Holy Sister

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 May 2019

Member Reviews

Endings are hard. In a way, endings can make or break a story, whether that’s referring to a chapter, a book, or even an entire series. Unlike some, I’m not one that ascribes to the opinion that the ending of a book will largely determine your opinion of a book. I’ve read plenty of great books with weak endings that I still enjoyed overall, and no matter how “awesome” an ending is, if the story up to that point is drawn out and boring… the ending won’t make up for the fact that everything else was drawn out and boring. But endings are still important. This book gave me a chance to not only finish consuming my first “Mark Lawrence” series, but also to look back on the series as a whole and decide what I thought about it. Honestly, I was a little surprised at what I found. As such, if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, you should probably do that instead of proceeding any further.

HOLY SISTER (Amazon) by Mark Lawrence is the final story in the Book of the Ancestor — a tale told largely through the eyes of one Nona Grey. GREY SISTER kind of left Nona and several of the nuns from the Convent of Sweet Mercy in a bit of a pickle. They’d just escaped from the clutches of the Emperor’s sister, Sherzal, and her clutch of Noi-Guin assassins, and were trying to get safely home. As a climax to that book, it was a pretty good one, and as the book ended shortly after the escape, I assumed that this meant everyone had made it back to the convent safely. Mission accomplished.

Oh, simple-minded me.

HOLY SISTER begins with a split between two different timelines, three years apart. The earlier timeline picks up immediately after GREY SISTER ends, with the ensuing chase from Sherzal’s palace. Nona and Zole had, after all, taken a shipheart from the catacombs within the Noi-Guin stronghold, and those are not treasures lost lightly. To help save the others from the soldiers pursuing the group, Nona and Zole take the shipheart and head for the ice. Meanwhile, three years later, Nona is trying to progress in her studies and figure out how to thwart Sherzal in her attempts to control the moon, while the enemy armies that have threatened invasion for the entire series are coming closer yet to fulfilling that threat.

As with my previous reading experience, I can only say that I loved ingesting this book just as much as I have his others. Lawrence uses a great mix of character and plot and world-building, along with these brilliant periodic statements of definitive and impactful truth, to weave a tale that is engaging and enlightening. As a story, this was a tale that I fully enjoyed, and I was impressed with where it ended in terms of the world and the characters. The pacing of the story was unrelenting, always moving toward a goal, with purpose and intent that I wish more books could share. The time spent on the ice was especially cool (no pun intended… okay, maybe a little one), and I could tell that he’d done his due diligence in preparing for the tale to finally reach this point. For the entire tale, the massive shelf of ice has been this implacable, ever-present force, but as of yet unexplored, and now that I’ve gotten a taste for its wastes and its secrets, I find myself even more excited for the next series Lawrence has planned in this world (Book of the Ice).

That being said, there were a couple really big things that bothered me about the delivery of this book. I don’t know that they necessarily impacted what I thought of the series as a whole, but they definitely impacted my thoughts about this book. If you’re worried about spoilers, you might want to skip this next paragraph. Although it won’t technically contain spoilers for the story (important details/events in the plot/characters), I know that some readers will still not want to hear what I have to say before reading the book themselves.

All clear? Okay, So my largest complaint about HOLY SISTER builds off of a criticism I also had for GREY SISTER. This being the concept of hiding information from the reader. There’s a moment fairly late in the book where we learn not only that Nona, the main POV of the book, has been hiding information and motivations of her own from we the readers, but from all of her friends at Sweet Mercy as well. And these aren’t details that could have been easily passed by during the main thrust of the first half of the novel. These are pivotal motivations of her own, information that is driving exactly the decisions and actions she’s taking, that we as readers just aren’t privvy to. And that includes taking in her character as if she didn’t have any of this information or motivations. Her story reads as if all of that was absent. This single point, no matter how small to some readers, is a huge sticking point for me, and essentially encapsulates the reason why I downgraded my rating to Like. I hate finding that information has been purposefully withheld from the story for any purpose whatsoever. For me, it’s a betrayal of trust that I’m experiencing what the character thinks and feels. Deep POV. On top of this, Nona’s motivations lead to her withholding information from her fellow sisters — her friends — and they react in such a way that it seems they were only mildly annoyed. It is one thing to be manipulated by an old woman with the political chops of a savant (Abbess Glass), but quite another to have to swallow such manipulation from one you call your friend. Both of these points hurt the story immensely in my mind.

