Red Sister – Mark Lawrence (Book Review)

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My next step into fantasy:

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

I bought this book for 3 main reasons: the cover caught my eye, the authors name is familiar, and it is the first in a new fantasy series! As I have mentioned before, fantasy isn’t really my go to genre (though most people assume so!) and so I’m venturing out. Joining a new series early on seems like a good idea to not be playing catch up!

The story follows a young girl called Nona as she is rescued from the death penalty by the abbess of a convent. Nona, a poor girl, joins the convent so often reserved for those whose parents can fund their unique education there. As time progresses and friends are made, enemies seek after control through a prophecy foretelling the coming of person with 4-bloods – having the unique ability of the 4 tribes who landed in Abeth.

The book has a twist on the typical prophecy trope which I really appreciated – it wasn’t as predictable as many are, and left me trying to work it out along the way. The characters are all very unique, and Nona is very likable and the type of character you just want to win.

Though at first I found it hard to get into (though I admit that may be my fault – as I said, I’m not used to reading things not set within the realms of reality), by about a quarter of the way through I was hooked and could not stop reading.

I felt at times that I wasn’t quite clear on the “rules” behind the use of magic in the book, but I didn’t too left out of it – I suspect this will become clearer in future sequels.

I pre-ordered the next in the series, Grey Sister, before even finishing this book. I am excited to continue the journey with Nona, Ara, and friends.

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Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett (Book Review)

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The third in the Discworld series, following on from the other two!

The last thing the wizard Drum Billet did, before Death laid a bony hand on his shoulder, was to pass on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son. Unfortunately for his colleagues in the chauvinistic (not to say misogynistic) world of magic, he failed to check on the new-born baby’s sex…

Terry Pratchett turns his acute satirical eye on sexual equality and chauvanism in his hilarious third Discworld novel.

The story centers around Discworlds first female wizard – witches being something quite different and altogether more sensible.

The story essentially follows Esk throughout her life in the village under the guidance of a witch, picking up magic quickly and beyond even the witches capabilities. She then travels to the Unseen University to attempt entry as the first female wizard.

I think I enjoyed this book a little less than the other two, but it still had it’s funny moments and clever dialogue. Worth a read as an introduction to some characters I am told re-appear in the late books however; which I intend on reading!

I guess the obvious is that this book touches on feminism – that on Discworld, it is only tradition that says wizards have to be male, and that it is not “written anywhere”. I was expecting this to be a bit heavy-handed, but it was handled quite well and in a satirical way which perhaps merit mention.

“Mort” next!

The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett (Book Review)

I bought the second in the Discworld series after enjoying the first one. The ease in reading this, and the light-heartedness of the stories, have become something I look forward to between reading more challenging books:

In the sky appears a red star, which gets bigger day-by-day as Great A’Tuin approaches it. The wizards of Discworld begin the search for the 8th Great Spell, which must be said along with the other 7 – only in times of crisis.

The 8th spell, safely within Rincewinds, seems somewhat reluctant to be caught, however.

Joining up with the now old, Cohen the Barbarian, Rincewind and Twoflower traverse Discworld, seeking the answer to save the world from colliding with the great red star.

The story sets place in a variety of environments, from forests, to cities, to inside an ancient spell-book. The characters continued to be developed, and the conclusion of their story-lines something which I’m eager to pursue in the following books in the series.

I did feel, however, that there were one or two lines which should have been cut somewhere in editing. Though perhaps humorous, they just didn’t sit well in the holistic atmosphere of the book.

Though perhaps not quite as enjoyable as the first Discworld novel, the conclusion to evade me until the closing pages – the threat of the approaching star seemingly unavoidable, yet the mixed reactions of the inhabitants of Discworld making it hard to guess who knew what was actually happening – which is not a bad thing.

Reading the Discworld series so far has encouraged me to branch out more in fantasy novels, and that can’t be a bad thing. I looked forward to exploring the genre more this year!