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The First Sister

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A wonderfully written world that you can "see" when you close your eyes.  Linden Lewis has built an entirely fantastical world, his descriptive writing skills are excellent, while using enough practical landmarks so we recognize the slow disenegration of today's issues into consequences we'd never imagine.  Populated by so any distinctive characters, we are pulled into the battles that bear too many references to today's battles for comfort.  
THE FIRST SISTER may be sci-fi, but it resonates with the relationships, both good and disastrous, that an epic story needs to capture the reader and keep them enthralled.  This is the first book of a planned trilogy.  This one sets the gold example for following chapters.
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If you’re looking for a book where there’s a clear Dark Side and no question who the heroes are, this is not the book for you. If you want an adventure, a heist, capers and shenanigans, this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a comfort read, a quick read, a fun read, then this is not the book for you.

But if, instead, what you want is a book that will challenge you, captivate you, and make you think, then – here. This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for.

I’m not going to lie, the world of The First Sister is pretty damn bleak. Humanity is torn in two and at war with itself; there’s the Gaens, with their repulsive religion that makes voiceless, nameless sex-slaves of its priestesses, and the Icarri, whose technology is wondrous but comes at a horrifying cost. We also have the Asters, an off-shoot of humanity who altered themselves to better adapt to the harsh environment of planetary surfaces. The dynamics between the three are far more complicated than they seem at first, something which gradually unfolds over the course of the book.

But it’s also a very diverse universe. Queerness of all kinds is completely normalised, the primary languages of the galaxy are English, Spanish and Chinese, and although the First Sister herself is white, Lito is the descendant of Spanish and Italian spacefarers, and Hiro and Saito Ren are of Japanese ancestry. This, too, is all normalised. Space is not white-washed here!

So what is The First Sister actually about? Well, you’ve got the blurb up above, so I’m not going to reiterate that. What I’ll say instead is that it’s about little people – people who feel small, who think they’re powerless, who are trapped in societies designed to control them – discovering that even the smallest game piece can overturn the board. It’s about being a tiny cog in an enormous machine – and how even the tiniest cog, if it refuses to turn, can bring the whole thing down.

And that makes it very much a book for our times, honestly. That makes it very much a book for all of us who feel overwhelmed and hopeless about the state of the world, because Lewis has crafted a story where imperfect people – cogs in their respective machines – can still dream about peace in the midst of a never-ending war. Can still reach for hope and better things even while crushed in the jaws of their unforgiving cultures. Where even those who are not fighters can fight – through their fear, through the weight of expectation and command and history.

The First Sister is a book about agency and compassion, about voices among the voiceless, about doing the right thing even when there is no right thing – about making the right thing, when there is none. It’s about looking your society right in the eye and saying no.

No more.

This stops here.

This is a powerful, gut-punching read that hooks you and doesn’t let you go. It’s not grimdark, but it’s not a plasma-beams-firing action story either. There is love, but this is not a romance. It’s a story with deft worldbuilding, subverted tropes, and characters so real and human you can hear them breathe. It’s social commentary and a call to arms; an instruction manual for resisting oppression and corrupted systems; a prayer that this is not our future.

It’s a book you need to read.
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Wow. Just wow. After letting it sit for a while, I finally decided to write my review. I can't find a better way to start than this. I started this book knowing near nothing about it.
I was terrified when I saw it was a space opera. I have read very little Science Fiction, the only one I liked being Skyward, and even then It wasn't a 5 star read. But all my doubts disappeared after reading the first two chapters. 
This story, these characters, intrigued me so much. I was utterly surprised. I read it slowly so I could understand and enjoy as much as possible. And, while reading, I kept getting this pull that urged me to continue. It didn't take long for me to realise that this book was going to be one of my new favourites. And I was right. I'm honestly relieved it's the first in a trilogy because there's so much going on, and I expect answers.
We follow two main perspectives. Each narrator is part of a different human nation, the Geans and the Icarii. Years ago they were one, but now they are at war. First Sister is what we would call a nun of the Geans. Their society is ruled over by their religion, the Sisterhood. She was my favourite character by far. Her journey was incredibly inspiring to follow.
All the characters we meet are different and equally important to the story. They were each clearly defined, with diverse personalities and beliefs, as well as flawed in a way that humanises them. 
The world-building was extensive, distinct and brilliant, not overly explained. I'll look forward to learning more about these cultures and their history in future books. The writing was descriptive without overexplaining. Fast-paced and easy to follow. 
It was a story about struggling people living in an oppressed society in a broken world, figuring how to fix it, and themselves. And I loved it. I can't wait for more.
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The First Sister of the Juno is a comfort woman for the Gean military whose only hope of a semi-bearable life is convincing her new captain Saito Ren that she should keep her on for personal use and not return her to the common pool. Lito sol Lucius is an Icarii soldier blamed for a calamitous defeat who must kill his beloved partner Hiro to be redeemed. He cannot believe they turned traitor, but is forced to accept the assignment. Slowly, each comes to realize the rot at the core of their respective sides of the endless war. Three-dimensional characters in a compelling (albeit often horrifying) universe.
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The First Sister is a complex intergalactic SciFi novel with psychologically impacting elements. This one is so hard for me to review. All I can say is this novel takes sensitive topics such as race, gender, divinity and common sense to another level. Bravo for the imagination. I haven’t read the Red Rising, but some parts definitely felt similar to The Handmaid’d Tale. Loved the cyberpunk references and looking forward for Book 2. Glad that this is a trilogy! 


