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

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“Nona, my fierce little Nona, remember mercy. Mercy for others in victory. Mercy for yourself too. You deserve happiness, child. Never forget it.”

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.

Read my reviews of Red Sister (#1) and Grey Sister (#2).

* * * * *
5 / 5

Holy Sister sent shivers all the way down my spine. We have been travelling down the path towards the encounter that has threaded its way through the first two books: Lano Tacsis and his two hundred men, coming for Sister Thorn. Sister Thorn, it has been revealed, is Arabella Jotsis and Sister Cage is none other than Nona Grey. It is epic. It is heart-wrenching. It poked at my soul and wouldn’t stop.

The Book of the Ancestor says that for everything there is a season. This was a time to reap. A time for death. A time to die.

Initially the book jumps back and forward in time, between the present with Nona in Holy Class about to take her trials to become a full nun, and three years ago when they fled the Emperor’s sister. The past segments are about Nona and Zole fleeing with the shipheart and they are action-packed whilst shedding a light on Zole, the Missing, and the Ice. The present focuses on the build up to the Scithrowl invasion, the state of the convent under the control of Abbess Wheel, and the woman that Nona Grey is becoming.

This book is emotional. There were a few scenes that I read over and over: Nona choosing which kind of Sister to become, Sister Pan standing against the Scithrowl forces (I cried, not gonna lie), and Arabella and Nona standing together. There are more, but to tell would spoil it. Needless to say, this book is beautiful and tragic and strange. It is almost entirely focused on the war, but it managed not to be consumed by that. Holy Sister isn’t an endless sequence of battle scenes, it’s a treatise on love and friendship and growth. 

“A million words won’t push the ice back, not even the breadth of a finger. But one word will break a heart, two will mend it, and three will lay the highest low.”

The world of Abeth becomes both stranger and familiar. The details of how the bloodlines work and whether their gifts are entirely natural; Lawrence threads together a typical fantasy setting with the mystery of The Missing and modern technologies in a way that seems eerie and not overdone. I still find the idea of the Moon seriously cool, as well as the shiphearts and the Ark. Top job.

Above all, Holy Sister brought me closer to the characters that I love. My heart has been torn asunder. Wild, angry, beautiful, kind Nona surprised me over and over. Nona, who was sold into slavery, who has become a full nun, who has trusted and been betrayed, who has found love and companionship and shed her literal demons. More than that, my love for Abbess Glass, Kettle, Apple, Ara, Jula, Ruli, Sister Pan, and even Sister Wheel grew and grew. A special place in my heart is reserved for Sister Kettle, Sister Pan, and Arabella Jotsis. 

“More of those who leave the Corridor die on the ice than below it. Walk with respect here, Nona Grey. The white death awaits.”

I don’t really have words enough to describe how much I loved this series. I have them all on Kindle and Audiobook and I think I will read and re-read them for years to come. Holy Sister was a stunning conclusion to a fantastic series.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of Holy Sister.

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