Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence

I’m going to start this review with a little story of my own.  About six and a half/seven years ago I picked up a book called Prince of Thorns.  This book was different than anything I’d read before in fantasy terms.  I absolutely loved it and pretty much devoured the series in short order.  The main protagonist, Jorg, is not for everyone.  The Broken Empire series is awash with blood and Jorg, although he will grow on you if you give him a chance (imho), is somebody you don’t want to cross, not if you like breathing.  This was my first, but not last, foray into grimdark and I was absolutely sold.  Obviously I couldn’t wait to read the Red Queen’s War.  What a difference.  I expected more of the same, and I certainly got that in terms of good writing, but the story was so different, still bloody, still brimming with fantastic characters and Jalan was just a blast to read.  I seriously think The Wheel of Osheim is one of my favourite books ever.  Then Lawrence comes along with a magic/school for assassins story, his main protagonist a female.  So, colour me intrigued but maybe a little bit reluctant to be wowed.  I picked up the first book thinking that maybe this would be the book that I didn’t love and yet Nona completely won me over with her badassery.

So, Grey Sister, not going to lie, I went into this thinking it had to have problems and I was determined to find them.  There reaches a point surely when if you’re constantly waxing lyrical about something people will begin to question your opinion and yet here I am, once again, telling you that Grey Sister, defying all the odds, was another hit.  It’s that simple.

The thing is for me, I love good writing and I love the long game and Lawrence excels at both of these things.  His prose is just beautiful.  It’s easy to read.  It’s the kind of writing that I simply, appreciate.  His writing absorbs you, you fall into the world and actually struggle to come back out.  Then this whole thing of being so many steps ahead.  Of course, you may say, ‘he’s the author, of course he’s ahead’, but his writing doesn’t make it feel like that.  You think you have a handle on what’s going on, right up until the point that you realise you didn’t.

I’m not going to say too much about Grey Sister in terms of plot because I really don’t want to spoil the satisfaction for other readers of discovering this for themselves.  I can say that once again you will read of Nona’s classes, her friends and her struggles to get along with those at the convent who dislike her so much.  Nona’s path was always going to be a difficult one, she’s determined to become the best and yet so many past decisions stand in her way.  One of the richest and most influential nobles in the land would see her dead.  Assassins that won’t stop until the job is done are on the case and, as if the constant need to look over her shoulder wasn’t enough, Nona isn’t exactly the popular girl at the convent.   The last thing needed is the Inquisition to come poking around looking for trouble.

What I loved about this was the character development.  Nona is someone who values friendship.  It’s one of the aspects I loved about the first book and it continues in Grey Sister.  Her loyalty runs deep and she remains constant even to those who have let her down or betrayed her in the past.  She has a small, but trusted, group of friends and of course Zole.  This is the other thing that is unusual here.  Zole is actually the chosen one – not Nona.  And I loved that aspect.  Zole is ice cold.  She’s of the ice and her demeanour could have been carved from it – it never slips.  Ara, I knew that Ara was going to be kickass and it turns out she is. Abbess Glass plays a wonderful role with her own POV chapters as the story progresses.  I love her character. But, for me, Kettle is the star.  I loved her in this book.  I want to hug her, except she has lots of vials containing poison hidden inside her nun get up, so that might not be the best plan.  She may be shrouded in dark but she’s a bright light.  If anything happens to Kettle… well, all I can say is that “I am born of war”, okay, I was born on Wednesday but let’s not split hairs here, just don’t go there, please.

