I didn't live for the plot twist in this book. I thinks it's a fine work of fiction but certain things about it also made me a bit wary. I'd say give it a show with the content warnings I'll list below in mind.
Content Warnings: threats of sexual violence, child prostitution, gender dysphoria, non-consensual surgical procedures, human experimentation
The First Sister is a space opera following three different perspectives: The First Sister, a priestess, and Lito and Hiro, former partners during a space war.
The world-building was extensive and incredible. I felt immersed in the culture and different religions and beliefs. The characters were well-written with varied personalities and beliefs. At first, the three different perspectives don’t seem like they’re really connected, but I loved how beautifully it is revealed that they are. The representation in this book is amazing. Gender fluidity and sexuality are done in a way that is subtle but noticeable.
I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
(Giving up on star ratings, because they don't have an "it's complicated" option. I have to submit *something* as a star rating for Netgalley, though, so I'm sticking with a middle-of-the-road 3 stars even though it doesn't really reflect any of the nuance. Please read on.)
Happy book birthday, THE FIRST SISTER! Much of my review is an extended content and trigger warning, and I’m really quite serious about that, but I also don’t want to convey the sense that the book is not good in any way. Lewis is a gifted writer with a knack for world building and has put together what is essentially a double romance storyline without it coming off as saccharine or pinging my RED FLAG WARNNG brain sirens. That’s amazing in and of itself. Lewis has also managed to write a story employing what are essentially a religious order of sex workers (many of them sold into it, so be aware of that) without having to demonstrate its awfulness by way of a … gross or *gestures* demonstration of overwhelming sexual appetite. There are also some really fun ideas buried in here that are completely original, like the pair-bonded duelists and their coded-queer mental connection. SO cool.
However. That content/trigger warning? It’s not unimportant, as an enormous amount of the plot hangs together on it. If you are not keen on spoilers, please do NOT read my entire review on Goodreads, which has a spoiler tag in HTML I can use to hide the spoilers trigger. Suffice it to say, if you are intersex or nonbinary or belong to other queer identities with a history of non-consensual loss of agency, the warning on Goodreads is meant for you.
FULL WARNING: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3390492921
I am glad that someone has found a way to give an Atwoodish storyline the queerest of queer treatments, and I am always glad to see a queer author of great skill given a big imprint push in the publishing world. That’s awesome! And I’m sure there will be many readers who will not at all be bothered by what is absolutely devastating to someone like me, and not because they’re deliberately insensitive or anything. It’s just the kind of thing that comes from lived experience.
I wish Linden the absolute best of luck in the rest of her series and whatever comes after.
First Sister is one hell of a space adventure, no question about it. We get two stories in one for most of the book, in First Sister's perspective and that of soldier Lito. While their paths start off separately, we can assume from the start that they'll converge at some point, so I don't think that's particularly a spoiler. But at the start, these two couldn't be farther apart (physically and mentally speaking).
First Sister is, well, as the title suggests, a quasi-nun. The Premier Quasi-Nun, if you will. She's earned some favor among the powers that be, and as such, she's tasked with spying on new captain Saito Ren. Only, she finds that perhaps the Sisterhood isn't what she has thought it was, and maybe Saito Ren isn't the villain they're making her out to be.
Lito is having a rough time soldering on (pun absolutely intended) without his partner and incredibly close friend Hiro. Hiro's been missing since a big battle ensued, and Lito has basically been ordered to kill Hiro if he encounters them. I'm sure that will go well. The reader also gets little morsels of information from Hiro themselves, as they've left behind an audio recording for Lito to try to explain what has happened to them.
As you can see, the book is full of twists and excitement, and nothing is as it first appears. Therefore, I'll tell you no more. Best to go into this one not having any preconceived notions, just a basic understanding of who's who at the start. Then, you'll be in for quite the treat as the stories unfold and you begin to fall in love with the characters as I did.
There will be incredibly difficult choices, and a ton of character growth, and I loved watching it play out! My only minor qualms were a bit of a lull in the beginning-middle bit, but it was certainly not a huge deal considering I was already quite invested in the characters.
Bottom Line: I adored the characters and adventure in this wonderful first installment. Exciting and meaningful, The First Sister is a win all around.
I have to admit when I read the first chapter and found out it was about a group of women who did not have possession of their own bodies, I thought "Oh no, I just can't read this right now. I'm worn out from outrage." Thank god, I didn't stop there because this book was amazing. Told from three different point of views, you have a grand overlook at the different factions involved, with a unique voice for each section. Twists and turns that I never saw coming. This was so much fun and I can't wait for more!
