Cover Image: The First Sister

The First Sister

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Member Reviews

I was given an arc copy of this from netgalley in return for an honest review

I really really enjoyed this book!
Sci Fi isn't usually my genre but when I saw this was a space opera, I wanted to explore something new and I'm so glad I did!
I want to read the novel again, because there was a lot to take in, and that initially meant that it took me a fair bit to really get interested In the book because I felt overwhelmed, but it hooked me in! But I definitely think a second read is in order for me to really understand the world with better clarity as there was so much to take in!!

I really enjoyed that this book was over three separate perspectives, which is not something I'd normally say as I often feel it can be a hit or miss, but this was a hit. It was easy to know who you were reading as, and I really enjoyed each persons perspective!


I liked the twists that kept coming, I absolutely did not anticipate any of them, which was super refreshing!

I also enjoyed the LGBTQ+ aspect of the book, and the inclusion of a non-binary character! It was great to see more natural inclusion in the novel without it being each characters only quality, which can often lead to it feeling very fake and forced.

Overall, while for me this started off as slow and overwhelming, I absolutely loved first sister and I cannot wait for the next one and will absolutely be rereading this!
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This was a really unique book, and I absolutely loved parts of it. Kept me guessing all along, and I couldn't see most of the twists coming from afar.
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The First Sister has been pitched as part of the wave of feminist dystopias we've seen since 2016/the Handmaid's Tale Hulu adaptation, but I think it's more accurately described as Dune with the queer themes made explicit and the Bene Gesserit made into fully realized characters.

We have galaxy-spanning wars and political intrigue. We have assassinations and assassination attempts. We have a matriarchal religious order that ties itself to military/political power through the beauty and “servility” of its acolytes. We have a duelist named Lito, who fights with a blade even though he’s part of a spacefaring society with all the high-level technology that entails. We have … okay, I don’t know how Hiro, the rebellious scion of space!Bezos fits into this analogy, but Dune would be a much better book if it had a Hiro character.

Told in alternating perspectives, The First Sister is the story of Hiro, Lito, and First Sister (a mute, nameless acolyte of the aforementioned religious order) journeying from very different beginnings to a single moment of conflict that will change the solar system and all four societies that call it home. Although this book is a sci-fi epic in scope, this drive to a single inevitable crisis gives it a momentum that makes it hard to put down.

Except that I was very invested in these characters and their brave, reckless decisions, so I did keep having to pause for breath when I got too worried for them.

Lito is a poor boy whose rose to become the perfect elite soldier through hard work, self-abnegation, and his partnership with Hiro. Hiro once played the chaotic neutral rogue to Lito’s lawful good fighter, but we’re introduced to them through a series of recordings they sent Lito to confess and explain their treason.

First Sister serves the soldiers serving aboard an elite military spaceship so they can go into battle with clear hearts. As the highest ranking sister aboard her vessel, she is only required to hear confessions from everyone but the captain, but she lives in fear of having her rank stripped from her and, with it, her protection from the other soldiers’ sexual advances.

Their stories unfurl in layers. At first, it seems like the primary conflict is going to be between the Icarii (Hiro and Lito), who embrace technology and view religion primarily as a series of cultural artifacts from earth, and the Geans (First Sister), who revere the natural world and enforce universal worship of the Goddess. Lito is sent to assassinate the head of First Sister’s order (and kill Hiro while he’s at it), while First Sister is ordered to spy on a potential traitor aboard her vessel. Classic science versus religion stuff.

Then things get complicated. Through Hiro’s tapes and the potential traitor’s whispered secrets, Lito and First Sister come to realize the organizations that raised and shaped them have been responsible for untold atrocities. They begin to believe peace would be preferable to victory, but they remain conflicted over abandoning everything they know for a future they can’t even really imagine.

Aside from the rich and nuanced protagonists, what I loved most about The First Sister is the way Lewis manages to portray the brutality of both societies without veering into gratuitous depictions of violence, sexual or otherwise. First Sister has experienced sexual violence, and it looms on the periphery of her every interaction with the soldiers on her ship, but we don’t have to witness it. Lito has conversations with sick and dying children, but we don’t have to read about their final, excruciating moments. We get exactly as much information we need to understand the direness of the situation without the kind of abject despair that lingers even after you finish *cough* other books *cough*.

This is ultimately a hopeful book. It’s about realizing the world can be better and deciding that’s worth the risk. It’s about people who have hurt and been hurt by each other making amends and offering forgiveness – and sometimes not. It’s exactly the kind of book I needed at this point in my life.

