Cover Image: The First Sister

The First Sister

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Member Reviews

I honestly wavered in my rating because The First Sister did quick work in roping me in and winning me over - the world-building is wonderfully finespun, the queer rep is (largely) refined and well-done, and I really fell in love with Hiro and the almost hallowed fervor of their friendship with Lito. Yet as intricate and immersive and immaculate (pun intended) as the premise and personages are, some of the insensitive particulars of the plot peeved me (and it wasn't the deeply perturbing disclosures about the dark pretences and degenerate ploys of the play-out's driving deviants). Overall, The First Sister is a strong opening that sets the stage for a strikingly original and spirited space opera series I'm strapped in to see smooth out - I'll for sure be taking up the forthcoming sequel because I'm truly fond of the starring trio, and I'm stoked to see the fallout of the sunder surprises after all that suspense, the savage shockers about the Sisterhood, and the triage of scores still to settle.
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This book is about waking up to harsh realities, even if you thought you were well acquainted with reality to begin with.

This is a science fiction book, set at some point in the future within the solar system. Humanity had nearly destroyed Earth through over exploitation and even seriously damaged Mars which was a colony. This resulted in war and chaos. Tired of the turmoil, a scientific faction had left for Venus and Mercury and were able to colonize both and build technological utopias there. When the book takes place there are two mutually hostile factions of humanity - the Icarii of Venus and Mars who are heavily reliant on technology and genetic manipulation and the Gaens of Earth and Mars who are an odd combination of a military dictatorship and a theocracy. There also exists a third faction called the Asters who live in deep space and are physically distinctive from the other two.

The book shifts between two principal points of view with a series of interjections scattered among them. One PoV character is the titular First Sister. The Sisterhood is the primary religious section of the Gaen civilization and state. Sisters are women trained from a young age to act as confessors, comforters and sexual companions to the armed forces. They are literally voiceless, they cannot speak. Their duties are to attend to the spiritual and physical needs of any soldier at any time. The First Sister however is an exception, she is “reserved” for the use of the captain of the warship on which she is stationed. Aside from the sisters, there is an “Agora” of Aunts who are the governing authorities of the various orders of sisters and a Mother who is the head of the Sisterhood. The Mother and Aunts wield real power. The second PoV character is Icarii, the soldier and paired Duellist, Lito. A military veteran, he is recovering from a mission when he is recalled once again to duty.

The book is very evenly paced and quite action packed. It ably weaves the characters into their distinctive worlds. But to me the most appealing part of the book was thematic symmetry of the story. At first glance, The First Sister and Lito could not be more different. Their storylines progress differently. To start with, Lito retains some faith in the Icarii system and in his own mission. Though he is being torn apart by the effects of older events on the inside, on the outside he is a devoted and capable agent. But with every step he takes, he realizes the reality he believed in, the basic assumptions of his life - all are open to question. Lito’s story is like a confused downward spiral, full of unanswered questions, desperate to find something that makes sense. The First Sister on the other hand is well aware of her position, its essential insecurity and the vicious, predatory nature of the system in which she resides. Even as she desperately tries to construct ways of coping with it, she is under no illusion about how close she teeters to the edge. And yet, there are dark truths that swim below the surface, truths that are only hinted at to start with, but as they make themselves known, everything starts to unravel. Ultimately both our protagonists have to realize and accept that the reality they knew was but a veneer and if they are to go on, they must make fundamental changes.

Overall I quite enjoyed this book. It was an interesting approach to space warfare and politics and the story contains skillfully depicted LGBTQA+ elements. Chapters also have in-universe epigraphs that add context and emphasis to various elements of the story.

Anyone who prefers more character oriented military science fiction would love this book.

I will definitely be picking up future books from the author.
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The First Sister was a really interesting read. I liked the high-tech, futuristic world that the author has created, and First Sister was a great main character! However, I did have a little trouble with the multiple perspectives. I felt somewhat thrown into each setting without having enough background about the world and why it is the way it is. Even after finishing the book, I still wasn't certain about some elements of the plot or the worldbuilding.
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The First Sister is a bold and imaginative debut from author Linden A. Lewis. Featuring three distinct and interesting main characters and an intricate plot, The First Sister sets up nicely for a promising new trilogy. Pitched as a mix of The Handmaid's Tale and Red Rising/Mass Effect, it takes the best aspects and creates something wholly unique and original. 