Thank you Netgalley, Gallery Books and Linden.A.Lewis for the ARC. This review is my own and is not influenced in anyway!
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To start off: this book deals with the dangers of rape-culture & sexual assault, but there are NO graphic sexual abuse scenes, glorifying of sexual assault, or ‘torture porn’. There is mention of gore, blood, torture, and dismemberment, disfiguration, and mutilation, prostitution, experimentation, denial of bodily autonomy, mentions of child abuse, as well as 2-4 instances of transphobia & lesbophobia by one-off characters (these instances are mentioned in a negative light).

This book was a RIDE. It explores the power of technology, the good and the bad that comes with that; race; gender; colonization. All the main characters are queer and in queer relationships; the characters felt organic in their queerness & their relationships felt very organic as well! You could tell from their feelings alone that they were in love-- which means so much more than just stating so in word or through physical actions.

The religion of the Sisterhood is original, if somewhat terrifying and creepy. The Ironskin fighters feel a little reminiscent of Ironman but more interesting! The concept of the duelists— their pairing, their partnership, their fluid swords, and that winning is dependent entirely on the wielder's skill— stands apart from other fantasy/sci-fi books where anyone-can-wield-them plasma guns and/or laser-swords are often the go-to weapon. The characters all had their own individual journeys that just happened to intertwine. There were twists all around and a few red herrings, almost all of which went off without a hitch!

I preferred First Sister and Hiro’s POV, to be honest. I somewhat disliked Lito’s character for the first half or so, and I didn’t find the things happening in his POV as interesting as I would’ve liked them to be. His POV in general felt less...intriguing. I don’t usually enjoy books written in first-person, but it was the best POV to have written this book in. It made more of an impact than third person would have. The characters all have diverse and individual personalities, individual tics, their own goals and they each go about those goals in differing ways, even if some have similar goals. I liked that there were three points of view with one from both sides of the war, and the third that’s working against the other two.

The character development for First Sister (the character) happens at what felt like the right pace. Throughout the book, despite the fact that she has no voice, First Sister is not at all passive: she’s defiant and strong-willed, unwilling to break but willing to bend just enough to get by. Her inability to speak is not the focus of her character arc or her personal plot— rather, it focuses on her wants and desires, hopes and dreams, and what she’s willing to do to make them reality. She’s given the chance to articulate these, and while doing so would mean traitorous to the Sisterhood religion, she is given the choice to do so. First Sister had a certain view of the world, her beliefs, her view the people on her “side” of the war, all of it was challenged, and it helped her grow. The reveal of what’s happening with her was confusing. There didn’t seem to be a lot of noticeable build-up to that moment, so I was thrown way off. Her relationship

Lito’s character development happens more incrementally, but it felt more realistic for his character than it would have if he’d changed at a faster pace. His character development is most visible in his use of his neural implant to neutralize any and all feelings he has. At the start, I found Lito to be a somewhat unsympathetic character, and further into the book, I realized it was because he didn’t feel fully human. As he began to go through his character development, I came to like him a lot more and rooted for him! In terms of his POV, considering the reveal in the second half of the book, there was a lot of places in his chapters where little bits of information on the neural implant could have helped lead up to the twist in the second half. The neural implant isn’t entirely explained, or at least decently explained aside from a very, very basic ‘this is what it does’. Going into it a bit more— even just talking about what’s not known about it— would’ve added to the world and made myself as the reader feel more immersed in the story. I’m hoping it’s talked about more in the sequel!

Hiro’s character development, done through audio transcript-like flashbacks narrated to Lito, was brilliant and very effective! It gave better insight into their past, their character development, and one of the antagonists for the next book (I think/hope). Their POV was extremely helpful in revealing the groundwork for the book in general. If Hiro had had their own chapters from start-to-finish of the book, I don’t think it would have gone quite as well as it did with the limited audio recording flashbacks.