The second issue I had was with Nona’s change in character. I didn’t feel that this time around we got to see why her character changed from one condition to another. Up to this point in the story (and this was perhaps reinforced by the cover images of the girl) Nona has been a scary, violent, and extremely capable individual that I’d never want to meet in a dark alley. But somewhere within the three years of story that we don’t get, Nona changes into something that has much more in common with Abbess Glass. Dangerous still, yes, but someone that makes decisions in a considerably different manner than the Nona that I’ve come to know.

In the end, this was definitely a book that I enjoyed, but there were a few pieces that really hurt my reading experience. I wouldn’t say that it was enough to keep me from being excited about Mark’s next books. I’m still excited. Maybe just not as much as I have been up to this point. Now that I’ve finished a Lawrence series, I realize just how desperately I need to catch up on his previous books and see what I’ve been missing.
Was this review helpful?
This series!!!!! It’s so well written, has fantastic characters, and amazing plot twists. I am sad to see this series at its close but am very satisfied with how it ended. The world building is fantastic. I love the magic of the world and the character development. I can’t wait to read more from this author!
Was this review helpful?
mark Lawrence's third book is really interesting in terms of the format; the timeline is spread between two distinct times - the present and three years earlier. Three years earlier Nona is trying to escape with a (re)stolen shipheart; in the present Nona and her friends are trying to find out more about the Ark by stealing ancient artifacts.
Was this review helpful?
Holy cats! Mark Lawrence has written another fantastic book in this series. Holy Sister marks the conclusion of just a rich and fascinating story. I can't wait to post my review on my blog.
Was this review helpful?
Rating: ★★★★★


he searing conclusion of the thrilling epic fantasy trilogy that saw a young girl trained by an arcane order of nuns grow into the fiercest of warriors…

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 Grey 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 she 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.


YUGE thanks to the publisher and author for an advanced reading copy of Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor #3) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

What can I really say that is going to make you read this book? You either enjoy Lawrence’s books or you OMFG THIS MAN CAN DO NO WRONG. SERIOUSLY, WHEN DOES HIS NEXT BOOK COME OUT BECAUSE I AM GOING TO PREORDER IT RIGHT NOW – LOVE his books. I can safely say that I am in the latter because I know that every time I open up one of his novels, I am in for a treat that has beautifully crafted prose, entrancingly expansive yet claustrophobic world-building, a unique and impressive magic system, and characters that not only kick ass and take names, but do so with flair.

Holy Sister nips at the heels of Grey Sister, and since it has been a year since we last journeyed round the ice with Nona, Mark has kindly given us a bit of a recap at the beginning. It is always a nice touch when authors do this as not all of us have time to re-read the first 2+ books in a series to remember exactly all that has happened.

We are given two (2) timelines this time around: the first being the present where Nona is in Holy Class and has to make the difficult decision of which order she will become; the second being three (3) years in the past and taking place moments after the ending of Grey Sister. Mark expertly crafts both of these timelines together to make for seamless transitions between chapters. The end of each chapter feels like its own mini cliffhanger, only to be satisfied immediately within the next few words.

While the author has a knack for writing well thought out and descriptive fight scenes, his ability to build up a battle for the ages in just a few short chapters is simply stunning. But what I am really chuffed about, and have to agree with my co-reviewer Griffin on, is the creation of the ship-hearts and the artificial moon. The entirety of the planet warring over control of these ancient items in order to negate the fast-paced movement of the ice and ensure their survival.

Guys and gals… I really cannot say more about how Mark’s writing has affected me since I first began reading his works. Anytime his name is attached to something, I have to have it. I may not be the first to read or review it, heck, probably not even the first to talk about it, but I know that I can bite into his writing, chew slowly to savor the words as they gush out, and know that I will be pleasantly full by the time it is over.

This trilogy, like the Broken Empire (and when I finally get to reading it, more than likely The Red Queen’s War), will be one I come back to over and over again. I can imagine there are so many things I have missed, but just the prose alone is enough to have me clamoring for more.
Was this review helpful?
Warrior sisters: Explosive violence and bonds of love!

