Book Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
I’m always on the hunt for good fantasy books. Like I mentioned in my review of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, it really isn’t the easiest task and I can be quite picky when it comes to reading fantasy books by authors I don’t already love.
But after reading some brilliant reviews of Mark Lawrence’s writing, I took the plunge and bought his latest novel, Red Sister.
And omg it’s amazing.
I mean really, really amazing.
Mark Lawrence certainly isn’t new to the fantasy book scene, although I’ve not come across his work before (which is slightly embarassing on my part as he’s award winning, often shortlisted and has sold over a million books world-wide, but oh well). His Broken Thorns trilogy is really well-regarded and people seem to love his Red Queen series too. They’re all definitely on my to be read list at the moment.
But back to Red Sister.
About the book
Published in April 2017, Red Sister is still a pretty recent release. I bought it about a week ago and had to finish it in around two days (it was that good).
It tells the story of a young girl called Nona, who is stolen from her home, accused of murder and subsquently kidnapped by nuns who run a school/monastry that teaches spirituality, magic and erm…killing. Like with most fantasy heroines, Nona is special in more ways than one and her time at the school is plagued by assassination attempts, a nun who likes to poison her students and magical powers.
What you’ll like about it
The plotline, while not always the most inventive or unique, is great. It’s packed full of suspense, the world Mark Lawrence has built is very realistic and the characters are all, for the most part, likeable. I also like that the more ‘thriller’ elements to the novel are peppered with details and storylines that make the world both more realistic and the characters more relatable. For example, Nona’s reaction to the nuns’ central heating system was great. As was the descriptions of daily school life, which wouldn’t be out of place in a book from Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series.
I also think that Lawrence’s writing is just beautiful and that’s what sets this novel apart from other recent fantasy novels. Take this as an example:
“Thorn waited. Fearless as flowers, bright, fragile, open to the sky. Brave, as only those who’ve already lost can be.”
I just love the “fearless as flowers” metaphor. The entire novel is packed full of interesting, unique and very beautiful imagery that shows Lawrence’s incredible skill at its finest. It’s worth a read just for his writing style.
Alongside his use of language, it’s also worth mentioning that his book structure is interesting too. It’s a frame narrative, with the story told in reverse – kind of. The frame story, while told from the end of this book’s (or possibly the entire series’) narrative, progresses in regular chrononological order. It sounds a bit baffling, but Lawrence really handles it well and it’s a great plot device.
Another thing he handles well is his complex magic system. Without giving too much away to those who want to read Red Sister, there are a variety of different magics that characters can possess – and all of them are quite unique when compared to the usual fire/ice/light/etc powers that are often seen in fantasy books. While they’re pretty complex, I do think that they’re easy to get your head round and add to the novel well.
So anyway. Overall, I really loved Red Sister. I can’t wait for the next novel. I made a terrible mistake reading his latest one instead of beginning with his other two trilogies – but I’m glad I have more of his amazing writing to read in the meantime!