The queer representation felt natural and was great to see! Even when some of the one-off characters were transphobic (as far as I can remember, it happened twice, maybe three times), they were always clearly acknowledged as being in the wrong and “an asshole or a bastard” (yes that’s a direct quote & it’s awesome).

I liked the representation of different cultures, though it would’ve been nice if there’d been more of it. Also, I’m a white person, so I can’t say whether Hiro was good representation for Japanese people, or how well Japanese culture was presented in the flashbacks.

In terms of world-building, there wasn’t a lot but what was explained was interesting; I just wish there had been more of it. I felt there was a lot lacking in the sense of insight into what aspects of cultures are broadly prevalent. The story felt so focused on the characters that the world didn’t expand much further than what directly impacted them, including how and why the war started and the explanation of how humanity came to populate other planets aside from Earth. I found there was also a lack of scene-setting description other than what was immediately important to the characters’ goals and what they interacted with.

In terms of the plot, there was a lot going on and there were a lot of twists. The numerous twists at the very end were great, though the final reveal felt somewhat lacking in build-up. It was somewhat jarring and I was a bit confused, though I think that might’ve been because I was missing some of the cues? I would’ve preferred a few more hints that something wasn’t adding up, to add to the sense of an underlying conspiracy. Regarding the caste-indicating use of ‘sol’ and ‘val’, aside from in the beginning, it didn’t feel like these branding names held as much weight as they’re said to hold. Lewis could have had more moments to showcase exactly how different these two societal rankings are, the difference in treatment between them.

When stepping back from looking at everything individually and considering the book as a whole, I really enjoyed it! I’m hoping the sequel is even better, because I’ll definitely be picking it up!

4/5 stars!
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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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Wow .... I loved this book. I finished its last night and cant stop thinking about its.
Its a brillent and interesting story. I loved how all the elements came together.
Had some wonderfull well written  characrers  my favorite was first sister.
Was fast pacing with some amazing twist that I didnt see coming.
Its just a brillent book I can't sing its praises enough.
I would definitely recommend its for anyone who loves sci-fi.
I hope there's a sequel.. 
I received this book from netgallery in exchange for a honest review
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The First Sister is the first book in a planned science fiction trilogy by Linden A. Lewis, published by Skybound Books and Gallery Books. Far in the future, the Gaens and the Icarii are at war. The Gaens hold dominion over Earth and Mars, their government intertwined with the religious order of the Sisterhood. The Icarii are confined to Mercury and Venus with their superior technology and high reliance on gene editing.

The First Sister follows three first-person perspectives in the aftermath of a major battle and a potential turning point in the war. First Sister serves on a captured Icarii spaceship in the same manner as every Sister. She is a representative of the Goddess and the Mother whose duty is to take confessions and yield to the sexual whims of the soldiers on board. However, if she can capture the favor of the ship's new captain, Saito Ren, she will be exempt from sex with the crew and belong only to the captain. First Sister is commanded by the Sisterhood to spy on the new captain and report any treachery but has to navigate avoiding being labeled, or becoming, a traitor herself.

Lito val Lucius is an Icarii Rapier whose Dagger Hiro has gone missing and is accused of betraying the Icarii. His new neural implant-connected partner Ofiera is a superior officer, and when given the order to find and kill Hiro, Lito has to choose between duty and love. Meanwhile, Hiro, the third first-person perspective, is uniquely written through audio messages they are left for Lito in the time between their separation and Lito's new mission. Lito's sister Luce delivers the messages to Lito just before he takes off on his mission and the reader reads their transcripts as short chapters between First Sister and Lito's chapters.

The world and lore of The Fist Sister are captivating. The two empires have distinct personalities and aspects that make them interesting. The Sisterhood is as concerning and cult-like as can be while the gene editing, neural implants, and advanced technology of the Icarii creates an equally concerning moral morass. The rampant gene editing of the Icarii long ago led to the evolution of an entire subspecies of humans, the Asters, who were originally edited to be ideal spacefarers, but now live in the asteroid belt and are subjugated and reviled, especially on Mercury and Venus.

The oppression of the Asters is particularly interesting because it illustrates most bluntly in The First Sister that no matter how far humanity progresses they are still ultimately fated to bigotry. There are at least two Icarii races that survive more or less as we know them today: Latinx and Asian (split between Japanese and Chinese). There may be other races or cultures that survive as well, but these two are made evident through the names of characters, the languages they speak, and the explicit discussion about culture that occurs throughout the book. While racism may not take the same shape as it does in our world, it clearly belies the world of The First Sister. There are also hints of a solar system-wide problem with artificial intelligence that revolted against their human makers and have since barricaded humanity within the confounds of the four inner planets.