The three main characters: First Sister, Lito, and Hiro offer a unique and interesting perspective of the story without feeling too convoluted. Hiro felt the least fleshed out to me, partly because their chapters act as a recount of past events that eventually correlate with the present timeline. First Sister had the most interesting character arc in my opinion, and I am very curious to see where the story goes with her. Linden A. Lewis does a good job of showcasing the lack of body autonomy the sisters have without it feeling gratuitous. I also loved how they communicated through sign language and I really hope we see more of that in the sequels. 

The ending slightly sours the book for me and dropped the rating to four stars for me; however, I have hope that this will be resolved in the sequel, which I am highly anticipating.
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A really well-designed sci-fi that reminds me strongly of Red Rising. Takes a few minutes to get going, but left me thinking about it every time I had to stop reading. Great character development, surprising plot twists, and great world-building. I don't know why this book isn't more well-known! I can't wait to read the next one.
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I really wanted to adore this book, but I didn't connect with it as much as I would have liked to. At first, everything seemed so complex: the divisions in our solar system, the cultures that evolved around them, but everything breezed by too quickly without exploring anything in depth. In short, I feel like I was rushed through this book.

I really liked Hiro's character: their personality felt more fleshed out than the rest of the cast like I really knew them. As a non-binary character by a non-binary author, they stood out to be as real and complex as a real person. Everything about their storyline - to the gruesome reveal at the end - was powerful and struck a cord within me. 

But the first sister's story felt cartoonish, almost. With trope-heavy villains, and predictable failings. It felt like it wanted to be The Handmaid's Tale but never dove into the questions or themes it brought it. At some points, it almost felt like a gimmick, and that really rubbed me the wrong way. Then again, this could be a matter of perception. 

In short, I think what put me off this book was that it never dove deep enough into the things it seems to tackle on a surface level.
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I was really impressed with this book. Set far into the future where Earth and Mars have joined forces (the Geans) and are partially led by a religious group called the Sisterhood. And then another group of humans, the Icarii, are from Venus and Mercury and are technologically based. And finally, there is another group, the Asters, who have modified themselves for deep space and are looked down upon by both groups. There are two main POVs, with a few secondary ones as well. We meet the First Sister of the Juno when she gets her hope of freedom dashed when the captain decides to leave without her. Now she has to ingratiate herself with a new captain before she is turned back over to the crew (the sisters are part confessionals part whores. Oh, and they get their voices taken away at puberty. Real fun there). Then the other main POV is Lito, a Icarii duelist recovering from a fight without his partner, who has now turned traitor according to his leaders. The First Sister and Lito are on a crash course with one another with Saito Ren pulling them together. This is a fantastic space opera that explores autonomy, religion and technology. I can’t wait to read the next book.
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There were many elements that I enjoyed about this book, such as the science-fiction aspects and the supporting characters. The problem is that I tried to connect in some way to the main characters, but I could not drum up enough interest in their stories to keep me going. I tried to read this 10 times and even bought the book, but still no luck. 
I do think this can appeal to other readers though and see the validity of it within the realm of the genre. It just missed for me.
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I got an ARC of this book.

iam said I needed to read this. I requested it, because iam really knows how to recommend a book. If they say you will like it, you will like it. It is almost a guarantee. This book really just seals it. The original description I read the first line of compared this to The Handmaid’s Tale and Red Rising.

One of my favorite books is The Handmaid’s Tale. I have read it multiple times, my first pre-order as an adult was the sequel. I am obsessed. The thing is, this book stands up so well to that comparison. The Sisterhood is so much like how the Handmaid’s work. The way everything flows is magnificent. It is clearly its own entity, but if you are a fan of Offred’s story, you will love the First Sister’s story.

The comparison to Red Rising is also apt. It is a little more subtle and takes knowing more about the series to really get. There are some similarities, but it diverges wildly. There is more a focus of morality and family ethics, versus overthrowing a huge caste system (there is a caste system in place in both books, but it is more of a focus in Red). If Red Rising was intimidating or a little too much for you, this is a great book. It has similar elements, but it isn’t as hardcore of a sci-fi story. There are breaks.