The Ancestor trilogy's final novel "Holy Sister" is just as intricate and pressing as its predecessors.  
Lawrence's "Story So Far" chapter succinctly locates us once more in time and place for the continuing saga.
"Abeth is a planet orbiting a dying red sun. It is sheathed in ice and the vast majority of its people live in a fifty-mile-wide ice-walled corridor around the equator" which is shrinking as the ice advances.
"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 Grey and her band of sister novices, Ara (Arabella), Zole, Ruli, and Jula, who started together at the Convent of Sweet Mercy are being called upon (little do they know it) to put in place Abbess Glass's long term planning. (Despite not being present she has a long reach!) At the center lies the shiphearts, the prophecy around the Ark and the coming of a Chosen One. 
Of course all long term plans rest on the situations and decisions the players will make. And those aren't necessarily what is wished for, possibly only hoped for. Combined with the over arcing mega story, are those of the individual's, such as  the virulent, hatred driven pursuit of Nona by Lano Tacsis after her vengeance upon his family.
As it unfolds, the storyline switched seamlessly between past and present, bringing us around to the final chapters.
The battle scenes against the Scithrowl hordes led by their battle-queen Adoma were brutal, reminding me a bit of those in Feist's Demon Queen.
Underlying the actions, Lawrence's viewpoints rise to the surface around evil vs good, friendship, redemption and hope.
A satisfying finish to a compelling series!

A Berkley Group ARC via NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
[Posted April 1] 

Readers and writers often describe novels as being character driven or plot driven. If there is such a thing, then Holy Sister, the third volume in Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy, is setting driven. The problem that drives the story’s conflict, as revealed in the earlier volumes as well, is that the focus moon is no longer able to hold back planet Abeth’s ice crust from closing in on the Corridor of habitable land that it keeps warm. People living near the encroaching miles-high ice walls are losing land and are forced to migrate into other people’s land, which causes the main conflict of the story, war. On the surface it sounds simple, but Lawrence’s extremely creative, dense world-building and his attention to the most minute details make Holy Sister a tour-de-force of speculative fiction writing.

Holy Sister begins where Grey Sister ends, after Zole has saved the nuns and some other folks in their escape from Sherzal’s palace. Zole and Nona take the shipheart they retrieved from Sherzal’s palace and part from the rest of the escaping company so the others will not be followed by Sherzal’s guard and the powerful Noi-Guin warriors. The two girls flee to Zole’s ice-bound home, and we finally get to experience the beautiful and forbidding ice that is much talked about in the earlier novels. Meanwhile, a parallel narrative in not-quite-alternating chapters, shows Nona and the sisters of Sweet Mercy, three years later, preparing for a big, violent showdown with Sherzal and the approaching, massive armies of the Scithrowl and the Durn that are closing in on the empire.  Somehow, our hero, Nona Grey, must get the shipheart from the narrative in the past to the narrative in the present (that’s supposed to be funny), join it with the others in the Ark, and save the empire. It’s a helluva ride.

Yes, Nona also must complete her quest to become a full Sister of Sweet Mercy. Yes, she must rely on her friends to help her in every aspect of her quests because that is the main theme of the whole trilogy, in the opinion of this reviewer. Yes, there are many plot twists, awesome fights (including the opening scene), emotional moments, love relationships, character turns, pithy quotes, and lessons learned. And yes, if you’re reading this you will probably read lots of reviews describing these elements of this novel and the climax of this trilogy. For me, though, the most astounding thing about the Book of the Ancestor is the absolutely mind-blowing world-building. I can’t think of another example of world-building that even compares, so I hope you won’t mind if I write about that. (It’ll also help me avoid spoilers.)

Throughout my reading of Holy Sister, I wondered (and still wonder) if Lawrence created the world with all its settings, its magic, and its dying moon before he created the characters who populate it. It seems possible that Abeth’s diminishing Corridor between its encroaching ice crusts and the dying focus moon that causes Abeth’s peoples to go to war against one another could have been the idea that generated the story, which then generated the characters. Similarly, the shiphearts, the powerful magical stones that are required to use the Ark, which may or may not control the moon, could have been part of that initial idea. A writer, especially one of Lawrence’s caliber, could take those ideas and populate a story in a million different ways. But as if that weren’t enough, Lawrence gives us a world of magic that has layer upon layer of nuance, rules, abilities, and incredibly imaginative concepts, all with unique names within the story world that make all these things seem entirely natural to the characters. There is the continuing effect on the characters of the four bloods — hunska, quantal, marjal, and gerant – inherited from Abeth’s original immigrant settlers that imbue the characters with speed, magic, empathy, and size/strength, respectively. There is the “work” the characters can do, based on their special abilities. Thread-work allows them to create deadly traps, but also to communicate and even attack each other through the equivalent of extrasensory perception. Rock-work, water-work, ice-work, etc., allow the characters to manipulate the world around them. There are sigils and trances and serenity and the path, all of which protect and strengthen the characters. Ring portals, new in Holy Sister, can transport characters hundreds of miles. Devils live in the poisonous black ice, possess the story’s characters and influence their thoughts, which becomes an important predicament at the climax of the novel. The characters can inhabit one another’s bodies and see through each other’s eyes (a helpful trick if you’re writing a story with only one point-of-view character). At one point a nun just blows herself up like a suicide bomber, blasting a whole host of enemy soldiers into tiny fragments. Nona has deadly blades that extend from her fingers in any size necessary and can even be extended from other characters’ bodies she inhabits. She can practically take on whole armies by herself; hence one of the trilogies most memorable quotes: “It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.” In fact, Nona is so powerful, I was not sure she couldn’t just blow a massive hot fart that would melt the ice back for hundreds of miles. But alas…

