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Book review

Red Sister

by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister by Mark  Lawrence

My headline for this book would be “Somewhat bloody, and completely bloody brilliant”. Five stars, very well earned.

I marvel, yet again, at how absolutely amazing some books can be at immersing you in their umwelt. This one combines great world-building, complex characters, and – most of all – some amazing prose that rises to the level of poetry at times. Because the plot is so stuffed full of surprises, I’m barely going to mention it. There’s great fight scenes (some are quite gory, if that might concern you), there are many hints of underlying glorious ages gone before (leaving, for example, the “focus moon” – which is a marvellous plot device), there is a fleshed-out background philosophy/spiritual side, and of course are heroes to root for and even the villains are multi-faceted. Perhaps the closest book I can think of is how I felt when I read The Blade Itself and found Joe Abercrombie.

In the end, you don’t read books like this for the plot, you read them because of the prose, and the world that envelopes you as you read. And Mark Lawrence does just a fabulous job with this. I haven’t read any of his others, but for sure I will be doing so. I’m not even going to give you any more of the storyline- I’ll just say that you have to read it, because it’s marvellous.

Here are some random snippets, to keep you going. He waxes philosophical at times – let’s look at time itself:

“All the world and more has rushed eternity’s length to reach this beat of your heart, screaming down the years. And if you let it, the universe, without drawing breath, will press itself through this fractured second and race to the next, on into a new eternity. Everything that is, the echoes of everything that ever was, the roots of all that will ever be, must pass through this moment that you own. Your only task is to give it pause – to make it notice.”

Or

“Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”

The book, you initially guess, and then find confirmed, is about a young girl who ends up in the care of some nuns – people who might, in other worlds, be spiritual and charitable and kind, but who in this world are spiritual and cunning and combat-trained.

“You may be called upon to enforce the authority and the will of the church. It would be better if you did so in a manner that allows the transgressor to see the error of their ways rather than the contents of their body.”

Fight is what they do, and they are very, very, good at it:

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

But sometimes, the prose is just plain philosophical:

“‘It’s hard out there.’ Nona gazed towards the windows. ‘Running’s all right, but when you stop there’s the freezing and the starving and the dying.'”

or

“Children are like cats, only less useful and less furry.”

Enough, or I’ll quote the whole book. And although it’s complete in itself, it’s the first of a trilogy, which I was so thrilled to discover that I just went ahead and bought the others, sight unseen.

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