Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor #3) by Mark Lawrence

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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend – Alexa at Alexa Loves Books!

“When they put us in that cage we never really came out of it again.”

Good Lord, Mark Lawrence has truly created a once in a lifetime series that I will cherish forever. Holy Sister is the third and final book in a series that will go down in history as one of the brightest shining lights in SFF history.

I very much implore you to read Bound after Grey Sister, but before Holy Sister because it really works as a much-needed bridge short story. This book is told in two timeless; one, after the events of Grey Sister, and then three years later. But the interchanging of these two timelines, both in Nona’s perspective, was truly the perfect way to craft this tale.

This series is all about a girl named Nona who we get to see grow up, but we meet her during her childhood when she hasn’t had the easiest of lives, and is currently in the gallows for attempted murder, but is saved and taken to a convent of nuns who all are able to harness magical abilities, and we quickly learn that Nona has some magical abilities herself. Yet now, in this last book, this convent, Sweet Mercy, and all the characters we have grown to love, have threats surrounding them and all their lives are on the line.

My favorite part of this book? I have truly fallen in love with these magical assassin nuns and I’m honestly prepared to die for any and all of them. Truly, the found family in this book is just unparalleled by anything else. From the bonds of sisters, to the bonds of lovers, to the bonds of just women loving and accepting each other, regardless of the paths you have walked or are currently walking in life. All the side characters are some of the greatest of all time, but Apple and Kettle will never leave me or my heart. And Glass will forever and always be my queen.

But Mark Lawrence truly gave me everything I wanted when he crafted Nona, and in this book especially when he made Nona attracted to multiple genders, most likely bisexual. But Nona is a pan goddess in my eyes, and no one can change my mind on this. Also, she will go down as one of my favorite characters of all-time. She’s come far, from learning that the word brave does mean to be strong, but it also means to be vulnerable and willing to let people in. Seeing her grow, with this group of girls, but also by herself, while being shaped by this cruel and unforgiving world, filled with even more cruel and unforgiving circumstances; it’s so beautiful I don’t even have words for it.

“The fight matters. But in the end it is never truly won or lost, and victory lies in discovering that we are bigger than it is.”

Watching Nona become the woman she is, and watching her walk this path, all the paths, I don’t even have words for it. I think this entire series is going to stand the test of time and go down as one of the best fantasies ever written. The story is just perfection, the characters are my favorite, the writing is so smart and so beautiful, the themes are life changing, and the entire story is completely unforgettable. If you haven’t picked up Red Sister yet, I’m begging you to give it a try. This trilogy is truly a masterpiece.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings loss of a loved one, queer characters do die (most characters in this are/seem queer, so I don’t think it’s a bury your gays trope, but use caution still), violence, gore, torture, human trafficking, kidnapping, and war themes.

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

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ARC provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Red Sister ★★★★★

“But I must warn you, sister, that a sickness runs in me, and if you fashion yourself my enemy I will make a ruin of your life, for I am born of war.”

Grey Sister is such a wonderful addition to this world, and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Mark Lawrence truly never disappoints, and Nona will always be one of my favorite protagonists of all time. If you guys haven’t, please pick up Red Sister and discover how amazing this world, these characters, and this story truly are.

This is a dark world, where many parents will sell their children because they cannot afford to keep them. Some of these children end up never having their stories told, but a few of them end up having a bit of magic from being a descendant of one of the four tribes, and go to Sweet Mercy’s Convent in hopes of them becoming a very powerful warrior that will always fight for good.

Four Tribes that the people in this world can descend from:
Gerant – Great size and strength.
Hunska – Quick speed.
Marjal – The ability to tap into lesser magic.
Quantal – The ability to walk the Path and work greater magic.

And after horrible situation after horrible situation, our dear Nona gets purchased in Red Sister at the age of eleven. Now, it’s been five years, and Nona is just now entering Mystic class where, despite being one of the strongest young ladies in the school, she is having a difficult time.

“It’s hard to see old friends with new eyes.”

Four Classes in the Convent for the novices to learn as a group:
Red Class – Ages 9-12 typically.
Grey Class – Ages 13-14 typically.
Mystic Class – Ages 15-16 typically.
Holy Class – Ages 17-19 typically.