If you’re having kind of a rough time (and who isn’t) and you like science fiction full of big adventures and big feelings, you need to pick up The First Sister right now.

Then, please come back and tell me if you saw the final twist coming. Lewis telegraphed it so clearly, I have no idea how I missed it, but I was shocked enough that I dropped my Kindle and said, “Oh,” out loud.

You know that feeling of relief when there’s a word or fact you know that you know but you can’t quite remember it, but then you look it up and you’re like, “Oh, yes, that!!!”? That’s how the final twist felt. Incredible. Please, please do not spoil it for yourself. You deserve that pleasure.
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First of all thank you to netgalley for this late ARC. I absolutely loved loved loved this book! This is the most beautifully built and described sci-fi book I have ever read. The creation of the worlds and the governments were perfect. I could imagine everything in my head which sometimes with sci-fi novels I struggle with. This book felt so different to me because of the characters and the way their stories were set up, I felt like all the different story lines converge were so satisfying. Even the lack of sexual relationships, which normally I don’t like but fit in with this plot perfectly. I also felt that the inclusion of a non-binary person was something I hardly see in the fantasy books I read, Hiro was my most favorite character. 
The evolution of each character & their arcs really drove me to keep reading even when I felt the book was slowing down. I was always on the edge of my seat because I was constantly afraid something terrible was going to happen especially to Ren or Lito or the first sister. 
I loved this image the author created of living in this futuristic world where technology has advanced and we have finally left earth. The picture created had me hooked immediately, I loved the jumping back and forth with perspectives and was even more thrilled how they all connected. This book covers topics of love, loss, hate, racism, sexism, destruction of worlds, war, and more. The sisterhood very much gave me handmaid’s tale vibe but more intricate and complex.
This book was a 5 star for me! I read it slow but I felt that it helped me understand everything happening in the book and fully take in all the details.
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4⭐

I'll be honest this is probably the first Sci-fi I've truly read, and FOR SURE the first SPACE OPERA, I had never heard of that one until probably the past year or so, and I have to say I loved this story, we're following First Sister, who has no name, no voice. She dreams of freedom, her own home and family. It's about her learning how her voice was taken from her and her taking it back, as well as taking agency for herself. 

This is also a beautiful story about Lito val Lucious, who came from the slums bound and determined to be an elite solider, an Icarii deulist  paired with his other half, his QUEER, Non- Binary partner, Hiro who has betrayed them. Now Lito has been assigned to hunt down and kill Hiro. 

But nothing is like it seems, First Sister, who is bi, has been assigned to spy on the new Captain Saito Ren, by the Sisterhood but is discovering things are not as they seem. 

Lito has found secret recordings that Hiro left,  and finds out that there is seemingly very good reasons for the rebellion against his father all his life and him giving up everything he loved.

Hiro has been through things that most people wouldn't have survived at the hands of someone who was suppose to love him all for reasons that are unfathomable. And is fighting to make changes that will safe lives for years to come. 

Linden Lewis prose is beautiful, the world building is immersive, there was times that I could see and feel what being described. They created a true found family with acceptance of Queerness, with themes of body image acceptance, gender identity and reclaiming agency of oneself. I can't wait to see where Lewis takes this family in future installments.

If you like Sci-fi, Space Opera, Found Family, Queerness  then this is for you. Please don't deprive yourself of this beautiful book.
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This was freaking phenomenal!

I am a sucker for sci-fi, especially sci-fi with queer characters and The First Sister did not disappoint one bit. In this story we follow three people: The First Sister, she has no name and a servant in a matriarchal religious sect. Hiro, once a promising soldier and rich noble, they have now disappeared and might be a traitor to the nation. And finally, Lito, a decorated soldier tasked with hunting down his bond partner Hiro after they defect.

This world was built so well. I loved the culture of all the various parts of the Empire and how magic/technology was handled by each. The magic system and use of tethers between people were so cool! I just want to know everything about the world.

I loved First Sister which is a title. I think getting to explore The Sisterhood through her was one of my favorite parts because it was so different. I was really enjoying the relationship that developed between First Sister and Captain Ren. I liked seeing Ren bring out more of First Sisters personality and getting her to not just be a pawn for the Sisterhood.

And then there's Hiro and Lito. God the pining between these two was perfection. I loved seeing Lito look back through his memories and realize he loves Hiro. And then Hiro's story broke my heart. I hope they get all the good things in the sequel.