The irony of an advanced civilization that has seemingly mastered the resistance of cultures without forced assimilation subjugating the Asters is just a portion of The First Sister's overarching themes. Ultimately, what binds the three first-person perspective characters' journies together is the dissolution of blind faith. Blind faith in religion, government, family, or even oneself are proven over and over in The First Sister to be deadly traps that feed into the eternal war machine and the self-serving factions on both sides. These lessons are driven home in numerous and increasingly unexpected ways while never leaving the reader feeling like they can't trust anybody at all. Clearly there can be a difference between blind faith and earned trust and the latter is well-rewarded.

The pacing of The First Sister was challenging at first. With every single chapter switching perspectives it felt like the story took too long to progress and hold my interest. Eventually the plot thickens on First Sister and Lito's sides of the story, but the copious amounts of exposition felt glossed over to the point where I had to use my reader's search function to remind myself of who people were and where they were. Hiro's sections unfortunately almost felt unnecessary for most of the book as well.

The creative style of writing these sections as recorded messages was unique when it worked well, but most of the time they felt just like giant exposition dumps that progressed the reader's understanding of nearly everything except for Hiro themselves. As a nonbinary character whose plot and personality largely do not revolve around their being nonbinary, it was disappointing that most of their presence in the book was utilitarian and not as their own character with agency and growth. In fact, most of their agency and growth are explicitly taken away from them as the book progresses, which was a major disappointment. The characterization we do get through the recordings and through Lito's love and admiration for them makes me excited to hopefully see Hiro as a fully autonomous character in the sequel.

I was additionally disappointed with how while the world of The First Sister is set up to make it clear that gender identities are universally accepted as fluid and up to individuals to determine for themselves, the narration does not match the world's own example. There are several times where Lito especially will encounter a new character and refer to them with gendered pronouns based only on their appearance and his assumptions. I would have expected that in a book attempting to normalize the fluidity of gender identity and nonconformity that it would also affirm the changes to the language, assumptions, and interactions necessitated for a complete normalization. When Lito meets a young Aster child at one point, for example, he immediately genders the child as a girl based on her appearance and personality. While this could be brushed off as an artifact of a first-person perspective told in the past tense, giving Lito time to have retroactively gendered the child based on how they told him they prefer to be referred, it nonetheless felt at several points contradictory to the message the book otherwise imparts about gender.

Lito and First Sister's character arcs do feel a tad rushed as most of the action is packed into the final act of the book, but ultimately it is the supremely interesting world that Lewis weaves that kept me captivated and interested in seeing how these two characters, in addition to other characters such as Captain Ren, the other Sisterhood members, and Ofiera would progress as the plot thickened. By the end, I was fully captivated and invested in every character's journey, even if they were never fully fleshed out earlier. First Sister and Lito's twin journeys through realizing their bodies and even their minds do not fully belong to them anymore and their quests to reclaim them are deeply impactful and written to be relatable to a wide swath of readers' experiences.

The First Sister is an interesting new world well worth a dive into. It is a fascinating introduction to a new series rife with potential going forward. While the book does not deliver on every character's potential, particularly its nonbinary hero, the reader gets to go on a captivating journey through the eyes of its three first-person perspective characters as they learn to shirk blind trust in the institutions that raised them and reclaim their bodies and minds for themselves.

The First Sister is available wherever books are sold August 4th, 2020.

Review will be posted on closer to release
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This book takes some careful reading. There are hints throughout depicting how the humans got to this point and how they then divided into differing groups. From a mass exodus of the AI's we created after a long war, to further conflicts, the culture in which The Frist Sister takes place is a far cry from any familiar trope. 

Lewis paints a multi-planetary existence that harkens back to the kingdoms of old. Integrating the familiar hierarchy of embattled countries with far-stretched futuristic galactic living succeeds on many levels. The First Sister follows multiple POVs, a Sister who has given her voice and body to the Goddess, a warrior with an implant that discards fears and anxieties, and the recording of a person who was once bound to the warrior. 

Futuristic intrigue brings to mind the courtly machinations of Maia by Richard Adams, especially in the First Sister's storyline. The Sisters are women who offer their voices to serve the vast military forces. They take confessions and provide comfort to keep the soldiers focused on what is most important. 

