Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book of the Ancestor (Book 3 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, high fantasy
Published: 4th April 2019 by Harper Voyager (UK) and 9th April 2019 by Ace (US)
Incredibly satisfying, Holy Sister is a powerful conclusion to a remarkable trilogy that shines most brilliantly with its superb characterisation.
I am truly impressed with Mark Lawrence’s ability to write such realistic and relatable female characters, and to achieve that across such a wide range of age, backgrounds and personality of all the nuns and novices. I loved how he managed to make each and every one of them shine in different ways. To top it all off, it was the amazing portrayal of friendship, love and bonds between these characters that tied it all together in a most emotionally captivating narrative of sisterhood.
The main character, Nona Grey, had the most screen time and this time the entire book was dedicated entirely to her POV. Her growth and development from a fierce yet insecure young girl in the first book to a fierce and formidable young woman was one of the most compelling character arcs I’ve read in a long time. She has her demons and a propensity for violence, and god forbid anyone who intends to harm or hurt those she loves. But, at the end of the day, she proved to be a bigger person than both her friends and foes thought her to be. There were so many powerful moments for Nona, especially in this concluding volume. And a special mention for one of the Mistresses, which I’ve always suspected to be way more potent than she appeared to be, in a magnificently jaw-dropping scene during the climactic sequence.
As we’ve started to discover in Grey Sister, Abbess Glass was the mastermind for the ages. How she saw many steps ahead of her foes and planned the long game – all these were gradually revealed in this finale. At every single revelation, I felt the need to bow to her supreme intelligence and empathy. Let’s be frank, you need to have both to first understand how others will react and then figure out how to line up the counter-moves ahead of time. All I can say to avoid spoilers is a quote taken from book itself.
Lessons were over. The closed world of the convent was about to be broken open. The endgame had arrived.
To this end, the plotting across the entire trilogy has been one of the tightest, most coherent, consistent and continuous that I’ve come across in the many years that I’ve read fantasy. And it was definitely the best amongst all of Lawrence’s books so far. The interwoven threads of the plot, worldbuilding and the character development were well-bonded and created a seamless narrative across all these aspects of great fantasy storytelling.
Speaking of worldbuilding, there was a reference which triggered a memory and an earlier conjecture that I’ve made while reading Red Sister, regarding the world that Abeth might turned out to be. Perhaps I will find out more when I read the next follow-up series, and its first book, The Girl and The Stars. For now, I’ll just say that Book of the Ancestor is a trilogy not to be missed.