The ending of Holy Sister is as poignant as you might expect if you’ve read the earlier two books. Not only is there the expected massive convergence of powers and armies and world-building, but there is also the full development of the characters’ relationships and arcs and the achievement of faith that is the foundation of the nuns’ existence. And some important characters die, which always helps make a story great and emotionally compelling.

If you’ve read Red Sister and Grey Sister, then you’ll read Holy Sister and love it. I give you my personal guarantee. If you haven’t read the first two Books of the Ancestor, what the hell is your problem? The series is truly a masterwork of speculative fiction writing the likes of which is rarely achieved. Lawrence is a frigging genius. And even though The Book of the Ancestor is not my favourite of his works, it is still most likely his greatest achievement as a speculative fiction writer. I can’t even imagine how he could write a book like this in a year. It just blows my tiny mind.

Holy Sister is scheduled for publication in the US by Ace on April 9, 2019.
Was this review helpful?
Mark Lawrence can do no wrong and is a brilliant author! The Holy Sister is a perfect conclusion to one of my all-time favorite series. Nona Grey will always be a favorite.

I highly recommend the Book of the Ancestor series!

**ARC provided by Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and review.
Was this review helpful?
“When they put us in that cage we never really came out of it again.”

Good Lord, Mark Lawrence has truly created a once in a lifetime series that I will cherish forever. Holy Sister is the third and final book in a series that will go down in history as one of the brightest shining lights in SFF history. 

I very much implore you to read Bound after Grey Sister, but before Holy Sister because it really works as a much-needed bridge short story. This book is told in two timeless; one, after the events of Grey Sister, and then three years later. But the interchanging of these two timelines, both in Nona’s perspective, was truly the perfect way to craft this tale. 

This series is all about a girl named Nona who we get to see grow up, but we meet her during her childhood when she hasn’t had the easiest of lives, and is currently in the gallows for attempted murder, but is saved and taken to a convent of nuns who all are able to harness magical abilities, and we quickly learn that Nona has some magical abilities herself. Yet now, in this last book, this convent, Sweet Mercy, and all the characters we have grown to love, have threats surrounding them and all their lives are on the line. 

My favorite part of this book? I have truly fallen in love with these magical assassin nuns and I’m honestly prepared to die for any and all of them. Truly, the found family in this book is just unparalleled by anything else. From the bonds of sisters, to the bonds of lovers, to the bonds of just women loving and accepting each other, regardless of the paths you have walked or are currently walking in life. All the side characters are some of the greatest of all time, but Apple and Kettle will never leave me or my heart. And Glass will forever and always be my queen. 

But Mark Lawrence truly gave me everything I wanted when he crafted Nona, and in this book especially when he made Nona attracted to multiple genders, most likely bisexual. But Nona is a pan goddess in my eyes, and no one can change my mind on this. Also, she will go down as one of my favorite characters of all-time. She’s come far, from learning that the word brave does mean to be strong, but it also means to be vulnerable and willing to let people in. Seeing her grow, with this group of girls, but also by herself, while being shaped by this cruel and unforgiving world, filled with even more cruel and unforgiving circumstances; it’s so beautiful I don’t even have words for it. 

“The fight matters. But in the end it is never truly won or lost, and victory lies in discovering that we are bigger than it is.”

Watching Nona become the woman she is, and watching her walk this path, all the paths, I don’t even have words for it. I think this entire series is going to stand the test of time and go down as one of the best fantasies ever written. The story is just perfection, the characters are my favorite, the writing is so smart and so beautiful, the themes are life changing, and the entire story is completely unforgettable. If you haven’t picked up Red Sister yet, I’m begging you to give it a try. This trilogy is truly a masterpiece.
Was this review helpful?
*It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. *

This third installment of Mark Lawrence’s series Book of the Ancestor brings the storyline home like an air-to-ground missile with a heart-wringing concussive aftershock.

