Cover Image: The First Sister

The First Sister

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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....! 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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Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

This book was so good! I cannot wait for the next one. It reminded me of Red Rising in a way, so if you liked those you will definitely like this one! I highly recommend it.

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Holy fucking shit, y'all. I know that's not the most eloquent way to start a review, but it's all I can manage until I'm able to pick up the pieces of my heart and brain and put them back together enough to write a full review. I just finished this ARC, but I plan to journey to the book store for my own hardcover copy in a few hours. Yes, I loved it that much.

Update: Book acquired, and wow, is that matte, embossed jacket gorgeous, or what?! Anyway, now that I'm a bit more coherent: I really appreciated both the explicit and casually queer rep in this book. I loved Hiro, my new all time favorite non-binary character, and had a major crush on most of the ladies. So good. The First Sister is also simultaneously a plot and character driven story, and Lewis balances those two aspects impeccably. I would definitely check out some content warnings before picking this one up, because there is a lot of heavy and potentially triggering content. Please read The First Sister, but read with care!

The First Sister was very easily a five star read for me! I do wish we'd gotten more of First Sister's POV, and I agree with other reviewers who say the ending might have been the weakest point of the book, but neither of those things were enough of an issue to negatively impact my rating. I will be very anxiously awaiting the next book in this trilogy!

This is one of the most discombobulated reviews I've ever written because The First Sister was very layered and complex, in the best possible way, and I feel like I'd need to write a doctoral thesis to touch on everything I loved about it. Maybe I'll be able to put all my thoughts on paper one day, but for now I'll just run around shouting Linden Lewis' praises from the rooftops!

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The excerpt from this leaves me wanting to read more. Consider my interest piqued.
A "Sisterhood" that seems to be nothing more than a space-travelling brothel cloaked behind rituals, scriptures, and tradition. Women who are voiceless, with a secret hand language, and are the property of whatever ship they belong to - and all the men (and women?) soldiers crewing it. The First Sister was promised a life of luxury accompanying her ship's captain into his retirement - a well kept mistress whom he would visit when his wife and children were too much. But, alas, he favored her while he was captain and left her at the docks, sailing off into space without her. Now, the First Sister is back on the ship where her previous position may have garnered her some resentment, and she starts again at the bottom of the pecking order with the rest of her sisters.
I find myself thinking of The Handmaid's Tale - though that may seem derivative to many people at this point - in space. I have so many questions about the formation of the Sisterhood, and the history of our ruined Earth that sent us into our solar orbit. I very much look forward to reading the book.

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A seriously fun space opera that would be good for people who enjoyed the Red Rising series. Fantastic world building, grey morality, political complexity and fantastic LGBTQIA representation make this and enjoyable read. I look forward to any future sequels.

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Y’all. I didn’t know it was a trilogy when I started, and now I have no clue what I’m going to do with my life until I can continue this story! I am so happy I got to read it and so sad that I have to wait for more. WHO PLANNED THIS?! Me. It was me.

This book is heavy. It’s an epic space opera with many characters, competing political objectives, and of course, lots of war between species. The book has three perspectives. The First Sister is a member of the order of the Goddess who receives confession, peps up the soldiers, and warms their beds whenever they want. Her station as First Sister, however, assures that her body belongs only to the captain. When her captain leaves, her position is in danger if she cannot win the favor of the new captain, Saito Ren. On a spy mission from the Mother of the order, First Sister becomes conflicted when she develops real feelings for Captain Ren.

Lito val Lucius, a soldier of Venus was beat by Seito Ren finds himself without his dead partner, Hiro, and when he discovers that Hiro was a traitor and still alive, he’ll have to make some tough decisions. Finally, Hiro, a nonbinary soldier who plays a bigger role than Lucius ever imagined, goes through hell, fighting for peace.

I ended up listening to this one on audio, and narrators Neo Cihi, Gary Tiedemann, and Emily Woo Zeller did an outstanding job. The voice changes really helped me keep all the factions and characters straight, and I loved that Hiro’s narration *sounded* NB. A little feminine, a little masculine. It fit the story perfectly.

