Member Reviews

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis is sci-fi novel set in a galaxy far, far away with plenty of LGBT representation. I have been hearing about this book everywhere, so I was so excited to see it available to review on NetGalley!

The story revolves around First Sister, a nun in a Sisterhood that is not allowed to speak, so they have to communicate using hand signals. At the beginning of the novel, First Sister is betrayed by a Captain who promised to take her away. A new Captain Saito Ren is looking for a partner, and First Sister has to earn her trust or she will be demoted from her position.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter One that explains the Sisterhood:

"Much luck in your future, she signs in the hand language reserved for the Sisterhood by law.
I'm so surprised by her gesture it takes me a moment to respond. Thank you, I sign at last
This is our sole method of communication, we Sisters, because we are not allowed to write and we cannot speak."

Although there were two points of view in this book, I found First Sister's to be more interesting. The relationship that develops between her and Saito Ren is a highlight of the book.

Here is an excerpt of one of their "conversations" from Chapter Fifteen:

"Beautiful, I say again with no voice.
'Even as ugly and twisted as I am? Even with these metal limbs that cannot feel?'
Beautiful, I say once more."

Another highlight of this book is how much PoC and LGBT representation there is. Both of the POV's are by queer protagonists; First Sister has both male and female love interests, Lito is Spanish-speaking, and Hiro is Japanese-speaking. Although this is very exciting, I found the story harder and harder to keep track of and understand as it got to halfway mark. I enjoyed the first half, but then I lost track of the names of characters and their planets/political affiliations. I don't typically read sci-fi though, so this is probably my problem, not the book's.
Overall, The First Sister is a very exciting sci-fi novel, and I recommend it for all fans of the sci-fi genre.

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Since humans first expanded to the planets around them hundreds of years ago, the Gaens of Earth and Mars have been warring with the Icarii of Venus and Mercury. The Gaens want the Icarii to share some of their resources, while the Icarii just want the Gaens to drop their crazy religion and allow the Icarii technology to take root in Gaen culture (and subsequently further enrich the Icarii). Against this backdrop, Icarii warrior Lito sol Lucius sets out on a new mission to upset the Gaens on Ceres (which Lito was unsuccessful in keeping in Icarii hands), with a strange new partner and plenty of pressure. Meanwhile, the mute and nameless First Sister of Gaen warship Juno finds herself unexpectedly dealing with a new captain, who is not at all what she expected. It seems inevitable that First Sister and Lito's paths will collide, but how?

This book, the first in a planned trilogy, sets up some interesting ruminations on war, peace, religion, identity, and humanity, which is quite a feat. But Lewis manages it admirably, with complex and appealing characters, as well as some truly surprising plot twists. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

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3.5/5 stars. The book is kinda hard to read through some parts but gets good towards the end. I didn’t really like the male POV which is why it’s not four stars.

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Such a interesting book! Gave me futuristic handmaids take vibes! I would definitely recommend this to everyone to read, and I can’t wait for the sequel!

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This sci-fi story shifts between two points of view - the First Sister on the spaceship Juno, which belongs to the Geans (Earth and Mars), and disgraced soldier Lito of the Icarii (Mercury and Venus). The First Sister's story is where the Handmaid's tale comparisons come from (but thankfully it never gets too graphic), whereas Lito is sent on a mission to kill his former partner (military partner, which I want to make clear because I went into this expecting them to have been romantic partners). Both are pawns in a political game beyond their understanding and this made me want to read more to get to the bottom of what was going on. This book was a very easy to read, which is good because I flew through it and I'm now dying for the sequel, but I also think it could use more depth. This is especially true of the ending and the romantic relationship that develops between the First Sister and another character who I won't name, because it seemed to develop rather quickly and I wasn't completely convinced by the end of the book. I feel like a lot of the worldbuilding was integrated well into the story, especially through Lito's point of view. I was less clear about the Geans' society, but that's probably due to the First Sister's circumstances on the Juno, so I'd really like to see more about them and how the Sisterhood operates within a larger society in the sequel. Also, it's really giving the Expanse vibes, which is great because I love that series.

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I don't think it can wait, I need to know how it goes.
The story is a mixture of plots and each character follows a path until they end up crossing each other.
I fell in love with the characters, with the singularities of each one, but I became more attached to the first sister and her story, I want to know more and see what she does with everything she is now.Saito, Hiro there is so much that I love about them but I was a little disappointed in the end, and it's because I want to know more that I can't love them completely.
This book is one of the best I readed this year, there are some much complex issue like race, vender, colonization, technology and identity
I loved the story, the characters and I can't wait to read what comes next..
Thanks to #NetGalley , Gallery Books and Sky bound books for give me #TheFirstSister to read in exchange for my honest review

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In alternating chapter point of views, readers follow two characters throughout this novel: First Sister of the spaceship Juno and Lito sol Lucius. First Sister has no voice or name and must take confessions. As long as she has the captain's favor, she won't need to do the bidding of any soldier; just the captain. Those are the rules of the Sisterhood. When a new captain arrives on the Juno First Sister must use her position to spy on the captain.