Given that the human race divides, living in the vast space within our current galaxy, it's no wonder Lewis has the future lives of humans as military based. A massive war with artificial intelligence, and then ourselves, has severely lowered the human race. Under these conditions, all parties are impressive as well as believable.  The Sisters and their Gean culture turn to a new form of religion, worshipping a Goddess and maintaining a semblance to the human life we now know. Meanwhile, the Icarii turn to advanced technology and body modifications that make them the seemingly higher power. Still, other life forms have been so altered that they barely remain recognizable as descendants from the human race they were born of. 

The First Sister excels in creating a plausible but vastly unique science fiction future. Being the first in a trilogy, there is much to look forward to from Linden A. Lewis's The First Sister Trilogy.
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Compelling book that went in a direction I enjoyed, but didn't necessarily expect.

I think the advance promotion makes this seem like a book very much focused on the First Sister. So you go in expecting to learn more about her story and the role of the "sisters" in general. Surprisingly, the story doesn't really spend much time with "sisterhood" at all. It's alluded to that they provide sexual services--and most didn't choose the life--but other than that, we get no real sense of this religion and what it's like to be in it. 

Once you adjust to that realization, (Oh hey, this is actually NOTHING like "The Handmaid's Tale") the book becomes more enjoyable. In a nutshell it's a story about political intrigue and fighting for control over the galaxy (well, the part humans were given after "the sentients" ditched us). Yes, this book gave me some "Red Rising" vibes, but it has far less action/battle scenes than Rising, opting more for scenes of emotional intrigue and people finding their voice/choosing their side.

The story is split equally between the First Sister, the solider Lito, and his missing partner, Hiro. Of the three, Hiro's (told via recordings he's left for Lito) was perhaps the most interesting to me. All three stories are, of course, interconnected and I appreciated the way this was revealed. The story often went in unexpected directions with revelations that were genuinely surprising. I also appreciated that this story had some interesting things to say about both gender and sexuality.

Knocking it a star because as much as I enjoyed the ride, I'm not sure if I'd sign up for the next one. (The book ends with a gentle cliffhanger). Maybe the cliffhanger is TOO gentle? I felt like I had got resolution on all of the things I wanted to see resolved. 

Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I had so much fun reading this! This book is a fast paced science fiction novel with three protagonists. Our first protagonist is First Sister, a nun for the ship Juno. This is the Handmaiden's tale part, they're all forced into having sex and rejection means losing their status basically. The Geans (the people First Sister is a part of) have some kind of strange theocratic society, that isn't nearly as fleshed out as it should be in my opinion. There was so much I wanted to know about the society. Her story revolves around Saito Ren, the new commander whom she is chosen to spy on and eventually falls in love with. 

The second perspective is Lito who, honestly I wasn't very invested with. But his side of the story is where most of the action is. He is part of a group called the Icarii who are at war with the Geans and instead of a theocratic society they rely on technology for everything, including simple things such as calming themselves down. This side of the story also has huge themes of lack of bodily autonomy, but this one is to the military rather than a theocratic society.

The last perspective is Hiro. Their story is mostly told in flashbacks and doesn't at all feel necessary to the story and I really hate to say that about a fellow enby. But rest assured they do serve a huge importance.

I only liked First Sister and Saito Ren, everyone else was kind of meh. I didn't truly hate everyone and the characters were clearly defined (heavy praise there), but on a personal level I couldn't connect with them. 

World Building: 
Cool world, not enough explanation. I want to know more about the technology of the Icarii and the religion of the Geans. I want to know more about the Asters and their society (though this book sets up more). I also want to learn more about those implants, but I assume we'll learn more about this stuff later. One of my complaints is that this felt like a glimpse of the world when it should feel like more of an introduction.

It honestly was disjointed because we cycled through characters. It was always First Sister, Lito, Hiro in cycle and since their stories were so far apart, I would sometimes forget what happened on First Sister's side by the time I finished Hiro's chapter. By the time everything starts to tie together it felt a little too late. This book definitely needed to be in third person but I guess I can understand why it wasn't. This is ultimately a story about taking control and what better way to present that than first person?

Writing itself:
Solid. Nothing to ride home about, it was fun, punchy, and serviceable which is all I ask for in a fast paced science fiction novel

Final thoughts:
This was a book about taking control over one's life and body. It is empowering to see that and to see it happen to men, women, and nonbinary people, because it can happen to anyone. That in itself is such a beautiful message and why I will hold this book so close to my heart. I also love how it criticized colonialism, imperialism, the military, and how people are dehumanized by the powers that be. I think it's very relevant to the problems we have now.

