Want to hear an opening that will pique your curiosity and grab you by your giggly bits?
"IT IS IMPORTANT, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size."
Want to hear more?
"NO child truly believes they will be hanged. Even on the gallows platform with the rope scratching at their wrists and the shadow of the noose upon their face they know that someone will step forward, a mother, a father returned from some long absence, a king dispensing justice . . . someone..."
In this third person narrative, we have a demonized outcast protagonist (called a few things but best known to all as Nona)is not only young (only 8 years old when she is rescued from the threat of swinging from the gallows for her "murderous" crimes)but is unnaturally agile and displays a very distinctive set of skills to boot. Nona is to be raised and educated as a nun in service to the Church of the Ancestor, a church of assasin nuns that take in and train special young girls. The beginning and ending of this book are high octane awesomeness!! I have read other reviews that say the middle feels like a boring snooze-fest. I, for one, really liked the super specialized break-neck training, catty classmates, coming of age and into one's powers, extreme loyalty and inevitable betrayl of (first) friendships and all the melodrama that accompanies. I found them all to be interesting vital-to-the-plot reading goodness. The writing is sublime. The World building, Magic System and Character Development are incredibly complex and perfectly executed (no pun intended). The plot twists were built to a steady creceiendo, crafted and brilliantly divulged. There were sad deaths, sweet deaths, physical/mental capability twists and maulings galore. Though at the core there is Hope, Friendship, Sisterhood and Belonging wrapped up with a gorey bow of violence. Among all of this there are jewels, nuggets of truth and wisdom and beauty:
"be warned, young Nona: a book is as
dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat books with respect.”
I must I must reiterate, Red Sister is undeniably violent, extremely stabby with a touch of unapologetic comfort zone crushing. There is violence towards (and the killing of) young children as well as extreme brutality and murder of a helpless animal... BUT... if you can find a way to partition and store that in a portion of your brain labeled "Absolutely Unacceptable, Deplorable Actions that Are Only Tolerated in Fictional Settings", you'll LOVE the rest...I pinky promise.
"Violence is the language of destruction, flesh so often the subject, fragile, easy to break beyond repair, precious; what else would we burn to make the world take note? Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour; it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded; it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: Meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch."
There is much highlighting in my copy. The story is gripping and the writing, poignant. There are paragraphs of situations that are detestable. There are prose to ensnare and even words to live by:
"The trip from could to should is short and allows little time for reflection."
Reflect on that!!
It also has an excellent quote to wrap up this rambling review:
“Every star, turning in the black depth of heaven, burns for no better reason than that humanity raised its face to look. Every great deed needs to be witnessed. Go out there and do something great.”
Go ahead, do something great! Be the force for good in the world...that and come back and join me for book #2!