This was one of those stories where there were a TON of great concepts but the execution was messy. I started off reading this book excited but as it got further past half-way I felt my enthusiasm dimming due to some plot choices. That's not to say I disliked this book, I enjoyed it immensely there were just aspects I felt could have been written better.
The world created in this story was INCREDIBLY fascinating, I was immediately drawn in because who doesn't love a good space opera? Lewis starts off the story in all the right ways, there are vague references to world events to pique the reader's curiosity, the characters have compelling motives, and the politics are intriguing. However, the way these elements interact throughout the story felt very haphazard and under-developed.
The major world events stay vague and we rarely get much elaboration to help them make sense. Also, the politics are constantly changing and you can never tell what type of statement the author is trying to make while reading. I was constantly trying to understand how certain decisions would affect other races & planets but no examples or information were provided so I had no idea what types of consequences certain plot developments would have.
One thing I did enjoy was all the characters and side characters throughout the story. I'm hoping any sequels will elaborate more on some of the awesome side characters that disappeared after saying a few lines. Also one of the final plot twists provides a very interesting future for the story, so I'm interested to see if Lewis can straighten out more of the world-building and pull together a more coherent plot for this intriguing world they created.
I love being able to find hidden gems on Netgalley. I was deeply impressed by the scope of this novel. It felt like it took place in space with various locations. I will say that the editor letter describes it as being Red Rising, The Handmaids Tale and The Expanse series; I didn't believe it could truly live up to these expectations but it did!! I was taken hostage by this book, it held me at it's mercy and refused to let me go.
The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis is an epic science fiction space opera full of vivid world building of a futuristic universe in which man kind expands into our solar system, but takes their problems with them. It's ripe with political intrigue and scandal which further propels this story into the type of adult read I prefer these days.
The characters are beautiful examples of diverse representation which makes me appreciate the story even more. There are definite adult elements throughout this book, such as child abuse, religious abuse, sexual assault and even war time violence but it is all tastefully written and explored in a way that isn't gratuitous or purely put in for shock value.
Without giving away the plot, let me just say that if you are looking for a new science fiction series to engross yourself in, and are aching for the kind of representation sorely lacking in today's literature, then this book is for you.
I was given a free eARC in exchange for a honest review.
Maybe it’s my fault for going into this book with high expectations but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. I think the best parts of The First Sister are the main characters. I also enjoyed the overall world the author created.
Honestly I wish this book was just a little longer. I felt that some parts needed to be fleshed out more, particularly the Sisterhood. Also the relationship between Fist Sister and Ren felt rushed because we were told they spent time together and didn’t see it. Which made First Sisters attraction seem sudden.
To be honest I felt like a lot of this book was a set up for the second one. But I am interested in finding out what happens next.
The First Sister is an exciting and compelling sci-fi adventure! Fans of Red Rising and the Handmaid’s Tale will particularly enjoy this, but I would honestly recommend it to anyone. The First Sister follows the perspectives of First Sister, Lito, and Hiro. First Sister is a nameless comfort woman, tasked with secretly spying on the new captain Saito Ren. First Sister is mute and sign language is her main form of communication. Writing is viewed as sacrilegious. When the captain asks her to exchange notes, she is tempted to go against everything she has been taught. Lito is desperately looking for his partner Hiro, a non-binary soldier who has gone dark on a mission. When Lito receives secret audio recordings from Hiro, Lito starts to unravel what happened to them and begins to retrace their steps.
From the opening chapter, I was hooked. I actually picked this up and read the first half in one sitting! The pacing was excellent, there was never a dull moment. Lewis does a fantastic job of addressing sexual abuse and rape culture, without relying on graphic sexual abuse scenes. The world-building is inclusive and crafted with intense care. I particularly enjoyed the romance between First Sister and Saito Ren. Initially, I thought it would be tricky to pull off the romance with the power dynamics, but it worked really well! Lewis expertly wove in several plot twists that truly surprised me and subverted my expectations. I also loved that while these characters are fighting to stay alive, they’re never fighting to be addressed by their correct pronouns. The inclusive writing and LGBTQ characters were a joy to read, especially since this is too rarely the case in science fiction. The First Sister is a particularly impressive debut and I can’t wait to read the next installment in the series! The First Sister releases on August 4, 2020. Thank you to Linden A. Lewis, Gallery Books, and Netgalley for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
It's a brilliant story that kept me hooked till the last page. Great world building and characters, an excellent plot.
The author is a talented storyteller and I loved this book.
I look forward to reading other books by this author.
It's highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this arc.