But I cannot give it more than 3.5 stars. I have a lot of hope for this series and this writer. While this book was fine, it didn't wow me. There were so many cool ideas that weren't fleshed out and left me hungry for more so that's a good thing. I will definitely recommend this book for anyone hungry for queer rep because we have a whole cast of queer main characters. 

This story does have themes of rape but none of it is on screen, so all of you who say that you don't like adult fiction because A) shows graphic rape B) isn't diverse enough, this book has you covered.

Strong 3.5 Stars but I'll round down.
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I mean, when you compare a book to both The Handmaid’s Tale (one of my all-time favorite novels) and Red Rising (a sci-fi series I recommend to any sci-fi fan I meet), I immediately have to see if I can get my hands on it. Luckily I was approved for an eARC and away we go.

The comparisons to these two books are obvious from the novel’s description alone: a woman belonging to a religious sect, surgically silenced and forced to obey the whims of soldiers onboard a spacecraft (à la handmaids forced to procreate with military members in Atwood’s post-apocalyptic society) and a story involving elite trained warriors fighting in a war across familiar planets with spacecraft and highly advanced weaponry (à la Golds trained to fight and caught in an interplanetary war in Brown’s Red Rising  saga). This story has the added benefit of featuring well-rounded LGBTQ+ characters: a non heterosexual romance, as well as a non-binary main character.

To start off with, there is a LOT going on in this story. There’s a complex war happening between different planets with differing opinions: the Icarii and the Geans. There is a holy leader called the Mother, who is in charge of all of the Sisters. There is a Warlord (a bit self-explanatory there). There is a science mega-company bent on Making the World a Better Place (not suspicious at all). There are humans used to life in space who have adapted physically to different environments called Asters; they are looked down on similarly by both sides. There is corruption, betrayal, and political alliances abound.

And yet there is a strange lack of battle; we spend the one space battle scene with the First Sister, who is trying to stay away from the action happening elsewhere on the ship. We see our other narrator, Lito, fight hand-to-hand more often. Lito is part of a highly specialized, psychically linked fighting duo, and any battle scenes where the Daggers and Rapiers had to fight in tandem were well-written and tension-filled. I had hope for more epic, sprawling battles, but that is probably set up for future installments.

There were also a lot of heavy-handed messages and themes: bodily autonomy, having a voice (literal and figurative), choosing a side, etc. There were also some tropes I wish I didn’t have to see again, such as <spoiler> the curtain being pulled back on an unjust war, where a main character turns traitor to their side once they realize What’s Really Going On</spoiler>. Overall, it was an action-packed plot with so many twists, most of which I didn’t see coming. The end is a whirlwind and at times the twists felt like too much at once. But I enjoyed the character arcs and the themes from stories that I also loved so much. Very much looking forward to the second book!
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Raising some interesting questions about what it means to have no control, this book is a cannot-stop-until-the-end read.
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I'm always here for books that subvert the religious order theme, especially female-based ones. The First Sister certainly didn't disappoint in that! Nuns in space already had me interested, but reading the developing relationship between one of the Sisters and the spaceship's new captain had my heart so filled with emotions and just wanting them to be happy together forever and ever.  The secondary plot of Lito's search for his former partner, although certainly integral and important, didn't quite grab me as much as First Sister and Saito Ren's. But once the two storylines met at the climax I was wholly invested in everyone and their story. 

The worldbuilding was also really fascinating to me. There's a reason for the history, a connection between this fictional universe and our real one that made it easy to understand where the different factions came from and wanted to go (even if some revelations were harsh). The parallels between the novel and the real world were well done, particularly the animosity between the Asters and Icarii.

This is a very LGBTQ+ friendly story, which I greatly appreciated. Bisexual and non-binary people feature heavily, along with a highly intense platonic (so far?) relationship. Human connection is human connection, and even though there's one instance of what could be called discrimination, it's put down quickly. It's really refreshing to have non-heteronormative people in fiction without their sexuality or identities being used to bring them pain. So many books that feature these people, while sorely important, seem to be more about how they overcome hatred of their identities instead of letting them simply exist within the story. You would think these things wouldn't be an issue in the distant future anyway, so I was very glad to see them just be allowed to BE in The First Sister. 

There was one line towards the beginning that didn't sit right with me, however. In the book, people are able to drastically change their appearance thanks to advanced tech. Lito thinks to himself that Hiro, his non-binary partner of Japanese descent, might have been made by their military to change their skin color to black, which "[Hiro] would hate". I understand being urged to alter your appearance not to your wishes isn't a good thing, but the way that line was delivered continues to bother me.

