some emperors somewhere, ruthless gangs and not much better armies). The difference is the presence of near-mythical people with high-tech (or high-magic), whose artifacts keep the world from its inevitable end.
The book is quite good, but not great. After reading roughly a third I guessed it should get only three stars, because it looked like it will move to cliché story of schoolgirl group dynamics (you know, a protagonist and the old group leader, which usually ends up with the protagonist either becoming a new leader or getting to know the old leader who is not that bad after all). However, then where were a few quite unexpected twists, which notably improved my ratings.
A solidly written fantasy for fantasy lovers.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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To Celyn, who needs no words for eloquence.
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It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"The international bestselling author of the Broken Empire and the Red Queen's War trilogies begins a stunning epic fantasy series about a secretive order of holy warriors ... At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don't truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls. A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass's care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family--and new enemies. Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona's secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself. Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way"--… (more)

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