This series has literally taken over the fantasy readers community by storm and I heard so many of my favorite bloggers and booktubers gush about it, that I thought I would give it a try. I really love reading about female assassins, so Red Sister already that going for me; but it’s also on a more darker side than I usually read, so my expectations were reasonable. I have to say that this book really surprised me in places, while not holding my attention for parts – but I will try to articulate what I actually thought about it.
The writing took some getting used to. I haven’t read any of the other popular series by the same author, so his writing style and way with words felt unfamiliar and I had to reread sentences sometimes to get the gist of it. However, the story also has one of the best / most memorable opening sequences and I just knew I had to read further. The world is also not fully realized from the beginning – we only get to know tidbits about the empire, it’s history, it’s enemies and the power hierarchy through some conversations and incidents that occur. This makes me feel like I still don’t know much about this world but I’m sure the author will expand it in the next one. We do however get a lot of information about the four tribes which practice magic and I’m quite excited to see more displays of the power in the series. The story also mainly features the training that occurs within the Sweet Mercy convent – which involves a lot of lectures on religion, spirituality (or the Path as they call it), hand to hand combat and other forms of fighting and academics – but it takes up almost 70% of the book, so it felt quite repetitive and sometimes maybe even boring.
What makes up for the slightly repetitive story is the eclectic group of women in this book. Nona is probably around the age of 10 when the book starts, but we already know that she is a survivor and has seen too much for her young age. We see flashbacks from her earlier life and we realize why she doesn’t think that she deserves love or acceptance, because she considers herself a monster. This makes her very very secretive, keeping everything very close to her chest, only divulging them when the time is right. However, despite being sold as a child and then almost executed for murder, she is truly very loyal and considers the bond of friendship sacred. The convent is full of other young women, some allies, some rivals, some bullies – everyone training together and when anyone attacks their faith from the outside, they all fight together too. Their teacher nuns are also a diverse group – caring to indifferent to maybe cruel to even fanatic – but the one thread that holds everyone is sisterhood.
The essence of this book is the strength of sisterhood, friendship and found family. All of these women – young and old – despite their differing ideas or alliances, will always stand by each other and that comes through in every interaction. And that’s why one particular instance really came as utter shock and I can’t wait to read more about the repercussions. The world is also casually diverse and it’s not made a big deal about – we have one f/f couple among the teachers and Nona is hinted at being bisexual, so it would be nice to see this explored more in the next books.
Everyone seems to love this book a lot, so I don’t think I need to recommend this one. It has strong characterizations, the absolute best opening, middle and ending action sequences and the plot is interesting enough to make me want to read the next book. However, I got a little bored in the middle and I would have loved to know more about the world. Let’s see what Grey Sister has to offer.