Oh wow. This book literally blew me away. I went in with little expectations. To be honest, I saw Goldsboro feature a stenciled edge version for their fantasy/sci-fi sub, so I thought I’d try it before committing. I am so glad I did. I loved “The First Sister”. The characters were well written. I’m usually not a fan of back and forth POVs, but I couldn’t wait to read about every character. They were all well written. The pacing was very smooth and flowed well. I was a little confused at times on who was on which side, but it just made me want to figure it more. The twist literally shocked me. I had no idea and saw nothing coming. I didn’t know what was happening. My jaw dropped, and I loved it. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi read.
Thank you Netgalley and Gallery books for this eARC in exchange for an honest review!
Every so often you come across a story that draws you in and keeps taking you for a ride. Now, finding one that can do that, and yet still offer surprises and twists, that's the hard part in my opinion.
Yet, here that book is for me.
When I requested this ARC, I went in expecting a great romp through another science fiction tale. Instead though, I got that and so much more. I didn't expect to find such a diverse cast when it came to representation of race, gender identity, and sexuality. Yet we got exactly that., Throughout the story we get a small f/f romance, a non-binary character and storied POV, and various races of different descent. I became enamored with each of the characters and their stories really brought me to tears and also elation over certain plot points.
The world's lore is interesting, completely fraught with war and espionage. The tech involved included the ideas of neural implants to enhance prowess in battle and suppress reactions that might hinder one's state, such as panic. Even the factions seemed so intriguing to me, though I wish we got even more lore about each of them.
The thing that stood out the most though, was the impact of body autonomy . The Sisterhood are basically the comfort women for one faction known as the Gaens. The Sisters are literally there to receive confessions to the Goddess, yet also be available for 'comfort' in the form of sexual needs. The story speaks of it, but there is only mentions and one attempted moment of it. Then, there is another facet with the other faction. The government for the Icarii is what you expect of most military governments who care not for their people, or the Asters (those who live among the belt). This comes to a head via experiments and going as far to undergo severe surgeries on their own people for sake of missions.
My only complaint was with the fact it had to be a non-binary character to suffer through both surgical trauma and have to deal with the mental repercussions the rest of their life. As a non binary reader, this actually broke my heart to the point I had to take a small break at that point in time.
Overall this was such a solid debut novel, and I'm so anxious to see how the story continues for these wonderful characters.
First off, can we just take a second to talk about that cover? It is absolutely gorgeous and so true to what the book contains.
I absolutely adored this book. I was a little worried going into this book because many times space dramas tend to get lost in the endless possibilities that can occur in worlds unknown to us that the story becomes lost. However, this was not the case at all. The plot was riveting and extremely fun to follow.
The characters were all so beautifully crafted and their friendships and struggles were so genuine. Each one was so unique and distinct from the other. Many times authors introduce a myriad of characters with their own POVs thinking it will make the story more enjoyable. However, when all those characters are similar, it becomes mundane and unnecessary. The First Sister does not fall into that category of books. Because of the setting, we get to see the characters thrive in their diversity. While I love reading a story of a character in a different world struggling to fit in because of their culture, sexuality, etc. I also loved seeing these characters getting to thrive in a setting where diversity is already accepted and not an issue. This also provides for unique character arcs and dilemmas. All of the struggles of the characters were so genuine and sad, it made my heart hurt anytime they discussed their past.
My only quips are that I wish the POVs were more distinct and the time this story took place was a little bit more defined. Going from POV to POV was pretty confusing and various references to countries and cultures in today's day and age made it a little confusing for me to understand when this was taking place.
Overall fun read.
- 4 stars -
My first and major complaint is the fact that this ARC didnt define whose POV I was reading about. It wasn’t really until halfway through the chapter I can accurately understand which character I’m reading through. If a book is going to use that many POVs, this should have been properly defined in every chapter. There are some trigger warnings which I hope in the final book, there will be a helpful note in the beginning. I find then i would be more mentally prepared.
However with that being said. I’m a sucker for Sci-fi and the first sister was more than just part one in a trilogy. It’s epic and you couldn’t put it down from the first page. This is almost like a handmaidens tale meets Star Wars.
Trigger Warnings: Discussions of Rape Culture and Sexual Assault, Abuse (physical,mental, emotional), Self-injurious behavior, Death, Murder, Gore, Mental illness (PTSD, depression, anxiety), Racism, Prejudice, Classism, Alcohol Use, Body Horror, Loss of Bodily Autonomy, Brainwashing, Transphobia.
I received this book from Netgalley and Skybound Books in exchange for an honest review.
