Welcome to 2018. I’ve been busy travelling, plotting out my next project, doing yoga, beta reading for my writers group and getting ready to edit my Nanowrimo 2016 manuscript.
There were many great books I read in 2017, including some of the ones on my list of books I was looking forward to but my favourite book of 2017 was the one I read twice and would definitely read again – Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.
I loved the concept of this book the moment I saw people tweeting about it and I actually pre-ordered it which is a rare thing for me.
What If: A young girl murders multiple people but is saved from punishment by an order of nuns.
The world of Red Sister is rich and complex but it never falls into the trap of over-explaining its world and rules like many fantasy works. It uses Nona, the child viewpoint character to explain concepts but only ones that the character would naturally ask about. There are also many subtle things that Nona doesn’t understand but come to light later in the story which makes t great on the second read as you notice how much subtlety and nuance has gone into the world building, characterisations and plotting.
Many of the characters are children or young adults and as it is set in a nunnery, there are few male characters in the book which feels refreshing after reading so many fantasy books with all male or mostly male casts.
Nona is the main character, broken by the rejection of her mother and the village she grew up in. This causes her to have extreme perceptions of friendship and enemies which drives a lot of the plot. She has also learned early in life not to trust adults which causes complications at times but also saves her skin on multiple occasions.
There are many other characters that spread across the story and at times I struggled to remember who was who in Nona’s class, who was part of the fighting ring and which nun was which. It is slightly better on the second reading and comes across as realistic as many of the small characters piece Nona into what she becomes.
I highly recommend this book as an example of writing complex female characters, writing complex worlds without overwhelming the reader with details and using viewpoint to pace the story.