Book review

Grey Sister

by Mark Lawrence

Grey Sister by Mark  Lawrence

The second of Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy was another great read for me. Nona, our hero from the first book, is now two years further in to her training at the Convent of Sweet Mercy. In this volume, though, we get to see more of the world in which the Convent is set, and more of the politics that plays itself out through the empire which surrounds it. In particular, there’s more politics in this book – in a good way.

Every law of church or state seeks to separate you from your anger. Every rule is there to tame you – to take from your hands that which you should own. Every stricture aims to place the vengeance that is yours in the grasp of courts, juries, justice and judges. Books of law look to replace what you know to be right with lines of ink. Prisons and executioners stand only to keep your hands from the blood of those who have wronged you. Every part of it exists to put time and distance between deed and consequence. To lift us from our animal nature, to cage and tame the beast.

The physical world itself is a masterful creation by the author, and a great backdrop in the series. In this volume, it comes into the foreground, too. Huge mountains of ice press in on a narrow corridor around the equator, kept clear only by the nightly heat from the focus moon. We see a few more hints of how people came to be on this world, and we get to see some more of the world itself.

We find out more about some of the characters who were introduced in the first book, such as Zole, the “Chosen One”. I really enjoyed her mask of frostiness, from behind which the odd glimpse of humour would sometimes sneak:

‘How did you follow me without my noticing?’ ‘Carefully.’ Zole looked up, pocketing a few coins. ‘Do not feel too bad about it. I am the Chosen One, after all.’ Although there was no hint of a smile Nona suspected that she might have witnessed Zole’s first joke.

Nona herself is still key to the action, and she’s joined by her friends as she has to fight assassins, intrigue, and her own demons to survive. Friendship is a constant theme – the bonds formed by it, and their value. And there’s plenty of action, too: the last third of the book is one long relentless chase, and the twists and turns certainly kept me reading into the night.

Nona let Keot take her tongue, her voice becoming a snarl, something alien. ‘I hunger for their deaths. I want their blood to spill. I’ve been trapped, boxed, poisoned, abused, and now it’s my turn. I don’t fear destruction. It’s the desire to survive that slows you, girl. I—’ Nona wrested control back from Keot, coughed and added in her normal voice, ‘if that’s all right with you?’ Clera, pale now, backed against the tunnel wall, her eyebrows raised, and offered her palms in the ‘be my guest’ gesture.

Overall, four and a half stars, rounded up to five for the action in the final chapters. Great stuff, and I can’t wait to read the last one!

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