It's no lie that my favorite book is Dune. I'm a sucker for a space operas, on other worlds affairs, families in political dilemmas, soldiers in a constant war for their planet's future, and a rebellion brewing in the horizon to help the oppressed cause nobody else seems to have the courage to change the system. I just love those type of stories, so I read multiple series like that set in the big cosmos above our skies. When I saw the cover for The First Sister something inside my heart burst up. Alien feelings awakened when my eyes gazed upon it, I did not care what the premise was about, or who the author was. I KNEW that no matter what, I'd own this. That this book would be mine one way or the other. I only have such gut feelings for a few memorable occasions and this book met all of my exceptions as a reader.
"May the heart of the universe, keep you, and may you never forget we are all born from the same stuff as stars."
Humanity as we once knew it had left earth, after they tarnished it for so many years. Now scattered at the far edges of the cosmos, the people reformed into new society on the surfaces of Mars, Mercury and Venus and even asteroid belts, each faction fighting for resources, religious holy war or injustice. Our story is split into three individuals, First Sister, a young woman from the Gaen society, working on the Warship, Juno, for the religious sect of the sisterhood who follows the teaching of the canon. She almost had her happily ever after with her sweetheart but nothing is so simple as we hope it to be. Lito Val Lucius, an operative for the Icarii special is sent for a covert mission to recover crucial information to what may be a the betrayal of their partner in favor of their enemies and Hiro, the alleged traitor who is an enigma. Did they sold off information to the Gaens? Did they switch sides? Lito tries to seek the truth all the while listening to tapes Hiro left for him.
"Be what they want. Be what they need. Be everything for them, so that they will leave your chambers without sadness without guilt, without lust. No distraction while they're on duty."
There's such viciousness in us humans to be able to conduct such a unspeakable idea as to take young innocent girls and essentially, take away their voices, their uniqueness and turn them to a tool to encourage the soldiers of Gaens to feel better, to be unburden by their earthly worries by using them in ways I shall not even try to imagine. Thankfully we are saved by such imagery due to Linden's small kindness to us but it's there, a reminder to what First sister and so many other sisters and probably their counter part the cousins have to endure each day in the name of their suppose "GODDESS" and what the Mother is deeming rightful. I was hooked by First Sister POV, how she coordinates her new status and is swimming in unknown water not sure who's her ally or foe anymore. Her journey, her romance, she became so important to me that some moments I forgot she was just a fictional character and not real.
And then there were Lito and Hiro each in their own way, lovable, their pasts, their friendship, what will become of them in the future was frightening to me. Lito hunting down his best friend, his partner, probably his only friend and for what? A society that didn't cared for him and his poor sister? That by hard work he gained his new title after excruciating trials and yet he's still not good enough in the eyes of the Icarii? And Hiro... God I can't even fathom what they had to go through in their household, with their monster of a father, their identity and caring so much for Lito that they'd die for him and Luce. How everything in this story begins to split and comes by the end into a satisfying conclusion was great in my opinion but some of the twists in my opinion felt a bit too pushy for me, but hey, it's a trilogy and a debut you gotta give the author some slack.
"Mother, I pray that this is not how I die- voiceless, sightless, deaf. Truly, this is hell."
You know what I love about space? There's myriad of possibilities that can happen if we ever decided to take the leap and blast off into space. Linden take on the future is by far the most refreshing take I've seen in fiction. The primer authenticity and the speaking languages are not just English or western, no. It's overflowing with diversity that we so much need in this genre of science fiction. English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, these are but a small examples of the majority of representations in both the Icarri and the Gaens and don't get me started on the incredible acceptance of LGBTQ+. Nobody needs to be afraid of their sexual identity, attraction, gender, it's something so trivial in compare to the multitude of issues at hand. And the technology of the implants, the mecha ironsuits, the shape shifting mercury blades, it's like the wet dream I desired for so long!!!
I hope this review, as much as it is obvious, convinced you to try out The First Sister. Linden created a promising new trilogy to enjoy in the coming years. It's hella diverse with plethora of characters, space is so big and the plants are so vast to explore and we don't have to worry about what bothers us as of now. Order the book, spread the word, and may the heart of the universe protect you in these rough times. Stay safe <3
Is it diverse? Positive pro LGBTQ+ representation, Spanish-Latin main character, Japanese Main Character, Non-binary main character, Disabled characters.
The first thing that I noticed about "The First Sister" was the eye-catching cover. Between that and the description of the book, I was a bit worried that it was going to be a more difficult and heavy read than it was. I am not always a fan of space operas (I find space too terrifying to really think about), but I felt that "The First Sister" did a great job focusing on character development while building a realistic world. I felt that this book could be enjoyed by people who love space, as well as people who are looking for more general sci-fi/fantasy.