The First Sister is ultimately a wild ride from start to end with nothing ending up the way I thought it would. I was completely shocked by the climax and desperately need the next book to help give me some closure/hope!
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I requested for this one on Netgalley on a whim because I heard it's like Red Rising meets Handmaid's Tale. The book did started off really good, and the writing in first-person present tense did grab my attention for a while. But after a quarter of the book has passed, I feel like the book loses its steam and there were too much telling instead of showing; I found it difficult to empathize with the characters. Definitely a case of not for me, but I do think that readers who wants to read a story about gender and identity should give it a try for themselves. One of the character is non-binary, the main character is a mute who uses sign language for her dialogues, and I think that's the first time I read a sci-fi like that.
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"First Sister" has been compared by the publisher to "Handmaid’s Tale," "Red Rising," and "Ancillary Justice." The last two are some of my favorite sci-fi ever published, so I could not help but request the ARC. I found similarities with “The Expanse” series, as well, especially in Belter-like Asters.

The novel is set in several hundred years in the future, when humans colonized the inner planets of the Solar System, as well as the asteroid belt (at least to a degree). Somewhere in the process, humanity splintered. Those who live on Earth and Mars call themselves the Gaens. The technologically superior Icarii conquered and colonized Mercury and Venus. Both societies are at a state of war. That's the background.

"First Sister" is a story of three protagonists, neither of which is a primary one, in my opinion. The Gaens are part military dictatorship part theocracy and in this system the First Sister is the title given to the ranking "priestess" aboard a warship. The sisters’ purpose is to provide "comfort" to soldiers, by either listening to their confessions or actual physical sexual acts (thankfully, no graphic descriptions of that). They are also incapable of speech. Their voices are quite literally taken from them.

The other two protagonists are from the other side of the conflict, the Icarii. They're both highly trained soldiers, who were once a working team. Where we pick up in the story, one of them, Hiro, is missing/on assignment. Hiro is also fluid-gendered - props for LGBTQ positivity - and they are only heard from by means of recordings they had made and smuggled to their former military partner, Lito. As a punishment for a failure he had very little responsibility for, Lito is forced to accept a mission to find Hiro and kill them, as Hiro is accused of betraying their mission and turning traitor.

The storylines of the three protagonists slowly converge, some in surprising ways. The overall plot is centered on the Icarii and Gaen conflict around a dwarf planet, Ceres, but at its core "First Sister" is about finding one's voice and choosing one's loyalty. The three protagonists of the novel lack agency over their own bodies, and in a larger sense, autonomy about their own lives - and over the course of the story they slowly take back control. 

The world of "First Sister" is chock-full of autocratic hierarchies, toxic military, human experimentation, class and minority oppression (in Asters). To be honest with you, I found it almost too eerily similar to Brown's "Red Rising" series, and I definitely take it as a detriment (down to such small details like the fluid mercurial weapons the Icarii are using - razors, anyone?). Those who found Pierce Brown's writing too brutal and bloody (truly to an awful degree), however, might find "First Sister" to be a good alternative as the depiction of the horrors is definitely not in the least degree as graphic or harrowing as the "Red Rising" series is. 

One of the main detractors for the novel is how the ongoing conflict between the Gaen and the Icarii doesn't really make sense taking into consideration the Icarii's vastly superior technology and biotech. I also found to be dissatisfied with the information given to us on the religion of the Goddess, how it came to be, how it became such a fundamental part of the Gaen society, and how it works alongside the military dictatorship. That entire aspect of the world-building needed to be fleshed out a lot more.

Other than those small complaints, I found "First Sister" an interesting read, and I am looking forward to another installment in the series.
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eARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review.

I'm a little sad to be writing this review. Up until the last 15-20% of the book, this was a 4.5 star if I were to be nitpicky, but a 5 star out of my love for the story. And then the ending happened and I'm forced to drop my rating to a 3.5.

Quickly before I begin the official review: there is mention if self harm  (never shown; and I'm still not 100% if self harm even did happen/was mentioned), rape (there was almost a rape scene, but the character involved was able to get away before much happened), and it is mentioned that the Sisters are required to perform sexual acts as part of their religion  (against their will). This is never shown in the story and mentioned be ry vaguely.

There is LGBT rep in this as well, so if you really wanna support and LGBT story/author, try this one.

I enjoyed most of the characters. They're raw, well-developed, and interesting. I loved First Sister, even though I feel like she needed a lot more page time. Lito was OK. Not my favorite of the bunch, but I enjoyed his POV. He was morally grey at times, complex, and confused. He struggled through this story, but I don't feel like he got enough development by the end of it to outweigh the amount of problems he had in ignorance and generic-ness.

