Red Sister: First Book of The Ancestor by Mark Lawrence. Book: Penguin Publishing Group. Copyright April 2017. $16.99; pb. 480 pp.; ISBN: 978110988879.
Nona Grey is about to be hung! She has attempted to murder an upper-class lord who deserves the slit throat he gets but will never forgive his attempted assassin. Rescued by a nun, Nona is taken to the Convent of Sweet Mercy, a misnomer if there were ever one. The convent includes a variety of young girls and women who are being trained in multiple facets of war. Nona will spend three years preparing to graduate as a warrior. For most of the novel, the reader is never quite sure who a precise enemy is. We know that the Convent is located in a very cold, hard area where stone, cliffs and frozen rivers are the norm.
So Nona begins to trust her classmates – somewhat as one is never sure who is friend or foe here as the competition is fierce for victory. She is taught the crafts of sword fighting, poisoning, wrestling, physical battle, reading and writing, and the path to serenity or “The Path,” as it is known. It sounds like a martial arts academy based on spiritual principles but with no room for weakness or giving in. The goal is success, no matter how violent, cruel or deadly.
It initially is debatable whether Nona is “The Chosen One” foreseen in a prophecy believed by the Sisters at the Convent. There are various categories of humans who hold a secret skill in one form of battle. Nona must learn to conquer the weaknesses she carries that prevent her from doing better, most of all her temper. Yet that same temper will enable her to win her first competition against a relative of an upper class enemy. How to control that gift and use it to its maximum effect is the challenge!
The last few chapters of this superb story will leave you breathless as Nona confronts evil incarnate.
I don’t normally go for novels that are very violent but this one had a “ninja-like” quality that hooked me completely! Looking forward to the next novel in the series! Think most readers will as well!