Being relatively inexperienced in the space opera genre, this may be an untrue statement--- but it seems that EVERY one that I have read or watched focuses on fighting between planets/different races. In that sense, "The First Sister" is no different. The focus of this book however is on three characters: "The First Sister," who is a religious prostitute (that is a weird phrase to write), a non-binary soldier that has disappeared on a mission, and a soldier that desperately wants to know what happened to them (the soldier). Each character had a distinguishable voice, and the way that there stories intersect in the giant war made the second half of the book amazing.
A few, small things that I couldn't help but nitpick about. I get that the story is "sometime in the far future," but various references to Japan made the story seem not as far in the future as it would need to be in order to have the culture development that drove the plot. Also, maybe I missed something and Japan was not supposed to be on Earth at all ("Earth" has a different name and it has two moons). I hope there is a bit more history added in the following books. There was random Japanese hiragana and katakana-- which as someone who has studied Japanese meant that I had to read it--- and I found that it was a complete useless addition since the translation of the sentence was always in the following sentence. Maybe it was to make it more hip or interesting, but I felt that it was distracting and unnecessary.
4.5 stars, rated up to a 5. "The First Sister" is a unique and fun experience of a read and I look forward to seeing its follow-up.
Thank you Netgalley and Gallery Books for an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I absolutely loved The First Sister. It's an epic space opera that follows 2 story lines. First Sister, who works as a priestess/ "comfort woman" for soldiers on the spaceship Juno. And Lito, a soldier from Venus on a mission to track down and kill his ex-partner. The story lines are separate for most of the novel but come crashing together at the finale. It reminds me of The Expanse series with a focus on social issues, and for lack of a better word, more "woke". I adored it and can't wait to see where the story goes in the next installment.
If you like books that entertain you, make you think, have non-stop action, and have kick-ass characters who light up the page, then look no further! The First Sister has it all! I'm a sucker for space operas, so there was no hesitation in requesting this title from Netgalley. I was expecting an entertaining read but what I got was so much more. All the characters stood out on the page, even First Sister with her lack of voice. I enjoyed her chapters the most because she was so strong despite the life that she was thrust into. She didn't let it stop her, however, and by the end she came into her own, knew what she wanted and was willing to fight for what she believed in. Once I started this, I could not stop. The story flew by and I was disappointed when I was finished. I cannot wait for the next book because I HAVE to know what happens to these magnificent characters! I would definitely recommend to anyone who is a fan of science fiction, enjoys seeing strong LGBTQ representation, strong characters, and awesome twists and turns!
The First Sister is the first book of The First Sister trilogy series.
I like to call this a “sink into” story. It’s the type of book you enjoy on a stormy day, wrapped up in a blanket, sipping a hot cup of coffee, where you can block out the world and really sink into the plot. The story world is intricately developed and instantly draws you into a world where Earth isn’t the only inhabited planet. In this new Universe, a group of forced sex workers, known as the Sisterhood, exist to serve the physical, as well as emotional and spiritual, needs of soldiers on a warship. Alongside this story is that of Lito, a soldier with a mission to kill his former partner who has turned rogue. These two stories serve as the pillars of the plot, but don’t interweave until the end. It’s important to remember this is the first of a trilogy, so the character arcs only being established, but won’t be completed. Yet.
My attention was drawn mostly to The First Sister. I found myself looking forward to her plot line more so than Lito’s because her world is so foreign yet with a subtext of familiarity. She was plucked as a young child to start living with the Sisterhood. On the surface, this ground holds prestige as the main religious entity in the Universe. The Mother serves as God. The Sisters serve as pious deities who serve the Mother at all costs. Part of this is receiving confession from soldiers. In order to keep the Sisters from spilling confessional secrets, the Sisterhood takes away their voice.
The First Sister must endure abuse and suffering as a voiceless puppet for a group she never wanted to be a part of. The symbolism of a voiceless woman rising to power isn’t lost as the story progresses and First Sister grows braver. There’s a strong feminist aspect in what is not on the page just as well as what was included. I enjoyed getting to know this character, and I look forward to seeing where the Universe takes her in the next two books.
The structure of the plot moves between First Sisters’s POV, Lito’s POV and recordings left behind by Lito’s partner Hiro, spoken in her own POV. Hiro’s voice holds a lot of the backstory, and I found these sections a little slow in pace compared to the other narratives. The rest of the novel moves quickly with action and tension moving the story toward an unforeseen ending.
I would have liked for the stories to intersect earlier, but again, this is a trilogy so some patience is required. I’m happy to wait. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy, and if you’re a fan of sci-fi rebels with strong female protagonists, this is a must read!