It took me a bit to get into the story, because the worldbuilding is complex and the POV switch left me with so much to keep up with, but I enjoyed it overall, and once I got everyone straight, I was INVESTED. I couldn’t wait for the next chapter and was grumpy when I got interrupted. I devoured it in about 24 hours, and now I need more. I want to spend more time with these characters and see how the events of this story will affect their motivations and actions long term. Plus, I want to see how the war will play out.

It’s out now, so if you’re not too impatient to wait for new installments, you can read it now! I can’t 100% recommend that, but I do recommend reading it. It’s got rich, complex characters and an intricate, expertly-weaved plot with twists and turns as well as a dash of romance.

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I received a copy of this book from Skybound Books and NetGalley in return for an honest review.

This book was so good! I love books with multiple POVs and this definitely didn't disappoint. The three main characters; First Sister, Lito, and Hiro, all have fantastic voices and none of their chapters dragged. The whole book flowed quite well throughout which really kept me engaged the whole time.

This book had everything I look for in a good sci-fi. Great characters and fantastic world-building. I thought it may fall short since it sounded a bit complicated, but for such a big world, the characters didn't get lost in the descriptions because there was no convoluted info-dumping which would have dragged it down.

Not only was this a good sci-fi, but it touched on some pretty important aspects of humanity. Even though the setting of this book was extremely far in the future, there still isn't harmony amongst all people. There are a few trigger warnings (rape, violence, etc.) but it didn't glorify them at all or even focus on them in prolonged scenes.

Overall, I would recommend this book to people who are looking to read space opera-esque books but with a focus more on the characters rather than the space and science portion. It sort of reminded me of the Expanse series in the setting, but Linden A. Lewis took her story in a completely different direction and I loved it.

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I enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to others and I would like to read more from this author in the future.

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The First Sister is a space opera, and I do want to talk more about those 2 words in particular later on, scifi that is very easy to navigate in fact I would actually consider this a really good beginner scifi if you are new to the genre. If you love scifi and read it frequently I don’t think this is going to be genre busting for you, not something that’s going to blow your mind but it is worth talking about from a couple different angles. And I think the first thing to do is to approach it just specifically as a scifi. It’s set in space, a few planets are mentioned here and there. Some advanced tech. It has a simple plot line that is effective and refined.

At the beginning your presented with a whirlwind of unknown intensity as a character named The First Sister, who is apart of this religious group that people look up to in this world, they can’t speak, they can’t write, they're forced to pleasure the subordinates so please be cautious of that going into this.
She is packing all of her things on a military spaceship, saying goodbye to the sisterhood, because she believes she is leaving with the captain to live a life she’s always dreamed of. That doesn’t end up happening.

The second perspective we’re following is named Lito and he is actually apart of the enemy army and we’re introduced to him as he’s training children as punishment for failing a past mission which definitly seeds into a lot of what happens later on in the book. His partner has gone missing and is given the mission to find them.

This is a book that feels really strong right out of the gate but quickly the potential is lost amid the oppressive amounts of romance and lack of depth to anything. Nothing in this book made me think that what I was reading was deep or even space opera in any way and to sell it as Red Rising which is leagues and I mean leagues away from this book in terms of complexity and character definition, is an out right attack.

The world barely branches out to other parts of the universe. You’re told many places, you’re told a lot of cultures and histories and different types of orders, religions but I can name like 3 or 4 locations we actually get to visit in the book and that’s not space opera to me. The story is very linear, very few characters which again helps with it being an easy scifi to follow, but if you’re expecting Leviathan Wakes, Mass Effect, it’s nothing like that. Instead of promoting it a scifi space opera. It should have been promoted as a scifi romance so if you enjoy romance, you’re going to like this. If you don’t like romance, oh honey, it never leaves the room.
It is a queer romance I want to mention but how the romance begins, I found it really out of left field. It develops so quickly. It truly felt like and this is just an example, page 40, they meet, page 42, there in love so I felt zero connection between them because there wasn’t any feelings there to evolve.

