Holy Sister, Mark Lawrence – Book Review

Hello Humans! It’s finally time to review one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. There have been quite a few of them early this year (in fact, my next one isn’t until May) and it’s been amazing to get to review so many of them. In this case, the author reached out to bloggers asking if anyone wanted to review and I essentially screamed until I had the opportunity to do so.

I’ll preface this review with saying that I haven’t read any of Mark Lawrence’s other series (though I have another new release of his on my TBR) and I really only have these books as a reference point. I know some people didn’t get on with those books and I want to be clear that I’m reviewing this book, not the author and not his past works – just the book. Hope that’s clear!

Now, on to reviewing Holy Sister.

I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as humanly possible, but there will be spoilers for Red Sister and Grey Sister.

holy sister

Goodreads Summary:

They came against her as a child. Now they face the woman.

The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.

Nona faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.

Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war.

The shiphearts offer strength that she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her.

A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, thrones burned.

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Unlike the previous two books in the series, which kind of integrate the past and the present narratives, (most significantly in the early portions of Red Sister) this book quite clearly sets out two plotlines, one following directly on from the ending of Grey Sister, following Nona and Zole, while the other takes place much later in the narrative. Since I never really warmed to Zole as a character (I’m not sure you’re supposed to…) I tended to prefer the latter of the two ‘timezones’ but I’d say both are strong. If you favour the side characters more than you do Nona – which I think a lot of people do – I think you’ll probably feel a similar way.

Because it is the side characters that really made this series what it was. The last third/half of this book is most certainly a testament to that, there are some truly wonderful moments between the characters with whom readers have fallen in love through the previous two books. One such moment made me actually gasp out loud it was so amazing – I must have confused people on the train.

I will say, there are quite a few things left unanswered by the end of this book, those looking for an explanation of every metaphysic within the world might find themselves a little lacking, but I don’t think that has ever been the point of this world. So much of the way the world is understood is passed down through the years to the point at which our characters encounter the information – there’s something quite special about not having an exact explanation for everything that happens. Well, that’s how I saw it anyway.

This book was a five star read for me, because I had that gut feeling of ‘oh yes I loved that’ when I finished reading it, but there were a couple of elements I think needed a slightly better focus – there’s a little bit of a ‘bury your gays’ towards the end which I think does work for the story but was perhaps not the wisest move as reviewers tend to react poorly to it. I would have also liked some of the romance/relationships to be a little more explicit – if you can get a hold of the short story ‘Bound’ that takes place between Grey Sister and Holy Sister I think that goes some way to filling that gap, but I’d like it if that were built into the book. Hey, I can be utterly obsessed with a book and still call it out a little – that’s fine right?

So yes, overall I loved this book, even though there were a couple of things I would change it’s an incredibly satisfying and exciting ending to a great trilogy. Of the three, I think Red Sister has to be my favourite, though this book has some of my favourite scenes and moments. If you’re wanting to start this series I would thoroughly recommend it – in particular the audiobooks (I have the one for Red Sister and it is great).

My rating: 5/5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author. All opinions are my own.

Holy Sister publishes on April 4th 2019.

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What say you? Have you read this series? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!


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