The story was captivating, there storylines were clear, the narration was excellent. I could go on and on about this book. The queer rep was just yes. There is a nonbinary character, there is a bi/pan character (I know these are different identities, but the character did not come out or use a label so I am using the closest labels for her). I have heard there is ace rep, but it is hard for me to see. There is so little talk of sexual attraction (consensual sex), that there is no way for me to really tell if it is there or not. There is no coming out for the character either. I am ace and I missed it, so your mile may vary on that one. It was nice that the character’s love was evident since ace people can fall in love and I really did ship that relationship hard. I shipped a lot of things. My heart is a little broken.

The one thing I seemed to care about above all else in this story was is Astrid ok? Who is Astrid? Is the First Sister really Astrid? Apparently I have weird priorities, but it looks like some of my questions will be answered in the already announced sequel, The Second Rebel.

Overall, this was an amazing read. It kept my attention and I would read until I couldn’t physically keep my eyes open any longer. Why did I wait so long to start this?
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I totally get the Handmaid’s Tale in space vibes from this one but the other POVs bring an additional layer of originality to it. I loved each of their relationships with one another and found all three of our main characters equally compelling despite me not normally liking the style of storytelling that Hiro was engaging in. 

The twists near the end were shocking and I didn’t see either of them coming and can’t wait to see how the story develops more. If I could’ve changed one thing, I wish there had been more about the formation of the sisterhood and also how it operates but hopefully there will be more in the second book.
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This book reminds me of a few other books that I would say some inspirations came from but I still really enjoyed this story. I think me favorite part about this book was the world building. There are a few different cultures that we get to learn about and I really enjoyed that. This book follows three different characters; First Sister, Hiro, and Lito. Hiro's parts are told through recordings which I liked. I was definitely most interested in First Sister's story but Lito's picked up after a bit. I'm interested to see where this story goes.
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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Red Rising is my favorite series ever. I’m pretty much in a constant cycle of either re-reading or thinking about re-reading. Naturally, I couldn’t resist hitting that Request button on Netgalley when I saw the description of The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis.

World-building: The Handmaid’s Tale vibes were clear right off the bat. The Sisterhood is very reminiscent of the Handmaid/Aunt system in Gilead. The hierarchy within the Icarii reminded me of the Red Rising Colors but with a little more fluidity.

The Geans: super religious and live on Earth and Mars. The Sisterhood is part of their Society
The Icarii: technologically advanced and live on Mercury and Venus. “Middle” names denote status, aka the sol in Lito sol Lucius.
The Asters: Former humans who essentially underwent speciation when they moved out to the Asteroid Belt and are now considered completely different species and are the lowest of the low (Low Reds for you Howlers out there)
Synthetics: Only alluded to in regards to a war that broke out when AIs rebelled.
The Gaens and Icarii are at war and the poor Asters are in the middle of it.

Characters: There are 3 protagonists, First Sister, Lito sol Lucius and Hiro val Akira. Hiro’s POV is told via voice recordings which was an interesting way for an entire Point-of-view to be told. Sisters have their voices surgically removed upon becoming a full-fledged sister so most of First Sister’s POV is inner monologue and conveying things by gesturing. Lito and First Sister have a lot of internal struggle, First Sister because she has no voice and Lito because his mind isn’t solely his own thanks to the neural transplant and partner system the Icarii use.

Plot: This plot kept me on my toes for sure! There were a lot of twists and I was constantly trying to connect the threads of the three main characters and secondary character, Saito Ren. I won’t say too much here to avoid spoiling anything but I will say that it starts slow and takes some time to get going but once it does, things get crazy fast!

“Earth endures. Mars conquers.”

Other Notable Things: I loved how diverse the characters were too! Hiro is non-binary, First Sister is bi-sexual and gender is presented as very fluid.

Bringing this back to Red Rising (because don’t all roads lead there eventually?), The First Sister is a solid start to the series and I can definitely see the sequel going the way Golden Son did, aka being even greater than the first book and completely destroys the reader.

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars!

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the Publisher for the e-arc!
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Set far in the future where humans have already colonized the inner solar system. The technologically advanced Icarii from Mercury and Venus are at war with the religiously zealous Geans from Earth and Mars. The story is told from the points of view of 3 characters, the First Sister a high ranking priestess/handmaiden on one of the flagships of the Gean fleet, Lito sol Lucius an Icarii duelist, and voice messages from Lito's mentally bonded partner Hiro val Akira. Each of these characters make discoveries as the book goes on that makes them question their loyalties and whether or not they can or even should complete their assigned tasks.