Readers not familiar with the series should know first-off that this is not the book to start with. Really, begin with the first book. Not a scene is wasted. The only way to see who laid very long plans and why, who changes and why, is to watch it happen.

Some readers might not like how this book trades off jumps in time, from just after the previous book to the present. I’m not fond of this narrative device myself, but even with the jumps the emotional investment and the runaway-train velocity of the plot kept me glued to the story.

Briefly (mentioned in reviews of the previous books) the world is dying with its sun, only a narrow strip still livable, pretty much in eternal winter. There are two factions howling out of the snow to destroy everyone else.

Then there are the Sisters of Sweet Mercy.

*At Sweet Mercy they made a weapon of me. They honed every skill into a sharp edge. They put a sword in my hand, because there will always be foes who much be opposed, always violence that much be met with violence. 
Nona has become a formidable badass on the verge of taking her vows. She’s up against powerful villains whose motivations range from petty cruelty to mass destruction. But she has come a long way from the little slave girl sold to cage fighters.

She has the last, hardest battle ahead of her now. And it’s exactly as rough as expected, and we lose characters we cared deeply about. But Lawrence isn’t writing blood and guts for the sake of blood and guts. 

The second part of the above quote:

*But that is not the heart of Sweet Mercy. It was always the faith. Always the notion that all men and women are our brothers and sisters. And that faith doesn’t end with borders. It doesn’t care about heresies use to divide us, or whether you speak your prayers to a white star, or to the fields and forests and stones*

This is a vivid, wrenching, inspiring end to a smart, often merciless, always insightful series, with characters who will linger long in memory.
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

The first Book of the Ancestor opened with this intriguing teaser, and with each book the context and details of this glimpse of a future conflict have been clarified. In Holy Sister, the backstory finally catches up to that opening scene and all is revealed—and mostly resolved.

Nona Grey has grown from an angry and often bewildered eight-year-old sold to a convent to a young woman who is expert—or nearly so—at the martial, stealth, and mystical arts. She has forged bonds of friendship and made a number of enemies, all while various factions in her possibly dying world weave their webs of deceit and secrecy to gain power. Readers finally see all those machinations come to a head. There are surprises, some welcome and some not, and heartache as well. But Lawrence very skillfully has woven a tale with twists and turns that come to a very satisfying conclusion.

Read the trilogy. You’ll be glad you did.
Was this review helpful?
This is the end of a trilogy and with the pacing I didn't think that their would be an actual ending. Just an ending for Nona. After a slow middle the book picks up with the dreaded war and Nona's plans throughout the book are made clear. In the end, Nona herself grows from her angry girl self into a woman with an open heart.
Was this review helpful?
Annnddddd... he sticks the landing! I didn't love this quite as much as GREY SISTER (I'm always going to be a hard sell on the alternating timelines... it was more justified in this one than in RED SISTER, but still a little unnecessary for this reader), but it still has all the hallmarks of this series. Smart plot twists, bad ass action scenes, brutal character deaths, female rage, and characters who you cannot help but fall in love with. I especially appreciate how gray the moral universe of this series is... it makes for much more interesting reading. 

I gave #1 4 stars, #2 4.5 stars, and #3 4 stars, but I would give the series as a whole 4.5 stars. One of the best fantasy trilogies I've read in a while & I would heartily recommend it.
Was this review helpful?
I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world. The thrilling conclusion to Nona Grey’s story and the grand finale for the story of all the people living on a planet facing a dying sun.

In the face of the end, people learn what truly matters to them. Holy Sister paints a beyond desperate situation for everyone living. Some seek to grab up power and will slaughter as many as it takes to have this. Some will do anything to survive on the winner’s side even if it means betrayal. And, for the strongest, it means doing whatever it takes to benefit the all.

The trilogy is all one story broken into three parts and must be taken in order. It starts with the focus on one girl with Red Sister. Then, the reader starts to realize that a whole chess board is in play by deft hands in Grey Sister. But, Holy Sister? It takes the machinations of a great mind orchestrating the events that occur to a new level. I found it an interesting blend of guided future with free choice playing a role, too.

I’m not trying to be mysterious, but that was how I felt as I was reading this one. Plus, there is only so much that I can say without running into spoiler territory. I’ll say what I feel that I can.

