All too often, fantasy worlds seem to be populated entirely by men. Though Mark Lawrence is a male author, he’s set out to create something different, his universe populated almost entirely by women, with most men being supplementary characters at best.
I adored Red Sister, the first in the series, and I was anxious to see if Grey Sister could hold up to the world he’d created, that intriguing mix of fantasy with just a hint of science fiction. I’m pleased to say that Grey Sister more than holds up, and unusually for a ‘middle’ book in a series, is actually better than the first. This isn’t merely a book to fill the gap- this is a novel that stands on its own merit, further building the world and developing the character of Nona Grey, while also pushing the story towards the next eagerly awaited chapter.
Nona continues to be an intriguing character, a girl who comes from nothing and discovers the powers deep within herself. What I like best about her as a protagonist is, perhaps, that Nona is not the Chosen One- that honor lies with another character. Though powerful in her own right, Nona sidesteps having that ultimate responsibility, and is somehow all the more intriguing for it. She is riddled with flaws, yet immensely likable, someone hard-edged but always learning and always working towards the future she wants.
The world is spiked with violence, but it’s violence shaped by women, defined by them. There are powerful men within, but they’re not the core of the story. Lawrence focuses instead almost wholly on the feminine powers that be, and the novel is all the stronger for it.
My only critique, and the only thing holding me back from a full five stars, is the hint of a romance towards the end that felt shoe-horned in, almost unnecessary to the story of Nona and the other Sisters as a whole. I’m sure it’s something that will be expanded upon within the next book, but I almost wish it wasn’t there. Alas, beggars can’t be choosers, and honestly I can’t say enough good things about this book.
Thanks to First To Read for the book!