Overview (No Spoilers):
I broke one of my longest standing review rules not once, but twice while reading The Book of the Ancestor, which should stand as reference with how much I thoroughly enjoyed this series. I make a concerted effort to not proceed reading the next book in a series until the previous review has been completed for two reasons. First, this process keeps me from getting too terribly behind, but most importantly I want to make sure that the novel is able to stand on its own. In this instance, I not only completed Holy Sister, but compounded the issue by finishing The Girl and The Moon, which is from a different trilogy but overlaps this literary world. That said, I’ll make my best effort to keep the other books from bleeding into this review, while doing Grey Sister justice, though safe to say the following review will be a glowing one. Having now read twelve books by Lawrence, each novel gets better and better, with this rigid literary world where the ice threatens from both north and south being easily my favorite. [Note: I purposely didn’t clarify which trilogy in Abeth].
Grey Sister picks back up with Nona joining the Grey class, two years after the high intensity, emotional combat sequence that concluded Red Sister. It takes a while to fill in the gaps, especially as we discover Nona has acquired an unexpected passenger following her battle with Raymel Tacsis. This new character becomes one of my favorite voices, drawing parallels to Nightblood in Stormlight Archive, though Keot has his own unique style of advice for Nona. Even better, wait for the revelations in The Girl and the Moon. Oh, ignore that. There I go drawing from future reviews.
There are many familiar characters in Grey Sister from Ara, Zole, Darla, and the rest of Nona’s friends, to the Sisters Kettle, Apple, Glass, and Wheel to name a few. Adding to the cast is a new antagonist, the wealthy and politically connected Joeli. She constantly antagonizes Nona and is powerful enough to be a real danger. As was established with the Hessa’s death in Red Sister, no character is safe, with heartbreaking deaths threatening in numerous dangerous situations throughout Grey Sister.
A change from Red Sister are the two new perspectives, Abbess Glass and Sister Kettle’s that we are treated to. While I positively adore Nona, I loved getting a glimpse into how Glass operates and how far flung her schemes are cast. Learning more about her backstory also added significant depth and understanding as to how important she is to the convent, Corridor, and the story as a whole.
The beginning of Grey Sister continues on pace with Red Sister, with Nona getting caught up into the daily grind and distractions of school, interrupted occasionally by outside forces. In quintessential Lawrence, just as the story starts to feel predictable, an unexpected plot twist utterly changes the course of the story and Nona’s immediate priorities, much to the delight of the reader. Over a few hours, Nona went from dealing with the drudgery of school politics to fleeing for her life, exponentially expanding the literary world in the process. Lawrence packs in so much detail throughout Grey Sister that I promptly forgot I was reading a book, instead relaxing into the story, which is one of my absolute favorite states of reading to be in.
Grey Sister spends significant effort with Nona deciding on the type of person she wants to be from a moral and ethical standpoint, with her emotions and past shaping her reactions to every situation she finds herself in. Based on this inner conflict, revenge against Yisht for Hessa’s death looms large and is a subject revisited frequently. These feelings are amplified with the new characters mentioned above, who really make her question her foundational beliefs, especially as she has become such an effective and deadly weapon.
Nona is also challenged from a physical standpoint in Shade Trials, which have an added complication due to her lack of shadow. The Shade Trial is a brilliantly choreographed sequence and might be my favorite of the series as Nona employs her friends to help in what seems to be an impossible task. I was actively giggling at Joeli’s mounting distress and panic.
Overall, Grey Sister is an action-packed whirlwind filled with kickass, magically gifted women, ancient technology, and an ending that will leave the reader reeling from revelations, loss, and a renewed sense of verification regarding the depth of friendship.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- What will Sherzal do now that she has lost her deal with the Scithrowl?
- Will Nona and everyone she saved be able to escape?
- Poor, poor Darla!
- What else is Zole hiding?
- I loved that we visited the Tetragode! The Noi-Guin will be even more after Nona.
- It would be so easy to hate Clera but she keeps coming through for Nona. WIll she be able to hide her involvement?
- Where did Keot go? What is his history?
- Will Lord Tacsis escape his own torture device?