The plot was awesome! I thought in the beginning it was slow, but really pieces were being moved so that the last half everything snapped into place and my mind melted. The First Sister was a freaking phenomenal debut and I cannot wait for Lewis's next book.
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i'd been wanting to read this for ages! i can't wait to get the paperback of this gorgeous book for my bookshelves. i'm glad so many people have been picking it up and enjoying it!
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this e-copy of The First Sister. I was not able to finish this book simply because I couldn't get into the story. I was not a fan of the writing but there is nothing actually wrong with the writing. I would still recommend this book because of the sci-fi elements and the LGBTQIA representation. I wish I could have enjoyed this, but it was just not what I had expected.
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“The First Sister” is compelling from the first page, always brimming with the intensity of a scream that has been bottled up for lifetimes and is on the verge of rushing forth. The novel follows two primary characters, who are situated on opposite sides of a never-ending war, each tied up as pawns in political machinations and subterfuge far beyond their design. We are quickly introduced to an expansive world and history that is rich and detailed, the world-building done with a grace that makes it never feel rushed or overly expository. The primary characters are complicated and interesting, and the same can be said for the orbit of secondary characters, too. I never felt like a character was a mere archetype, even when they were fulfilling that role in the story. 

The story itself a full-throated criticism of state violence and its intersections with poverty and class, while simultaneously forcing us to examine ideas of identity, bodily-autonomy, and the many costs of dedication to a cause. All of this wrapped in a smart space opera, which set a number of creative limitations on itself that offer space for further exploration. For instance, although everything is shot through with political machinations we get very little experience into the workings of the political scene, focusing on characters much farther down the pecking order. Similarly, while the story is confined mostly to one ship and two-ish planets, we know that in the narrative there are plot reasons that don’t allow any of the characters to go beyond the inner planets of Mercury – Mars, but it is a plot device not build on lack of technology or ambition but unseen historical antagonists that are mentioned in passing. While the story may never come from the point of view of an active politician and may never burn through the asteroid belt barrier before Jupiter, the story creates a world that still feels bursting with potential, and by keeping it confined for this first novel in this way the story was able to be more contained and intimate while still hinting at far greater possibilities. And, equally important, this story was a joy to read. Its structure and style never felt forced or cheap, but rather lush and personal. We shared space within the hearts of our main protagonists and the ways their observations and experiences were presented really pulled me into the story and its world without ever feeling hackneyed, but instead the work of a skilled story-teller. The story had a few large plot developments that I was able to guess about pretty early on, but they were married with other plot developments that I didn’t see coming. In either case, nothing felt unearned, and every twist, turn, and character choice was born from seeds that had been quietly planted as the story progressed. 

Lastly, I think its important to talk about just how queer this book is. It has a queer meta-political ideology, insofar as it distrusts established authority and seeks to topple systems of oppression enshrined in manufactured ideas of the status quo. More importantly, though, it has unabashedly queer characters, in terms of not only sexual identity, but also gender identity and gender presentation, and, what is most revolutionary, none of these things serve as major sources of harm or trauma for the characters. The sexual fluidity is never dismissed as sinful or shameful, and no one ever misgenders the nonbinary character, neither accidentally nor maliciously. In other stories such a character might be accepted, but we would still have an antagonist intentionally misgender them, or question them, as a way to undermine their sense of self and create tension. That never happens here. There are questions, and hints as possible past traumas, regarding gender expression, but it is never used as a weapon, not even by the cruelest of the antagonists. It is hard to say how refreshing it is to read a queer novel that is explicitly queer in its outlook and its characters, and even its plot, but that queerness is just accepted as given and doesn’t serve as plot point. Especially in the space-opera/militaristic sci-fi realm, while definitely getting better, it is still uncommon for unapologetic queer identities to be central to the characters and story and yet not be driving force of those characters’ emotional arcs, nor a source of plot-enhancing trauma. 

In short, I liked all the component parts as well as what they came together to create. While it does occupy a genre space that not everyone appreciates, the novel does a whole lot in that space and definitely looks to see what boundaries it can push. Anyone who is a fan of the genre will definitely find it both comforting but also refreshing and offering something new. Anyone who doesn’t identify as a fan of the genre should still give it a try, because it offers intimate character portraits that defy genre tropes. I look forward to continuing the series and seeing where else they will take us.
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The First Sister is an engrossing sci-fi story of forbidden love and strength. The story centers on the (potentially not so distant) future when Earth has become uninhabitable. The two major societies at the center of the narrative are the Geans and the Icarii with the Asters taking a featured role as well. The Geans are an uber-religious society comprised of former Earth residents that colonized Mercury. The Icarii are a society that is super technologically advanced and they are comprised of people that colonized Venus and Mars. In the middle of the Gean-Icarii conflict are the Asters, a people that are genetic combinations of the Geans and the Icarii, a people deemed unacceptable by both societies. 