This book does fall into the one perspective is far more interesting than the other category and for me that was The First Sister, I wish the book was only following her, I mean she’s the title of the book. Lito felt very out of place for me but I understand he had to be there for the plot to move But the potential for her character was totally lost. She’s very helpless. She relies too much on side characters. THERE decisions reflect upon the plot. Not hers. She’s just there being moved around like a chest piece.

I really don’t think this scifi brings anything new to the table. I don’t want to shit on the book because it is not a bad book. It isn’t. It’s competent and decent for the most part systemically speaking, some chapters give you a really good rush of adrenaline but it has nothing at all to say. By the end of it, it left me feeling very shortchanged. It’s a scifi that scratches a very specific itch and if you don’t have that itch, it is kind of excruciating. which is why about %50 of the way through I grew a bit tired of it. I just wanted more, more progression, more variation to the environments and characters. I can immensely appreciate the idea of the story and when things to ramp up combat wise, it was thrilling. Pacing and writing all great and maybe if it was written a few years ago, it’d be higher praised for me when I didn’t realize I hated romance to much but it lacked any kind of detail to be remembered.

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I knew. I kneeeeeew that when I read this book it would instantly become one of my favorite books. On one of those rare occasions where I dip my toes in the pool that is sci-fi, and enjoy myself because of this wonderful masterful harsh world that Lewis has created.

I love the entire world-building element of the First Sister. It was so vivid and real. The different races and cities and attitudes were all so well crafted I just felt like I was there.

The characters were memorable too. The First Sister, Lito, and Hiro were all quite amazing—though I will say Hiro Val Akira remains my favorite of the three protagonists with their sassiness.

The First Sister was a realistic girl who anyone could relate to in her situation. She was afraid, she was cautious, and entirely unable to trust with good reason. A beautiful girl who led a harsh life and made the best of her situation. I loved her journey of discovering who she was and how to survive despite being let down, manipulated, and backed into a very tight corner by those who were above her.

Lito sol Lucius was the gay man I always wanted in a sci-fi adventure. Very to-the-books and stiff but still super queer and entirely head over heels for Hiro. I didn’t know how I would initially react to him, because despite being gay he wasn’t exactly interesting to start with. I did enjoy seeing the world from his perspective, but it wasn’t until he left on his mission to destroy the Mother that I truly started to dread his chapters coming to an end.

I saved Hiro for last because my goodness. What a person they are.

Also...SPOILERS from here on out. So leave if you haven’t read it.

Hiro Val Akira is quite the person. You’re presented with someone who tells their life to Lito, and then of course you ship them because Lewis crafts such a wonderful feeling of longing between Hiro and Lito. Ugh. But also you grow to learn about Hiro and Lito before their current situation, and how they were together, and how Hiro felt the whole time and I just...couldn’t. I wanted them to reunite so badly. I feel like there were hints to Hiro being Saito, but I didn’t catch any of them 😂 because I was just zipping through his chapters much too fast. I loved his heavily Japanese background and I loved how Lewis even gives us some base level Japanese phrases, as someone who used to practice Japanese, I had a very fun time with that and it also contributed to the world-building in a very interesting way. Anyway, back to Hiro. I loved them. They were so uniquely crafted and then of COURSE Hiro is also SAITO REN. Like I mentioned that but I had to let that sink in. Holy shit. Besides that I really enjoyed their sassiness, and their resistance to all that was forced upon them. They literally middle-fingered every rule ever enforced upon them and I was so here for it.

Also another spoiler that’s INSANSE. Ringer not being real. What the FUCK I almost lost my mind. I can’t believe it was a result of The First Sister being broken. My goodness, what a twist.

Anyway, I’m ded (not a typo but completely on our prose) where is book 2?!!!

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