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.

 

 

 

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#SPFBO Finalists: My second book

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Below is a round up of the ten finalists that have been put forward in this year’s SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off).  A link with more information about the competition can be found here.

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My first book, chosen randomly was The War of Undoing and my review and rating will follow shortly.  My second book is Chaos Trims my Beard by Brett Herman.  This book was Fantasy Faction’s finalist and their review can be found here.   This sounds like an unusual book that’s going to be a lot of fun.

A little bit more about the book:

Chaos Trims my Beard by Brett Herman

chaosEdwayn Sattler is a half-dwarf with a beard and a dead end job. One night when serving drinks to the city’s rich and famous, a fiery playboy loses control of his magic and goes on a burning rampage. After some ill-advised heroics aided by the magic that lives in Edwayn’s beard, he finds himself unemployed and socially exiled. With no other job or friends to fall back to, he signs on with an inscrutable ratman sporting a badge and a fetching hat, and together they dive beard and whiskers first into a magical murder conspiracy that threatens to consume the city.

Armed with sub-par wits, a dry sense of humor, and a handful of magical tricks, Edwayn encounters conflagrating cops, smooth-talking trolls, shadowy corporate enforcers, and an air-headed vixen with a fatalistic streak. When his easy-going life spirals into a thrilling, darkly hilarious tale of intrigue and deception, Edwayn will find out just how close this newfound chaos will trim his beard.

 

#SPFBO My sixth batch of books

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I’m on the final stretch of the first round of the SPFBO.  Below is my sixth (and final) round of books listed below in the order I’m going to check them out – five books a month for six months.  The aim is to choose one book out of each of the six batches and then from those 6 potentials choose one to submit for the final stage.

Without further ado here are my books this month (and I’ve already started these so my final thoughts should also follow fairly shortly):

 

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A Gaze of Flint by Sandy Hyatt-James

Elizabeth Blake, a young woman with ‘The Sight’, given to her by people in a parallel universe, becomes entangled in a plot to kidnap a child.

She falls in love with an agent from the parallel universe, but unknown to her, he has fallen in love with a woman from his own land. As events unfold, Elizabeth finds herself and the child captured by a mentally deranged woman. Since the police and her family fail to find her, she has no choice but to use her wits and match her cruel adversary in cunning, in order to survive. Adding to this is her growing belief that the man with whom she placed her trust, has abandoned her.

A Gaze of Flint, has all the ingredients of a tense thriller, which also streams images of romance and a tint of the paranormal into its readers’ imaginations.

 

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The Empire of the Dead by Phil Tucker

Acharsis has always loved long shots. But even with a perfect scheme and a handpicked squad of godsblooded grifters and fighters, breaking into the undead lord’s Akkodaisis’ ziggurat is suicidally impossible. Good thing Archarsis is a fallen demigod with more than one trick up his sleeve…

Unpredictable, fast paced, and packed with memorable characters, The Empire of the Dead is a gripping tale of revenge replete with demons, ancient magic and a high stakes heist.

 

 

 

 

darkmDark Moonlighting by Scott Haworth

Nick Whittier, having been alive for six centuries, has had plenty of time to master three professions. In a typical week he works as a police officer, lawyer and doctor and still finds time to murder someone and drink their blood. He used to feel guilty about the killings, but now he restricts himself to only eating the worst members of society. Few people in Starside, Illinois seem to care about the untimely deaths of spam e-mailers, pushy Jehovah Witnesses and politicians. However, the barriers between Nick’s three secret lives start to crumble when a mysterious man from his past arrives in town seeking revenge. Nick must move quickly to prevent the three women in his life, and the authorities who are hunting him, from discovering his terrible secret.

Dark Moonlighting is the first book in the humorous series. It explores four of the biggest clichés in popular culture, and it pokes fun at a number of popular television shows including Law & Order, Bones and House. It also takes a more realistic and amusing approach to the vampire cliché. For example, the average human has the equivalent of five Big Gulps worth of blood in their body. Nick takes twenty minutes to kill someone and, like the vampire bat, must immediately urinate afterwards.

 

roadtoRoad to Shandara by Ken Lozito

When a mythical world threatens everything, an unlikely hero must join the battle…

College senior Aaron Jace is ready to start life in the real world. After the unexpected death of his grandfather, Aaron finds an unbelievable note that will change his world. The unknowing descendent of an ancient and powerful family, Aaron is thrust into a struggle that began long ago and will reach across worlds to pull him into the fight.

When he learns of the world of Safanar, it seems to be the stuff of legends: dragons, castles, and technologically-advanced cities. But it’s as much a dream as it is a nightmare. Danger lurks in the shadows, and a demon sentinel named Tarimus wants to steal Aaron’s power before he can learn his full potential.

With the help of an imprisoned Safanarion guardian, two mystical swords, and a puzzling family heirloom, Aaron must journey from Earth to find the fabled land of his ancestors. It may be a path that’s impossible to survive.

 

archThe Archbishop’s Amulet by Watson Davis

Caldane was once in training to be a shaman for his clan but now he’s a slave of the Nayen empire, trapped in a monastery, his magic being drained away by horrific human sacrifices. With the rest of his clan murdered by the giantess, General Silverhewer, and her army of orcs and humans, Caldane dreams of freedom and the return to the northern wastes of his childhood.

When a new batch of sacrifices are brought in, he seizes his chance for escape but during his recapture, he learns one of his clan still lives. His mother is a slave in Silverhewer’s fortress in Windhaven.

Nothing will stop him from saving her, not even if he has to release Hell and all its devils and demons.

“Open the pod bay doors, Hal”

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Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

‘zip it, lock it and throw away the key – a cover featuring a key

This week I’ve chosen a book with a key on the cover and the title!  That was actually just pure chance though – and you have to look quite closely to find the key.  Mark Lawrence’s Liar’s Key (#2 in The Red Queen’s War):

Interesting to see the different takes on Prince Jalan.  If you haven’t read the Red Queen’s War by Mark Lawrence I highly recommend it starting with The Prince of Fools and concluding with The Wheel of Osheim.

My favourite:

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Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover featuring a double image or reflection

Future themes:

17th November 2017 – Snap! – a cover featuring a double image or reflection

24th November 2017 – ‘I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently’ – a cover featuring snow

1st December 2017 – The pen is mightier than the sword – a cover featuring a fancy font

8th December 2017 – ‘Do not go gentle’ – a cover featuring the night…

15th December 2017 – Hubble bubble toil and trouble – a cover featuring a portion/perfume bottle

Waiting on Wednesday : Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence.  I can’t wait for this one – this week ‘Waiting on Wednesday’ shall be known as ‘Can’t Wait Wednesday’.  That is all.

grey sister.jpgIn Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.

As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

And in all this only one thing is certain.
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There will be blood.

Due for publication April 2018

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