cover image Red Sister: The Ancestor, Book 1

Red Sister: The Ancestor, Book 1

Mark Lawrence. Ace, $27 (480p) ISBN 978-1-101988-85-5

Lawrence (the Broken Empire trilogy) grips readers from the opening sentence—“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size”—of this successful fantasy series launch. The prologue setting up a battle between a Martial Sister and a force of 200 men ends just before the first blow is struck. The main narrative is a lengthy flashback recounting the story of Nona Grey, a young girl who was given to a childtaker; she’s introduced moments from being hanged for attempting to kill a powerful noble who was hurting a friend of hers. Her life is spared through the intervention of Abbess Glass, who takes Nona to the Sweet Mercy Convent and puts her through rigorous training. The contours of the plot will feel familiar to genre fans—a young orphan, possessed of special gifts, receiving lessons in a cloistered community on how to realize her potential—but Lawrence makes it seem fresh through evocative prose and three-dimensional characterizations. Agent: Ian Drury, Sheil Land Associates. (Apr.)