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Book Review

Book Cover

Holy Sister (Hardback)


Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher: Harper Voyager
241 pages
RRP: £16.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 815239 0
Publication Date: 04 April 2019

War has come to the corridor, as the survivors vie for land and power before the coming of the final ice age. Nona Grey, no longer the naive novice, faces life as a full sister at the height of her power, a power which she will use to save both her friends and her planet.

Holy Sister (2019. 241 pages) is the third and final book in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, which began with Red Sister and Grey Sister. The novel was written by Mark Lawrence.

Lawrence is an extraordinary writer from his Broken Empire trilogy to his Red Queen's War trilogy; he never fails to produce interesting plots with compelling characters. His mix of fantasy with science fiction straddles genres seamlessly, enhancing both elements.

The world that Lawrence has created is rich and the plot complex, thankfully he has provided a quick catch-up section to refresh past readers and to give context for those foolish enough to start at the end of a trilogy. Even so, initially, I found his structural choices odd.

The corridor exists on a planet where an orbiting moon blasts away the encroaching ice. The society is a mix of science and magic, well, magic only in the sense that the abilities exhibited have taken on a mystic tone. A more scientific mind may consider them telekinesis and telepathy.

Greatly prized are the Ship Hearts, balls which exert an influence on sensitive humans, if indeed they are human. Lawrence plays much of this information close to his chest. You can work out that at some point in the past, the planet was colonised by an advanced race of humanoids, which had tremendous power. They controlled the planet via an orbiting facility, which looks very much like a moon. Too much time has passed and much knowledge lost and the ancestors are now spoken of in mythic terms.

Nona and her friends are not so sure. Beneath the palace is the Ark, possibly the means of controlling the moon, but in order to access this information Nona and her friends are going to have to steal a number of items and forbidden books. Not an easy task, as they are under the constant watch of the nuns and another novice who they are convinced is a spy.

And this is where the odd structure comes in. That part of the story is linear, but then so is the other half, which is set three years prior to the current events. I could not, at first, understand why the story of Nona flight with the ship heart was being interspersed as with fairly short chapters you were constantly switching between time zones.

As Clara Oswald would say, "you clever boy", what looks like an odd structural choice becomes integral to his ability to pull the rug from under the readers feet, both clarifying and changing everything you thought you knew about the story. It’s wonderful to see a writer with that level of skill, that the ending will be a genuine surprise.


Charles Packer

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