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Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
Book Name: Holy Sister
Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher(s): Ace (US) HarperVoyager (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: April 9, 2019 (US) April 4, 2019 (UK)

Mark Lawrence has done it! Not only did he provide a complete trilogy with unforgettable characters, a (low) fantasy world that is similar to ours, and a school that rivals Hogwarts, but also gives it an ending that leaves his readers satisfied. Holy Sister, the third Book of the Ancestor, wraps up everything in this trilogy: Nona Grey’s education, the “Chosen One” prophecy, Sherzal’s plans, the war, the shiphearts, the black ice, etc. Whatever was mentioned as early as the first pages in Red Sister gets called back in Holy Sister.

Nona Grey is now about nineteen-years-old and is a novice in Holy Class. She is preparing for both her examinations to become a nun, and for the armies to arrive near the Convent of Sweet Mercy. Readers have witnessed Nona’s growth and maturation from a child sold, to a woman with the power to end a war. But, before Nona fights the invading armies, she needs to follow through on promises made to her friends and her teachers and to learn more about the shiphearts. In order to complete these tasks, Nona will have to rely on her abilities and her friends. In addition, Nona’s nemeses are taking advantage of the war in order to achieve their ambitions—again—and, Nona is the novice who can put an end to these plans once and for all. 

Nona’s greatest strength is her trust in her friends and her allies. Ara, Ruli, Jula, Clera, Markus and Regol are there for Nona inside and outside the Convent. Sisters Kettle, Apple, Tallow, Wheel and Pan prepare the Holy Class novices—including Nona—for ordination and for war. However, Nona receives the most guidance from Abbess Glass and Zole. Abbess Glass continues to influence everyone at Sweet Mercy with her wisdom and her ability to play the game for control and power for the long run, and for the endgame. Abbess Glass knows who she can rely on to accomplish her goals for stability within Abeth. Zole—the “Argatha,” “the Chosen One,” and Sherzal’s ward—leads Nona on a journey through the black ice. During this journey, Nona learns about the ice-tribes’ lifestyle and about the shiphearts and their power. Everything about Zole—her goals, her powers, her beliefs—are revealed to Nona (and the readers). Similar to Abbess Glass, Zole knows more than she presents to others, and she does everything in her power to achieve stability. Both Abbess Glass and Zole influence and inspire Nona to make the choices she must in order to end the war.

Holy Sister stands out from other series for two reasons. One, Lawrence’s ability to give all of his characters an appropriate and a believable ending so that there are no loose ends. Two, is how the author continues with call backs to the previous books and Easter Eggs to what else is happening within the story (i.e. Nona’s growth spurt). The power of the shiphearts is another factor that makes this story standout. Nona (and readers) had an idea that anyone who held one of the shiphearts must be able to maintain its power or succumb to madness. Yet, the revelation of the power of all four shiphearts confirms what everyone suspected, the Ark can be opened. Not all fantasy stories move in the direction of getting the “key” and opening the “box,” but Lawrence does, and it works within the narrative.

What I enjoyed the most in Holy Sister were how the two narratives—the events that occur immediately after the end of Grey Sister and the events leading up to the battle outside the Emperor’s Palace—converge into one narrative and one plot. At first, readers will wonder whether or not the two narratives are related; however, similar to Abbess Glass’ plans and intentions, Lawrence knows how he wants to tell Nona’s story. Readers have no choice but to continue reading and hoping that everything will come together as it should. And, in this case, the author achieves this and much more. All of the pieces arrange themselves into the story that is Nona’s education and growth into a fierce warrior with the struggle of gaining and wielding control over others for a desired utopia. This novel reminds readers that one thing is easy to achieve while the other leads to numerous conflicts. This is the reality hidden within the fantasy.

The story Lawrence presents here is the short term versus the long run. In Holy Sister, the prophecy of the “Chosen One” is fulfilled (with its own twist within the interpretation) and war arrives—and ends—in Abeth. At the same time, the schemes and the ambitions of several characters, ones that started during Red Sister, continue to play out during the war. While this is disturbing for obvious reasons, it demonstrates the choices people make because of war. Looking back throughout the trilogy, several characters made choices as a result of the then upcoming war. Some tried to prevent it, some did everything in their power to be on the winning side, and some used the war as a way to fulfill their own ambitions. This occurs a lot both in fiction, and in real life. The catch here is wars and prophecies focus on one event, while the long run goes beyond those events. All of these characters wanted power which would last in the long run, but most of them didn’t consider that they could lose along the way. The choices made were not always for the good of everyone, and power (and luck) determines the victor in most wars. Yet, people die in war and wars end eventually. The characters who considered the long run and survived the war, get the opportunity to see those ambitions fulfilled. Those who did NOT plan for the long run saw their ambitions die with them.

Holy Sister is the conclusion to the Book of the Ancestor trilogy. And yet, the way this story was presented will have readers believing that Nona’s story is as real as someone in our world. Lawrence’s approach in tying everything together and addressing forgotten moments in Nona’s life provides an ending that is satisfying. If readers were concerned that Holy Sister would have an ambiguous ending, then they have nothing to worry about because all of the characters are given a believable resolution by the author.

Holy Sister is an amazing ending to this wonderful trilogy. The action is built up by Lawrence through his characters leaves readers with a conclusion that is audacious and poignant. The pacing and the worldbuilding provide answers to the questions the characters and the readers had throughout the trilogy. This novel demonstrates the excellence of this series and it should NOT be missed.


One Comment

  1. Avatar Yora says:

    How many books does Mark Lawrence write per year? There seems to be a new one every other month.

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