Lito is a Rapier-one half of a duelist pair. He comes to terms with the disappearance of his other half-his Dagger Hiro- after they were separated during rehabilitation. When he is tasked to kill not only the Mother of the Sisterhood but also Hiro, Lito must choose to follow orders or to disobey and become a rebel.

This is a sci-fi novel that doesn't seem like it, thus making it a great introduction to the genre. This happens at least two hundred years in the future from our current present. We meet three different types of individuals: The Geans- technologically challenged civilization that follows the Sisterhood; The Icarii- technologically advanced civilization the uses gene modification to allow their duelist pair (and other) to change features; and the Asters- humanoid individuals that thought to be beneath the other races.

In between our chaptered views of First Sister and Lito are "recordings". It's interesting to read the recordings and then see mention of them pop up throughout the novel. Even though our characters are all apart, readers can tell they will all meet at some point. I formed my own opinions as I read (as you do) and though I was right in some ways, I would read more that would make me think I was wrong!

Once you start reading, I think you will have a hard time stopping. I know I did and I definitely need the next book stat!

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Sorry for bringing negativity and do believe me I am always trying to find something nice to say about the books, but this one, sorry, just wasn't my cup of tea, I do not like it, I could not force myself to finish it and, unfortunately, was my only DNF for 2020....
Underdeveloped, uninteresting, forced book, I am so very sorry for this attitude toward the author and work, but sorry, it is just for a very niche reader group and I am totally off that niche...

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This was one of my favorite books of 2020 so far! Beautiful world building combined with a page turning plot that comes together beautifully in the end. Full review complete with (alas, thoroughly amateur fan art) here:

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Really thought that the comparison between Handmaid's Tale and Red Rising were spot on. This is not an easy book to read as the social commentary is something to make you unsettled, but making it through to the end is worth it. I really connected with the story and I felt that this has left me changed as a human and as a reader. Thank you for the review copy!

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The third act of the book was too much and now I have to sit here and DIE WAITING for the second book. Wow.

I really enjoyed this! It was thrilling, had a diverse cast of characters (both in representation and personality and point of view). I enjoyed getting to know all of them and seeing their world and society from their experience. The world building was well-thought out and had just the right amount of detail for me. I felt like I learned the politics, but didn't feel bogged down in it.

There were times when I preferred being in some perspectives over others, especially halfway the book. There were also moments where this did a lot of action descriptions and I was like "Okay, move on, tell me more about the worldbuilding and the romance", but that's a personal preference.

Overall, a really unexpected but enjoyable experience.

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Think space, intergalactic battles, cutting-edge technology - neural implants that link people's minds, mercurial blades that can be controlled by these implants, gene alteration, specially designed fighting suits, Hermium that makes life sustainable on the planets.

Imagine a scenario where civilization has spread over four planets and even the asteroid belt, but they still fight over petty issues that we see in reality, then put in a pinch of dystopian flavor, very much in the likes of The Handmaid's Tale and Red Rising; there, you have this beautiful piece of work.
It is a world divided into three main fractions: The Geans, who inhabit Earth and Mars, have specially designed war-suits called ironskins, worship the Goddess, and have an entire Sisterhood in her name to serve their warriors; The Icarii, who inhabit Mercury and Venus, worship the Thousand Gods, are technologically superior with their mercurial blades, neural implants and medicine; finally, the Asters, inhabiting the asteroid belt, bound to servitude to meet their needs, experimented on for the benefit of humans, and they have had enough.
The people in power here are the ones who take the liberty of ignoring the very rules that they set for the masses to follow. Sometimes this does not seem fictional at all.
The world building is wonderful, fast paced, action packed, and you will always be on your toes as to what happens next., all that build up of the plot and changing loyalties make it for an interesting and unpredictable read. The representation in here is not just for the sake of inclusion, it fits in fine as silk, does not seem forced, and I am all for it. Also there is a fight for peace, which if I am being honest does seem like an oxymoron.

I love Hiro val Akira, PERIOD.

Coming to the other characters, Lito sol Lucius is the reason I took out one star from the rating. In every other page, Lito has to calm down or use his neural implant to that effect. It seemed a bit repetitive. By the fifth time this is mentioned, the reader has already formed an idea that Lito is not a flawless being, not a perfect soldier, calm but deadly. He is no doubt deadly, but he does have his share of anxiety and insecurity.
Besides Hiro, I also really appreciated how the author developed the character of the First Sister.

This book is a strong introduction to the series and I will keep a look out for the upcoming ones.

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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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