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Grey Sister (published by Ace) continues the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, and it didn’t disappoint. Some side-characters we enjoyed in Red Sister, are now developed even further. As always, Mark’s prose is still beautiful, and the tone of voice in the story is consistent with Nona’s changing age. Grey Sister continues as being an action, coming-of-age fantasy story, perfect for YA and adult readers. It’s around 416 pages filled with great twists, multiple viewpoints, violence, friendship, and political intrigue. Mark used to be a scientist, and this background can often be seen in his world-building. He also has a regularly updated blog, and hosts the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO) each year!
Note: there will be some spoilers as to how Red Sister ended, so go ahead to read that first before reading this review on Grey Sister!
After the events of Red Sister, Nona is now in Mystic Class, one higher than Grey. While she’s studying and learning the secrets of the universe, she’s still in danger from a thwarted assassin and a would-be empress. Nona doesn’t have to do it alone: she’s got a new companion, Keot. He’s always with her, even when she doesn’t want him to be. Will she find her way and survive her enemies?
“Never be so focused on picking a lock that you forget kicking down the door is also an option.”
It’s again a brilliant story, with a good pace. There were many fantastic action scenes, and some great twists I did not see coming. In Grey Sister, we get more than one viewpoint. Nona now has a bond with Kettle, and sometimes sees through her eyes. It’s compelling to see more of the world through Kettle’s eyes. We also get Abbess Glass, who is on her journey to gain more political influence. That’s a whole different world altogether. Somehow, Mark manages to tie all of these separate threads together in the end masterfully.
Nona is now 15 years old, and I’d say she’s grown in her complexity of thought, making her all the more real as a character. Still, she’s the Nona we’ve come to love, fiercely loyal and quick to anger. A new addition is Keot, but I won’t say too much about him (that would spoil it). I liked him: he’s always looking for a fight, for more violence, more blood. He will take no shit from anyone; he’ll make them pay.
“I am Nona Grey and if you come against me I will make a ruin of your life”
By getting a view in Abbess Glass thoughts, we get to see how truly cunning she is. She’s brilliant. If anyone could teach you the importance of patience and seeing the long game, it’s her. Not only that, but she also shows how every action influences the next, no matter how small it starts. Kettle has also really grown on me: she may be a teacher, but she’s also a good friend to Nona. Let’s also not forget Zole, that ice-cold bad-ass woman. There are just so many great characters in here; I could just go on for a while longer. But I won’t: some things you need to experience for yourself, eh?
In Grey Sister, we get to see more of the world of Abeth, which was pretty exciting. We gain more insight into its history, politics, and religion. The ice tribes are also intriguing, and I can’t wait to learn even more about them. The addition of the closing in of the ice due to the ever-growing cold and the tension it creates is a perfect addition to the story.
“Spend too long watching the long game and the short game will kill you.”
As always, I can’t fault Mark’s writing. He has a way with words that will continue to amaze me. Next to beautiful prose, he also writes a suspenseful story, with twists and turns, filled with emotion. The ending is especially gut-wrenching.
To sum up this review, Grey Sister is a fantastic sequel to Red Sister. It has everything that’s needed in a good story: great characters and writing, an imaginative and believable world, filled with subtle details, and a story that keeps your attention. If you ever read any of Mark’s books, you should read the Book of the Ancestor trilogy: it is a true masterwork. Especially if you love a good coming-of-age fantasy story that isn’t riddled with cliché’s, executed well, and with a dark edge to it.
Have you read Grey Sister? What were your thoughts on the book? And on the trilogy as a whole? Let me know in the comments!