Last summer, I fell into the world of Sweet Mercy quite by accident – I didn’t know what to read at the library, and Red Sister was there. I absolutely loved it – it was a female-dominated, complex fantasy series and it was incredible! I reserved Grey Sister, and (to my surprise, second books are sometimes a bit lacking) I loved that one as well. Then – the never-ending problem with starting an unfinished series – I found out I would have to wait till April 2019 to read the final instalment in the trilogy. WHAT?! Luckily for me, Mark Lawrence had some spare trade copies to send to willing bloggers, and so I leapt at the chance!
This is a spoiler free review comprised of entirely my own opinions, independent of the gift of an advance copy of the book. Holy Sister is out 04 April 2019.
Title: Holy Sister – Book of the Ancestor 3
Author: Mark Lawrence
Format: Trade paperback
When reviewing the final book in an awesome trilogy, it’s hard to know what information to pull out without veering into spoilers for the first two books. I’m glad that Holy Sister starts with a two page run down on the key things that happened in Red and Grey sister, because (getting this a few months early) I didn’t have time to do the planned series re-read ahead of time. It was really useful. I confess I was a mix of sheer excitement and fear when this book dropped on my doormat – excited because I couldn’t wait to dive back in and find out what happened next (talk about a cliff-hanger in book 2) but also because I was worried that my expectations were too high. I needn’t have worried.
What I love about this series is that it feels like one continuous story, as the prologue in Red Sister is finally explained and realised in Holy Sister, dipping in and out of time and weaving an exciting narrative full of suspense. Information is trickled and becomes relevant and I never quite knew what was going to happen, or just how it was going to be resolved. So, the plot is well thought out, and clever, and exciting!
I love characters, and the development of Nona, of Ara, of their fellow novices, of their relationships with each other and with the other nuns (I especially love how Nona and Kettle’s relationship has developed over the three books). I love feeling like I’m three steps behind Abbess Glass (and one of the first ‘flashbacks’ had me SHOOK) and wondering what is real and what is part of the grand tapestry that Glass seems to have sat in front of her. I love that it is a female micro-society, and that whenever they venture outside of the convent of Sweet Mercy, they don’t quite understand the rules. I really love the characters, and their relationships, and the journeys (physical and emotional) they take.
It seems incredible how much the girls have grown, from a scrawny, malnourished eight year old to a seventeen year old with a world falling apart around them. There are sections where the girls have to interact with Red Class novices, and Nona always seems surprised at how small they are, and how far she has come. I love the characters, and I love Sweet Mercy.
In Holy Sister, I was completely captivated – so much so that when I dropped my book about halfway through, I was jolted back to reality so fast I think I have a bruise. I had to take a walk before I could fall back in (because I thought I knew what was going to happen and I was both right and wrong). I laughed, I was surprised, I was shocked, I cried, I marvelled and I think I felt an entire spectrum of human emotion to get to the last page. The pacing is incredible in this book (and all of them actually) because it starts off at a steady pace, and you’re waiting and then suddenly it’s a case of WAITWHATDOYOUTHINKYOU’REDOING, YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME. And then bam – THAT ENDING?! Insane. I cried – you have been warned.
There are few trilogies that I feel truly satisfied when I am finished – this was one of the rare ones. This is a truly exceptional, and incredible series. It is well written, witty and just awesome. I would love to talk about some of the things that happen, but I can’t because Spoilers (I’m gonna go cry in a bowl of ice cream). I love how the narrative is continuous, highlighting different parts of Nona’s journey from new novice, to sister of Sweet Mercy. Also, come on – it’s a book about warrior nuns, teaching girls how to be badass, in the middle of an ice-age/war. There is very little about this series I don’t absolutely love.
I highly recommend not only Holy Sister, but the entire Book of the Ancestor Series (including Bound, the short story 2.5).
Thank you Mark Lawrence, for sending me a copy in advance, and for writing such an awesome series! I’m very sad to see Nona’s story end. Farewell Nona, Ara, Kettle and Sweet Mercy.