We watch Nona struggle with her studies.  She has one particular challenge that seems insurmountable.   And then, just as I was thinking I needed a break from the classroom, Nona is removed from Sweet Mercy in a rather abrupt fashion.  Again, I can’t really go into too much detail but I loved this aspect of the story.  We get to explore more of the world at the same time as reading the plight of Abbess Glass that is being played out in a parallel timeframe.  I can’t say too much more other than the ending is just a little jaw dropping.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, once you’ve met Nona the surprise value has been lost.  You already know the setting and the hardships involved in the schooling at Sweet Mercy and the world building has been laid out in Red Sister – although clearly there is more to explore here. Obviously, with the long game in mind Grey Sister is very much establishing the way forward to the final instalment and in that respect it does feel like something of a bridging book, but, in spite of that it stands on it’s own two feet and whilst not as much time is spent in the classroom, and therefore less time with Nona’s friends, I still felt the friendships developed and I loved the additional characters that really featured strongly – although I’m sure everyone will have their own favourites.

To be honest, I can’t fault this.  It was an excellent read that has paved the way for something that promises to be dramatic to say the least.  I can’t wait for the final instalment.

I received a review copy, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.




29 Responses to “Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence”

  1. cupcakesandmachetes

    I love Mark Lawrence. I enjoyed Red Sister but didn’t love it. I’m still looking forward to Grey Sister.

  2. Tammy

    Ugh I need to start this series! I’m so glad Mark Lawrence keeps living up to your expectations😁

  3. fanfiaddict

    Such an amazing read. Great review!

  4. Barb (boxermommyreads)

    I’ve heard only good things about this series and about this author. Glad you have enjoyed his book so much!

    • @lynnsbooks

      This is third series – and they’re all so completely different and just so good.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Redhead

    great review!!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks 😀 – and also another thanks because it was your review of PoT that got me into reading these in the first place.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it! And yeah, Kettle was pretty awesome in this, but I was all about Abbess Glass 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Abbess Glass is good. You have to admire her and I loved her pov chapters.
      Lynn 😀

  7. pagesandtea

    I have Red Sister on my TBR pile so I didn’t know whether I should read this review or not but I’m so glad I did because it’s just made me want to start this series even more. It sounds so good 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s very good so far. And, given that Mr Lawrence seems to just keep pulling magical rabbits out of the hat I’m going to presume the third will be just as good.
      Lynn 😀

  8. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Much as I did not dislike Prince of Thorns, I never really managed to warm up to Jorg – I saw clearly where he came from, and what made him the kind of person he was, but still he did not win me over. That said, I keep reading high accolades, like yours, about Mark Lawrence, and I want to give him another chance: maybe Nona will be the ice breaker… 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Jorg is definitely a divisive character – but, I think it would be interesting to see what you made of him if you’d read the complete series. However, that being said, taking on a further two books based on a character that you’re not enjoying is never going to be an attractive proposition. I strongly recommend the Prince of Fools, Jalan is a very different character from Jorg and the series has an almost old school feel. But, if that doesn’t appeal, Red Sister is different yet again. Mainly female characters, still a long game in process, but with a school/convent type setting that clearly appeals to many people.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Another series I havent started yet! Glad to hear you enjoyed it

    • @lynnsbooks

      So far so good. Looking forward to the final instalment.
      Lynn 😀

  10. sjhigbee

    Fabulous review, Lynn! I tried the first Mark Lawrence series, but couldn’t get on with it as I didn’t like any of the characters… I take it this one is different?

    • @lynnsbooks

      This is very different – in fact all three series have had their own character. The first was certainly grimdark and Jorg wasn’t for everyone. The second almost felt old school – still a bit bloody, the third, well, it is a very bleak world but the setting of a convent/school of girls assassins is just brilliant.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        And that third series is the one that tempts me more than the other two… Thank you for summing them up so succinctly:)

      • @lynnsbooks

        I’d be interested to see what you make of the third series.
        Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Yes, I definitely will be getting hold of the series, when I’ve got a bit more control of my TBR!

      • @lynnsbooks

        These TBR’s – we need a new definition to make us smile. Can’t think of anything right now though.
        Lynn 😀

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  12. bkfrgr

    I’ve not yet read any Mark Lawrence, but the way you write about him here I am going to at the first opportunity – great review, and thank you in advance! 🙂

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