The setup is simple. The Durn are pushing in and raiding from one side and the Scithrowl are mowing down all in their path from the east. As the sun continues to die, the narrow corridor of land not covered by ice grows smaller and makes people fight to hold or take. Between the two others is the weakening empire where Nona and her fellow Sisters of Mercy live and do their work. The Emperor’s sister planned to betray him and her people to take up with the Scithrowl Queen. People are being forced to take sides and watch their backs even within the walls of the abbey.

Holy Sister tells its story in split time line of present day and three years before. The three years before follows the direct events of book two, Grey Sister, while the present drops one into the desperate times of a kingdom on the verge of annihilation from all sides. Nona and the efforts of her small band are the key. The reader is led through a complex series of missions and close, intense situations. It is twisting and turning and keeps the reader wondering constantly. The promised buildup to confrontations do come and it was breathtaking. War is costly so there is that, too. It was an interesting finish that left me pondering several things after the last page. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I can’t deny that it doesn’t fit.

So, all in all, I am sorry to be looking back on the end. It was one exciting and engaging ride from page one and I can highly recommend this book and the whole trilogy to those who enjoy intrigue, character growth, a good feel for setting, and gritty action in their fantasy reading.

I rec’d this book through Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I was so looking forward to get into this third volume by Mark Lawrence. I’m not a very great fantasy reader, but there are series that completely caught away like this one! I loved the first volume, and I’m happy to say that it’s still the case with Holy Sister.

Nona has grown a lot since she was a little girl. She has been through many hardships and lost friends who were very dear to her heart. But it’s also what made her the person she is. But the war is coming and Nona will have to make choices, some of them difficult to save her people.

I loved that novel! Yes, I don’t say it enough. Mark Lawrence has an addictive writing style that takes us away completely. Once again, he offers us a fascinating novel, which closes and allows us to understand some scenes of the first volume. What can I say except that the author mixes with an unequalled mastery of a fascinating world, a determined heroine, betrayals that we do not see coming, but above all, a plot that is impossible to let go.

While the first volume had a different format, the second one had a slightly more classic one. However, with this third volume we go back to a present and past pattern and I found it very clever, especially in the face of the revelations that we discover much later. I loved both periods and was always eager to see what the events would bring.

Yes, you can understand that I am conquered by this series! This ending was perfect and I can only advise you to get started! I also really appreciated at the beginning of the novel the reminders of previous volumes which with my goldfish memory are ideal!

A novel I recommend!
Was this review helpful?
Holy Sister is the third and epic conclusion to the Book of the Ancestor trilogy by author Mark Lawrence. For those who haven't read this series so far, let me offer a summary without spoilers. The world is called Abeth, a planet orbiting a dying red sun with a mirror that keeps the ice from taking over the planet. The vast majority of its people live in what's being called a corridor around the equator. According to legends, thousands of years ago, 4 tribes of men (gerant, hunska, marjal, and quantal) came to Abeth from the stars and found a vanishing people called the Missing. 

As a child, Nona Grey was brought to Sweet Mercy Convent by Abbess Glass after she was sold to a group known for training fighters for ring combat. Novices are trained in four classes of discipline: Holy Sister, Grey Sister, Red Sister, and Holy Witch/Mystic Sister. Nona is a rarity in this world as she carries 3 of the 4 bloodlines of the original tribes of men. Nona's main core of friends are Arabella Jotsis (Ara), Zole, Ruli, and Jula. Zole is from the ice tribes and is thought to be the only 4 blooded with all the skills of all 4 bloods. Both Nona and Zole have destinies that have been slowly revealed across the three books.

It was thought that Zole is the prophesied Chosen One while Nona was her shield. This story alternates between the present and the past following the exploits of Nona Grey and her sisters. The past is where the previous installment, Grey Sister, left off with Nona escaping with Zole, Ara, Abbess Glass and Sister Kettle. The present finds Nona in Holy Class trying to figure out what path she will take in order to become a full sister while also putting together a plan that will save the world. 

As I stated above, the book is split into two parts: Present Day Holy Class, and The Escape which happened three years before and connects with Grey Sister. In the past, Nola and Zole find themselves being chased by vicious assassins and Sherzal's soldiers across the ice after Zole escaped with Sherzal's shipheart. In Holy class Nona faces final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. 