We're given a brief history of the Geans, Icarii, and the Asters (genetically modified to survive in the asteroid belt) and to understand the complicated relationships and the "geo"politics of it all. It doesn't really feel bogged down and it is interesting to have characters on both sides giving their points of view of what happened. I am very curious about the war with the synthetics and just how the isolation within the inner solar system is enforced. Part of me does wish that there was just more exploration of the "world", to experience more of the inner solar system with these characters, more of the planets/moons/asteroids, even more of the ships. I think jumping between three characters meant that the author would skip some interesting world building scenes that could have happened, opting to focus on characters instead.

The setup for all the characters and their plots are well done and the revelatory journeys each character goes on is well executed. Lito has an easier story to fall into for a reader because it's more a stereotypical sci-fi story and it has Hiro's messages to add to the backstory. However, the First Sister does have an interesting voice and her story is more harrowing in many ways. I definitely felt more tension during her chapters than those of the other two.

As all good sci-fi books do, this book asks some deep questions about humanity. How quickly governments will take our bodily autonomy. The ease with which we'll use technology, but the ease with which that technology will be used to control us. What is gender and who can definite it? What will people do for power and what will they do once they get power? What sacrifices need to be made for the greater good?

As well as the book gives a general surface overview of the world, I do think that it struggles with delving deeper. Perhaps it's something that will be further developed in other books, but the governments and geopolitics is pretty rudimentary and cliche. We're given just the view of the characters in the world they've inhabited and not necessarily a "real" view of what it's like to be in the service of Mother or the Icarii military. Even the overview of the history leads to more questions than anything. The war the Gean have with the synthetics and their near total loss of technology and fall into religious fascism sounds fascinating and I would have loved more about it.

I'm curious to see where this series goes because my interest has been piqued. However, as far as a space opera goes, it doesn't really dive as much into the worlds as I prefer. I feel like there's a very slight shift from space opera to soap opera at one point. 3.5/5 rounds to 4/5.
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This was really good! I'll admit, the beginning was a little slow to hook me in, but the ending made up for all of it. I was more invested in first sisters storyline in the beginning, and then became interested in lito's story towards the end. I'm not sure where I stand on Hiro just yet, but their plot twist, I never saw coming. i think that this is a good starter for anyone who wants to get into adult sci-fi but feels too intimidated!
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The First Sister is a book that I went into with high expectations, as the blurb did a wonderful job of selling this concept to me.  

Following two main present-time narratives and one letter-of-sorts providing a mysterious third main character off-screen-ish, the narrative feels fast-paced and gripping while not being battle-packed.  The world is compelling, but is probably the place that I could have used more clarity, both in clarifying the history of the war the book surrounds, but also in the general aesthetic of the world - sometimes it was hard to place this book within a "realistic future" or a "cyberpunk dystopia" or some kind of "cold, unforgiving ritualistic scifi world" as it felt like all three at times but never solidly enough that I got a strong picture.  This is coming from a reader who loves world-building and feeling incredibly grounded in setting and atmosphere, so if that isn't high on your list, this book certainly does deliver on character and pacing.  The stand-out of this book for me was the plot and the characters - both are compelling, and both lead to a thrilling and twisty climax that left me really pleasantly surprised with this novel.  The characters feel real and fleshed-out, and the queer rep within the novel is just lovely to see.  Overall, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a solid queer sci-fi, as it certainly lived up to that title for me.  I'll be looking out for a sequel, I'm interested in seeing where this one goes!
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Do we need this?

I was finished with books about female sexual slavery in Science Fiction way back with John Norman and Gor. This recent spate that began with "The Handmaid's Tale" dramatization never piqued my interest and this one certainly did not rouse me out of my apathy. Does anyone ever ask any more, as we did of Margaret Atwood in 1985, and later with "Children of Men", how the cultural details arose? Not the overall idea that something has disrupted reproduction, but how the rest of it came about?

So here we have a culture where space ships need sex slaves so much that a caste of sex slaves is developed. I think it is nonsense. How can the economy afford dead weight on the ship? These slaves do nothing useful toward running the ship. Sex bots that could wield a wrench would be more sensible.