The story centers around a few central characters. The First Sister is a Gean priestess, who (despite her voicelessness) serves the Gean soldiers aboard one of their most prestigious warships. She consistently dreams of who and what she could be outside of the Sisterhood until she meets Saito Ren, the ship's new captain. Saito makes First Sister question everything she thought she wanted and was willing to give up. Lito val Lucius is an Icarii duelist who loses his other half (Hiro) when they betrayed him to the Gean army. Lito must come to terms with killing the person who meant everything to him unless Lito can figure out why Hiro's betrayal happened.

Lewis took their time with this world-building, and I am so thankful they did. The world of The First Sister is completely enthralling, and I found myself swept away time and time again. Furthermore, the sheer amount of LGBTQIA+ representation in this novel made my heart sing. First Sister is bisexual and has to understand her identity outside of her responsibilities and roles in the Sisterhood. Lito has to understand the devotion he feels for his commander, and what that means for him. Hiro is non-binary, which I have not seen in many novels, and as someone who recently came out as NB, it was so nice to have someone as badass as Hiro representing an identity that means so much to me.

This story is full of resiliency and grit, identity formation, and the power of a team. While science fiction isn't always my cup of tea, I absolutely loved this book. I can't wait to see how the story evolves over the next two books, and definitely am going to be recommending this book to everyone I know.

Overall rating: 3.5/5 (rounded to 4)

The First Sister is available for purchase now. Be sure to add it to your Goodreads shelf and see where it's available for purchase. Also, be sure to check out Linden A. Lewis's website!
I was lucky enough to be able to read this Advanced Reader's Copy through my partnership with NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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This book is told from two, technically three, perspectives. 
The First Sister, a priestess with no name and no voice. 
An elite soldier of Venus. 
A non-binary hero out to save the solar system. 

This world is built wonderfully, although at first it feels a bit overwhelming. I quickly caught on and caught up with the story. Told from two first person perspectives and a third transmitted perceptive. 
I loved  the evolution of each character as the story progresses. 

My one complaint is I did find myself a little confused at times with the different beings. Which could be a total me thing. 

If you’re looking for a outer space war torn handmaids taleish story, this ones for you.
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Thank you NetGalley for giving me access to this book! 

This is a dual POV novel following the Gean First Sister on the ship, Juno, and Icarii Lito val Lucius. Both are on opposing sides of a long war (Earth and Mars vs Mercury and Venus), and both offer a unique perspective into how war is affecting them. 

I've always loved science fiction, but I was worried this book would be too convoluted for my liking. But the cover and the premise drew me in, and I'm glad to say I was immediately hooked. 
For once, I was happy with dual POV. I loved being able to see differences in Gean and Icarii lives, especially in their culture, technology, and the ways propaganda has influenced their way of thinking. 

There were two major twists in the book for me, and both took me by surprise. The writing was simple, yet descriptive where it needed to be. It was a little long at times, but that didn't stop it from being enjoyable.

I look forward to the next book!
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A feat in world-building with complex characters and a plot that gives the reader enough answers to keep them content and able to follow the story while still leaving just enough questions unanswered to keep them curious, The First Sister is a superb work that kept even my non-sci-fi-inclined self deeply invested. This book is packed with everything you could ask for in a sci-fi novel, and with a world that is so richly described and a complex set of politics detailed vividly, it's hard to believe that this book is a mere 300 or so pages. The plot twist absolutely caught me off guard in the best way, and the cliffhanger has left me in eager anticipation of the second novel in this series. For seasoned sci-fi fans and newcomers alike, The First Sister is a must-read.
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DNF. I would not say that this book was bad, more that it didn't suit my taste and didn't meet my expectations. Not meeting my expectations is not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes I have low expectations and I get proven wrong. Let's start with what I liked: Good representation and the concept and idea were great, but for me not intriguing enough to finish it. For me to finish a book it needs to have at least one thing that makes me want to continue the book. I somehow expected more exploration of space.and the world. Additionally, I don't know if it is just me, but I don't really like romance in books, or when a book is specifically romance heavy. I felt like this was the case in this book, too much romance I couldn't get behind. I am not sure though if I just picked up on this and focused too much on this aspect because it bothered me so much. If someone isn't bothered by this, they would probably enjoy the book more than I did, I did not finish this book because I have been reading it for a while now and don't really feel like picking it up again and I don't want to force myself to finish it because I have way too much to do with uni assignments and exams.
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A dystopian sci-fi told from two opposites sides of a war. 