I loved Ren. She was kind, harsh, and a catalyst in this story. I loved how she wanted to fix everything. I loved her tenderness with First Sister, and the growth their relationship had on both characters.

I wasn't a huge fan of Ofiera even if I thought she was well-written. She wasn't what I expected, but she was a solid character. I do think there were parts of her backstory and even things she did/said in the timeline of the book that needed to be better explained/fleshed out.

I genuinely wasn't a fan of Hiro (an irony, I know). The way they were introduced and shown made them out to be nothing more than bitter and unhappy despite multiple characters, including Hiro, assuring the reader that they actually had a good life in many parts.

I do think the secondary characters were really flat. They had very little personality and purpose other than to drive the main characters along, with the exception of Hemlock and Luce. Those were the most developed of the secondary characters.

I enjoyed the plot, even if I think the ending could have been handled much better. The execution of it wasn't great, but I liked most of the end results.  The ending dragged. There was a lot of exposition suddenly dumped at the end thatg felt unnecessary and clunky. I also wasn't a fan of two of the big reveals because it didn't feel like it added anything to the story other than drama. I wasn't expecting a happy ending from this, but I wanted it more bittersweet. And maybe darker than it was. As it was, the big climactic end of the main characters completing the goal took about 10% of the end of the book because people kept showing up to say why they acted a certain way throughout the story or why they were there or how they fit into the "Grand Plan."  It felt too trite and convenient, which doesn't help when 4/5 of your book has been dark, unpredictable, and fast-paced.

The worldbuilding could use a lot of work. It wasn't great. A lot of the Gean versus Icarii plot doesn't make sense with the Icarii's advanced weapons tech and biotech. The war should have ended already, but for some reason it's still going on. Also the religion of the Goddess needed to be fleshed out A LOT more. The book sets it up that First Sister and her life/faith will be a crucial part of the story, and it was for a time, but as soon as it became convenient for the religion and her way of life to be ignored, it was. I wanted more of that because the social inequality was fascinating. There was so much to unpack with the religion and the duties of the Sisters, and it barely gets mentioned past that you know they're some sort of nun-like figure who have to take confession, and part of their "duties" is to basically be sex slaves to anyone wherever they're stationed. It's awful and disgusting and despite First sSster hating her life and what she has to do, there's no sense that she wants to fight that regime. There's no explanation given as to why the religion exists or why the Sisters are required to be "holy" prostitutes.

A nitpicky thing: but the word "fuck" was so over used in this. It felt like the author wanted the tension to be ramped up all the time, so all the characters ever said when they were in distress was "fuck." Please find a synonym or make your own sci fi cusswords. Makes it more believable that there is tension.

And I guess that's my biggest complaint about the ending: there's no tension. I never for one moment felt like any of the characters were in danger, while throughout the whole book I had been feeling anyone could die at any moment. Where did that go in the end??

I really loved this book. I really wanted to like the ending, but I find myself with a bad taste in myself, feeling let down because it was missing what the entire rest of the book had. That being said, if I can get my hands on the sequel at some point, I'll read it. I love these characters too much to let them go yet.
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I'm glad that so many other reviewers really enjoyed this book, I can see why people would really dig it. However, it just didn't resonate with me in the way I was hoping for based on the blurb comparisons to Leckie and Atwood. Told from three POVs, this book suffered from a lot of tell, not show. The characters felt samey and unbelievable given the setting, with inconsistent internal monologues. The stilted inclusion of Spanish felt very forced, as it was immediately followed by an English translation in every instance. Who thinks to themselves in that way? The book seemed afraid to not hold our hands. Trust that people can read "te amo" without putting your book down or needing an explanation!
The world-building was interesting and fairly fleshed out, but the dialogue didn't work for me, and there was a clumsy parable vibe that I didn't enjoy. Thematically, this book sounded like it would've been a better fit for me than it was, and I'm not discounting future works by Lewis. It just didn't have the depth I was hoping for. Maybe their next novel will.
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First the cover is just so wonderful and eye catching. It does not fall to recent barrage of a model in tight clothes holding a weapon. Every character seemed real and not just exist to teach you a lesson. This book is a story about broken people trying to figure out which side they are on in a world devastated by war. This is not for the feint of heart. This book is great for those who love portions dedicated to describing the world and society of the book like Raksura Chronicles.  The story details the lack of autonomy for the three leading chracters. The female lead has literally no voice and is basically a pleasure doll for soldiers. Lito sol Lucius being forced to kill his love who is the third protagonist. Their portion is of the story is told through recordings and is the most introspective. Great read.
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