Then there is the bit about these slaves being mute so that they can't tell secrets. How effective do you think that would be? Read Garp? Nonsense.
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Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

First Sister is a jaw dropping, gorgeously woven space odyssey that takes us through a war torn galaxy alongside two very different individuals. Lito, a soldier for the Iicari has been tapped by his superior officers to hunt down and assassinate his traitorous former partner, Hiro. He is assigned a new partner and takes off in search of Hiro while following clues left by Hiro themself.  First Sister, a girl in a Sisterhood who is trying to keep her position when a new captain is assigned to the ship. These sisters voices have been taken away and only jobs are to serve the Gean soldiers by listening to their confessions and giving them their bodies to do as they see fit. The only respit from this is to become First Sister, because by doing so means only the captain my utilize her body. When the Sisterhood comes to First Sister asking her to spy on the new captain and report back to them, what will First Sister uncover that is so important to the Sisterhood? Will Lito be able to find Hiro and make himself pull the trigger?

Guys.... just....wow! This book is by far one of my top reads of the year. I cannot wait until the sequel is published so I can lose myself in this world all over again. I quite seriously have no complaints! The characters were lovable and damaged, without making them predictable. Their choices still shocked me in ways I didn't know was possible. This book was perfection in terms of plot development. Everything was being unwrapped for you bit by bit without all the filler you find so often in young adult fantasy. The romance is written how it should be(in my opinion) in that it doesn't take over the story, but when it does happen it's a thing of beauty. The ending was phenomenal, you really feel like the author poured themselves into this story and made it a thrilling ride that you're sure to fall in love with.

I can't stress enough how great this story is! 5 exploding supernova rating from me! I will be picking up a copy for myself and for a few friends who I think will really enjoy it. I recommend this story for anyone 12+ as there isn't anything triggering or super violent. For real though, don't let this book pass you by!
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Unfortunately, this book was a DNF for me. I found one story line really interesting, but the other lagged for me, and I found I wasn't enjoying the book overall enough to continue. I did love the inclusive rep -- I'm glad this book is being published and do think it'll find an audience, it just wasn't quite right for me!
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Great read! The author draws you in with detail that makes you want to read on. I love when books make you feel like you are part of the story.
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I want to start off by thanking the author, Skybound Books, and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and the final text might have changed.

I had high hopes for this book, and honestly it delivered!

Sci-fi has always been one of my favorite genres but that I criminally underread, for some reason. My shelf of sci-fi only takes a bit more than a shelf on my bookcases, whereas fantasy takes so many more. When I was accepted to review this ARC, I was excited to broaden my sci-fi reads even more, and I loved the diversity that this book seemed to promise.

The world that Lewis builds in this book has a history riddled with war, like many fantasy and sci-fi books. This book takes place in what could be considered the future, as many humans have fled Earth for Mercury, Mars, and Venus, and there have already been many wars that have resulted from advancements made (like sentient AI) and territorial disagreements. What Lewis does that is unique is the lack of a ‘good’ side in this war. We have a POV on both sides of the war, and in the end both characters are coming to terms with the atrocities that their side commits in the name of progress, victory, and religion. It allows more space for morality and choice to be explored, since there is no one true choice or group to side with. Everyone’s out for themselves, and it’s up to each character to individually decide if they’ll be selfish like everyone else or struggle for change. The truth of the crimes committed by each side also led to some fascinating twists that left me reeling in the last few chapters of the book, and has left me desperate for book 2.

Lewis also does a fantastic job of writing a layered, diverse cast with a variety of allegiances, backgrounds, and motivations. There’s First Sister, a woman who’s been stripped of her name and identity in order to better serve the Mother and her demands. There’s Saito Ren, a war hero turned captain who strives for peace. There’s Lito, a skilled swordsman who has lost his partner and his pride in one of his side’s biggest losses. And then there’s Hiro, child of one of their side’s largest financial supporters, a soldier turned traitor, who only speaks through a series of tapes left to their old partner, Lito. Together, they weave a story of war and allegiance that reveals the struggles of choice, and whether the good of one comes before the good of many. I loved all of these characters for very different reasons, and they kept surprising me as they grew along with the story, and made the hard choice when no one else would. I can’t wait to see where book 2 takes them.

Overall, I really enjoyed this, and can’t wait to see where this story goes from here!
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