But, the ice still advances, the Corridor still narrows, and the empire is under siege. Scithrowl have invaded in the east, Durns in the west. The war between Queen Adoma and the Emperor Crucical have sent the emperor’s armies in retreat and the only thing that seems to be able to stand in the way, is Nona and her sisters. It seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn the habit of a nun before war is on their doorstep. I think it was a remarkable choice that Nona made between being a Red Sister, Grey Sister, Holy Sister or Mystic. I have to say that the author has planned this out as a long game drawn out by the deceased Abbess Glass. 

Glass knew that it would take cunning and planning to figure out how to use both Nona and Zole to her advantage. Nona's perspective is the only one that readers can expect this time out, and I think that's fair since we, as readers, will get a look into who she has become between 3 years in the past, and how far she's come as a character as well in present time. I was struck how marvelous things worked out, and yes, I was kind of shocked by which choice Nona took knowing she was probably the best, or second best fighter in the entire Convent. The plot of this book is intense, and there is plenty of action for a variety of readers. Overall a fantastic way to finish the series.
Was this review helpful?
This defied every single expectation I had. I'm honestly in awe of how incredible this was. But before you pick up Holy Sister, I HIGHLY recommend you pick up Bound, a short story that takes place between the events of Grey Sister and Holy Sister. Not only is it a hell of a fun time, but it has some details that make the events of Holy Sister feel more well-rounded.

After absolutely LOVING Red Sister and liking Grey Sister, Holy Sister is the best of both worlds. A large chunk of the book follows two timelines: one immediately following the events of Grey Sister and another that takes place three years later, in the present moment. I really enjoyed this method of story-telling in Mark Lawrence's The Broken Empire trilogy, and it's just as effective in this novel. The two timelines complement each other really well, each slowly revealing information that complicates your understanding of the events of the other timeline. But if juggling two timelines isn't your cup of tea, rest assured that everything settles into the present moment about halfway through the novel. From there, you just gotta buckle your seat belt and nestle in for the ride because WOW is it a journey.

Holy Sister went in a direction I really didn't expect, and for that I love it all the more. Mark Lawrence sets up a lot of threads in the previous two novels, but never so obviously that he reveals his hand. I honestly had no idea what Holy Sister would look like, and its lack of predictability for me, someone who's usually pretty good at guessing what'll happen next, just made the whole story entirely more entertaining.

The world-building really shines in this novel. If in previous novels the world has been a backdrop to Nona's adventures, in Holy Sister the history of Abeth and the magic that governs it actively shape her story. I really don't want to say too much and spoil the direction the story takes, but if you've been dying for more detail about the mysteries of this world, Holy Sister has some answers. I'm always really impressed and amazed by the intricacies of Lawrence's world-building, and this novel was no exception.

Okay, can we just talk about the fact that Nona is a bisexual icon?? From book one, I felt the bi vibes resonate in my bones, and so reading "Bound" just about made my life (which is why you should go read it!!!). Even though the romantic elements in this novel are significantly toned down from "Bound," seeing Nona exist on the page as an explicitly and canonically bisexual character meant so much to me. As a bi woman, Nona Grey makes me feel seen.

Also, shout out to that reference to the Broken Empire trilogy. I don't know if it's just a reference, or a subtle connection, or something even deeper than that, but I'm definitely bumping my reread of the Broken Empire trilogy up because I'm dying to know what it means.

I think what best sums up my feelings for this book is this: Holy Sister had me on the verge of tears multiple times throughout reading, and I cried after I finished it. My love for these characters reached maximum height during this novel and seeing their fates, happy and not, was like taking a punch directly to the heart. I don't think my words are adequate enough to express how much I loved this conclusion to such a stunning trilogy.
Was this review helpful?
I'm always a little reluctant to begin the next title in a great series....will the author be able to maintain the quality of the writing, and hold my interest in the story? So I put off reading Holy Sister for a bit, not wanting to be disappointed but desperately wanting to know the end of the story.  I definitely was not disappointed.... Holy Sister 
 brings the story full circle to the wonderful opening line of Red Sister, “It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”  A definite must read! 

Many thanks to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for providing me advance access in return for my honest opinion..
Was this review helpful?
Holy Sister is the conclusion to Mark Lawrence’s ‘Book of the Ancestor’ trilogy. Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Lawrence’s work, and that I thoroughly enjoyed both previous parts of the trilogy. I went into this book with high expectations, and I have to say at the outset, those expectations were more than met.

