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Title: Red Sister
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
Author: Mark Lawrence
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
The planet Abeth was originally settled by four tribes with various abilities. The hunska have superhuman speed; the gerant have superhuman strength, the marjal can work elemental magic; the quantal can work larger magics. Children born on Abeth may have access to one (or rarely, multiple) bloodline powers. Abeth’s dying red giant sun cannot generate sufficient heat to prevent a global ice age. Abeth’s man-made moon refracts sunlight onto a narrow strip of land circling the globe. This Corridor, only fifty miles wide, is the only unfrozen land on the planet. It comprises several kingdoms fighting for control of the planet’s resources.
Nona Grey is a peasant girl living in a remote village in the Corridor. She is purchased by a slave trader who recognizes that she has hunska blood. She is brought the to capital of the Empire, where she attacks a noble named Raymel Tacsis. She is saved from execution by Abbess Glass of the Sweet Mercy Convent.
Nona trains in the arts of combat and subterfuge at Sweet Mercy. Along the way, she meets fellow novice Arabella (Ara). Various nobles believe that Ara is the Argatha, a savior destined to save Abeth. Abbess Glass convinces the nobility that Nona is the Shield, destined to protect the Argatha. With her training, Nona recognizes that she also has quantal and marjal talents. Nona also meets a mysterious student named Zole and her bodyguard Yisht. Nona realizes that Yisht is attempting to steal a valuable artifact from Sweet Mercy: the shipheart, which was left by the original settlers of Abeth. With four shiphearts, one can control the moon which is protecting Abeth from a permanent ice age. Nona and the other students defeat Yisht and save the shipheart.
In a frame story, an adult Nona and Ara are attacked by members of the Empire’s nobility. They are betrayed by Clera, a former student at Sweet Mercy. Nona attempts to convince Clera to join them against the Empire’s army.
Well, this book confirms that Lawrence is an author I cannot read. Between nuns sleeping together, young almost prebuscent girls flirting with each other, psychopathic killers (who aren’t the bad guys), a failing sun, a hopeless world being encased in ice, the devolving of technology and failing technology, plus the absolute soul destroying underlying philosophy, I got a soup that was pretty as anti-me as you could get.
While Nona was more likeable than that hellbound Jorg, she wasn’t really fun to read about either. While I didn’t hate my time reading this, by the end I had to ask myself if I cared about anything in this story enough to want to read another book’s worth (and that’s not taking into account that this is a trilogy). I answered with a resounding “NO!” If there had been even a hint that the “moon” could have been repaired, or that someone had even entertained the idea of repairing it, even that tiny, small shred of hope probably would have been enough to keep me going.
But that was the whole problem I have with Lawrence. There is no hope, anywhere. I looked high, I looked low, I even looked at sub-minor-side characters. No where did I find any hope. All I did find was an existential existence for 10 year old girls who had a choice of being raped/tortured/killed or becoming merciless killers themselves. On the killer side things, there was no justice. There was no Justice because there was no Law. There was no Law because there was no Law Giver.
As much as I despise Lawrence’s philosophy, I do have to admit that he is honest enough to take it to its logical end. It is just that that end is a maelstrom of death, despair and destruction.