The first sister is voiceless and exists only to serve the Gean soldiers fighting the Ikarii. Lito is a Ikarii soldier missing their partner after they were sent away due to a failed mission.

The two major characters alternate chapters, with Hiro (Lito’s partner) having chapters in between explaining what lead to their current situation.

The author had a well thought out plot line for this story, and I can’t wait to see how things continue in the sequel. I also appreciated the large amount of LGBTQ+ representation in this novel! Hiro (one of the main characters) goes by they/them pronouns and the first sister discusses how she has no preference when it comes to gender. 

I think the author explained a lot of the backstory for a plot that was very complex, allowing the reader to understand what was going on, but also allowed further backstory to be explained in the sequels, allowing for a richer experience over time.
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The First Sister seemed like the perfect book club pick for Pride month, and it didn't disappoint.

The premise is difficult to explain succinctly; broadly, humanity has escaped our planet for outer space, but after seeing the extreme damage caused to both Earth and Mars, a small group of settlers set sail (or the space ship equivalent, at least) for Mercury and Venus. Now Earth and Mars (the 'Gaens') are at constant war with the 'Icarii' (settlers of Mercury and Venus). Dropped into this conflict are a Gaen religious acolyte, an Icarii soldier, and said soldier's former duelling partner.

It sounds like a lot, but the world building is a real strength of The First Sister. There is no info-dumping or awkward tangents to explain the history of this world; the details are well-integrated into the story. There isn't always enough to be fully satisfying - the one thing missing from this book for me was more detail about the First Sister's religion and how it came to be, and what it means for those outside the inner circle - but the details we do get are fascinating.

This is much less flashy than I was expecting from a space opera; there are battles and swordfights, but this is mostly a quiet, slowly unfolding fantasy about people questioning their values and finding their voice... at least until you learn how all the POVs fit together, at which point my jaw dropped.

The characters are excellent, and all feel well-realised as they work through the various moral challenges they face. Hiro - the nonbinary hero believed to have betrayed their former partner, Lito - stands out the most in terms of having a distinctive voice, and I found their story more interesting than the First Sister's, but none of the POVs are a chore to return to. I did struggle a little with the romance between the First Sister and Saito Ren, partly because the power differential made me uncomfortable, and partly because I didn't believe in the instalove of it, but it does play an important part in setting up the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book; every time I put it down I was wondering about what would happen next. A highly recommended read and I'm looking forward to the sequel.
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This book is intense. 

I found it incredibly fast-paced and the way each chapter alternated POVs and tended to end with some kind of revelation made it compulsively readable. I loved that each POV was on a different side of an interplanetary war and the way each of their stories intertwined. I also loved how unapologetically queer and diverse this book is and I was really intrigued by how the Geans and Icarii evolved into these warring empires.

There are a some reveals in the last 25% or so of the book that could be pretty divisive and I'm still not sure how I personally feel about some of them despite having read this book twice. I think it will depend on how the fallout is handled going forward.

Overall, I really enjoyed this debut and am really looking forward to the rest of the trilogy!
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I have been in the worst reading slump this year, probably because covid, but this book? This book I gobbled up in 2 days. Basically there’s this space war, and the church has “sisters” who are basically prostitutes for spaceships’ staff, and they’ve been surgically altered so they can’t speak. So we follow perspectives from 3ish people on both sides and damn was this good. Like so good. And gay. So very gay
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I enjoyed this one a lot! Reminded me of a mix of Altered Carbon and Red Rising with its own Twist. This first book really set the stage for a great series and I can’t wait for the second book.
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This was pitched as space opera with The Handmaid’s Tale, and that’s not inaccurate though it is aspirational. One main character is a silent Sister (they are silenced so that they can just listen to and support the soldiers who use them for confession and sexual access, which is generally described but not specifically depicted), while another is a fighter on the opposing side, whose own regime turns out to have its share of horrific tortures and injustices. It was a bit too crapsack world for me even though there is clearly some hope at the end.
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