To me, this is a story about family, and about affection, and the ties that bind us all to each other. It’s about struggling with strangeness, and with finding the meaning in your own lives, and those of others. It’s a story about taking hard decisions, and about forgiveness. By this time, I imagine you’re familiar with Nona, whom we’ve followed from her somewhat unfortunate childhood, through her time in the convent of warrior-nuns and into the present. If not, I’d say the first word I’d use to describe her is ‘fierce’. Possibly alongside ‘bloody stubborn’ or, if pressed, maybe just ‘bloody’. Nona has an absolute loyalty to those she has decided are her friends, a quality which gleams in the underbrush of every paragraph. If not the smartest of her peer group (albeit due to some very strong competition), she’s certainly also a fast thinker, and one able to do so under pressure. But  she remains the sum of her flaws as well as her best parts; the events which have shaped her and left her with a sharp edge have also gifted her with a fast-rising temper, and the skills to make a red mist out of anyone who happens to be standing too close when it blows.

I’ve got a lot of time for Nona. She’s an amalgam if her experiences – the broken reeds of childhood, the intense need for family, for acceptance, the desire to do more, to do better. The fiery drive that works with her rage to move mountains. Like all of us, she’s not a hero or a villain in her head, but a person, broken and re-forged in each moment, trying to make the best decisions she can, and deciding what matters to her. There’s pain between the lines of these pages, raw and honest; but there’s joy as well, and the scintillating prose gives both an equal depth and truth.

This is Nona’s story, and it explores her connections into the found family she’s built for herself. I won’t go through one by one (for fear of spoilers if nothing else), but I’ll say this: they all have a part to play. This is Nona’s story, but she isn’t surrounded by ciphers. Her friends are as vividly alive as they ever were, and you can see their minds ticking over and their blood pumping. They’re people too, a strong ensemble behind the lead. They help to guide Nona, they help shape her decision, and in many cases, they help to execute them as well. They share her concerns, hopes and fears, and they feel too, taking on the burden of her world and sharing their own. This connection, this sense of togetherness, seems an accent on the larger theme. It’s also worth mentioning the antagonists, who have a tendency to be intelligent, mildly unpleasant, and utterly ruthless. Maybe they’re the heroes of their own stories. There’s certainly no moustache twirling here, just individuals, organisations and nations with incompatible goals, and a desire to see themselves win out. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t get bloody. But does mean that when it does, the emotional and narrative stakes feel higher. This is a book which isn’t pulling any punches.

Okay, so Nona is raw and vital and honest and fun to read. Great. And her friends are people too, well-crafted, vivid characters that give us different insight into her world and facets of Nona’s character. Fantastic! And the villains are cunning and terrifying. Marvellous!

But what about the story?

The story is an absolute firecracker.

I’ve now tried to describe it several times here without spoilers. I’ll say this. Lawrence is a master at building narrative tension. At making you chew your nails and turn pages wanting to know what happens next. At cutting away as everything builds to a seeming crescendo, leaping onto another thread, and winding the screw a little tighter. There’s a lot going on in these pages. All of it is important. All of it is intriguing. And I wanted to know what was going on with all of it, all at once.
The climax, when it arrives, is an absolute tour-de-force. In a story with revelation, betrayal, with grief and murder and love and joy interweaving with each other, the close is a ray of light which feels like a kick in the gut. And the denouement has the sort of emotional heft which can leave you in tears, can demolish the reader entirely, in fact.

Is that too fluffy?

Okay. If you’re not just here for the characters, for the closure, for the feels, I can promise you this:
The world is still there, and the story takes us to places we’ve never seen before. There’s ice and darkness, there’s new questions and even a few answers. There’s battles which aren’t just talking about rivers of blood, but showing human fear and courage and the price of resistance. But the blood’s there too – there’s scenes which will take your breath away with their terror and grandeur, and ones which will bring you to your feet with their immediacy. There’s sweat and dirt and tears in here, there’s intimacy amid the great sweep of armies. There’s a story which wraps all of these things together, and will make you feel them, feel this world and these people as sharply as a razor-cut.

Holy Sister is, truly, a revelation, It’s a conclusion which will leave you satisfied but also wanting more. It’s an ending and a beginning, and it’s, seriously, a bloody good story.
Was this review helpful?
This book was a phenomenal conclusion to a phenomenal series. I laughed, and cried both happy and sad tears. The two timelines were masterfully worked together. There were times that things were hinted at, that only made you more curious to keep reading, hoping and praying that you're wrong. 

Our beloved characters are back in action, picking up right where we left off in Grey Sister and also 3 years in the future, where Nona is planning a heist with her follow novice friends. One thing leads to another and all the political enemies come at her. 

I LOVED THIS. I want more =(
Was this review helpful?