But these young ladies, who will be training extremely hard and diligently for ten years, can become many different things. Nona, so far, has proven that she will become one of the most feared Red Sisters to ever walk this world. But Zole, her friend from the Ice Tribe, who everyone believes is the chosen one that Nona will protect her whole life, is proving to be one of the most powerful Mystics ever.

Four Paths for the novices to take once they become nuns:
Bride of the Ancestor, Holy Sister – Honors the Ancestors and keeps the faith.
Martial Sister, Red Sister – Warriors skilled in armed and unarmed combat.
Sister of Discretion, Grey Sister – Masters of stealth and potions with shadow work.
Mystic Sister, Holy Witch – Walks the Path and manipulates threads.

But sadly, Nona can’t shake her past, or the terrible things that happened when she was only eleven- years-old. Five years later, people are still after her, and they are relentless in their pursuit to settle past grudges. Yet Nona is now carrying a new friend with her, who amplifies her powers, but at the cost of losing her shadow.

“She had lost a shadow, lost two friends, and gained a devil.”

But about half way into this book, everything gets flipped on its head, and I’m not even sure if my body can produce any more tears. Tears for sadness, tears for happiness, tears because I don’t want to wait a year to read the next book, all the tears, okay? From shiphearts, to arks, to demons, to poisons, to chains, to prophecies, to even the moon; this book has everything and makes you feel everything. And I feel forever thankful for this tale.

This book is also different, because it switches points of view with Abbess Glass a lot! And man, oh man, do I love that woman with my whole heart. This book heavily deals with betrayals, and all of the twists and turns were out of this world. But the things that these Sisters are willing to do for one another? I don’t have any combination of words for how perfect it is.

The theme of friendship, and what we are willing to do for the found family we choose, is constant throughout this amazing book. Unconditional love is the most powerful force in any world, and this book just reinforces that statement. And seeing all these phenomenal girl friendships, while they kick ass side by side? It’s something I don’t even have words for. But I’ll be forever thankful that this series exists.

Another major theme in Grey Sister is forgiveness. Some people will never learn the word, and they will let revenge poison their entire life. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, Nona proves it time and time again, but sometimes its truly the only path worth taking. (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)

“Trust is the most insidious of poisons.”

Trigger/Content Warnings: Physical abuse, bullying, torture, murder, death, gore, death of a child, death of a loved one, and themes of war.

You all know how much I love Nevernight. Truly, with my whole heart. And these two series are so very similar, when it comes to kids training and fighting for a church, when it comes to a girl running from a past she had no control of, when it comes to both of those girls having very distinct companions. You can’t miss the similarities. And even though I do love both, the Book of the Ancestor series is just better. It feels more real, it feels more adult, and it makes me feel even more things. But if you, too, enjoy Nevernight, you have to give this series a try. I promise, you’ll fall in love!

Another amazing thing that I want to mention here, is that Mark Lawrence put a recap section at the start of this book, and it was one of the most helpful things I’ve ever seen an author do. I felt completely aware of everything going on in the world, and which specialty every teacher had, after reading. It was so damn thoughtful, and I wish every single author would do this and make it a series norm.

“We are all part of the Ancestor’s tree. A twig that breaks free will, however advantageous the wind, fall and wither in time.”

Overall, Mark Lawrence weaves together a tale that is so eloquent, yet so filled with action. I love nothing more than seeing the events of the past and the events of the present slowly coming together into a masterpiece of a series. I truly believe this is a once in a lifetime series. Mark Lawrence’s writing is so very teleportative and nothing short of beautiful. I swear, I could highlight at least half of this book. When I open a book of his, I am instantly captivated and enthralled. And I never ever want to put it down. When I say Nona is my favorite protagonist of all time, I don’t throw around that title lightly. And this story is just on a whole other tier for adult fantasy. I will forever cherish these books, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Holy Sister!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Lilly at Lair of Books! (If you all aren’t following her, stop depriving yourself, and hit that friend request or follow button now, because she’s a confirmed angel who blesses my life on the daily!)