The last few books I’ve read by Lawrence have been pretty straight forward as far as the prose, a few nice passages, some quotable stuff, but not really “purple prose”. This book had much more of that, and had a pretty different tone to it compared to Broken Empire and Red Queens War.
Like his other books, this is a single POV and it follows a girl named Nona who’s about 9 years old and has been rescued from the gallows by a nun and is being sheltered by a covent. Nona defended her friend from an asshole who was going to kill her, and so she slit his throat and ended up in prison along with her friend Saida. Abbess Glass takes her from the hangmen illegally and it sets up for conflict later in the books when the lawmen come looking for Nona.
Unlike the nuns we know, these nuns are kind of like assassins/ninjas/warriors, and most of the book is concentrated on Nonas training. I’ve heard the comparison that this is a grown up version of Harry Potter, and it is *kind of*, if you just mean that there’s young people learning how to hone their skills with the aid of elders, that’s basically where the comparison ends.
So, as you may or may not know, the setting in this book is not the Broken Empire/Red Queens war world, it’s totally different and I reallly loved the way it was described. It’s almost like a dying Earth setting, their sun is dying (and I think it’s fascinating they know that), and the polar caps are reaching in towards the middle of the world with each generation experiencing colder and colder temperatures. There’s a hint that this could be *sort of* like The Broken Empires twist in that there’s ancient knowledge and tech lost to the people of this world, but this world seems to be more in touch with the fact they’ve lost part of their world under the ever creeping ice.
In this world humanity has 4 major “tribes” with each tribe having unique physical characteristics and abilities attributed to them.
* **Gerant** are larger than most people, there’s a hint they can get over 8 ft tall.
* **Hunksa** are faster than most people, dark haired and dark eyed
* **Marjal** can “tap into lesser magics”
* **Quantal** can “walk the Path and work greater magics”
People in this world are valued if they show signs of having pure blood or close to pure blood of any of these tribes because they can be invaluable fighters and warriors. Since the nuns are fighters and not just worshipers of the Ancestor, many of the girls know much more than the general public about these four tribes, and know more or less which tribe they come from – Nona thinks she’s Hunksa since she’s exceptionally quick. We have only gotten a small glimpse into the ultimate powers and magics of this world, it’s enough to get you interested but I have a feeling much more is to come in the next book. It’s also complex and sort of mysterious, it’s not a hard magic system like Brandon Sanderson likes to use.
The only regret I have as far as world building is *I wish there was a map*, I use maps as references for all my books whenever the characters travel from one place to another, or a city is mentioned, or I just want to look at a pretty map. Esme loves maps.
There are a bunch of characters in this book, but thankfully there is a glossary – and hey! It’s in the front! Since glossaries aren’t as widely used as I’d like, sometimes I forget to look for one and I don’t realize there is a glossary until it’s all done and I’m like “well shit, could have used that”. I like the glossary in the front approach to this book. Mark also uses a summary in the beginning of sequels in his series which is so much better than having characters awkwardly retelling important aspects of previous books in a series. More of this please!
Single POV’s can be hit and miss for me, if I really love the character it’s all well and good, and I can love them for different reasons, they dont’ necessarily have to be totally relatable or likeable, but there has to be some hook that gets me on their side or want to know more about them. Jalan was funny even though he was an ass, and he was kind to animals which is almost a cheat for me to get me to like them – I’m a huge softy for animals so if the character shares that it’s an instant way to make me like them. This is also why I didn’t click so much with Broken Empire, I couldn’t get past Jorgs…. Jorgness. Nona I think is the easiest character for me to get behind, she’s a badass and rather brutal, but she’s not a psycho or an asshole. She’s easily the most relatable character Mark has written (well for me anyway) and it made getting into this story much easier for me than other books of his.
The ending was the best part of this book, I was debating whether I would give this book a 4 or a 5 because I felt like it was right in between these two up until the end. I’m a sucker for an awesome ending to a book and this one didn’t disappoint so 5 stars it is!
If you’re a fan of Mark Lawrence and you want to read this book, be prepared for something *different*, very good but it’s not written the way the others have been, it’s not as grim dark and brutal as Broken Empire, but it’s not the “funny” and off beat tone of Red Queens War either. It’s it’s own thing and honestly I love that, it shows an author has more than one trick up their sleeve. If you haven’t read anything by Mark Lawrence you can start here! It’s not related at all to the other books and many people say this is their favorite book of his that he’s written so why not start off with a bang?
For people who enjoy:
* coming of age story/younger but not annoying protagonist. Thank god there’s no angst here.
* Mysterious magic over structured magic system
* Single POV/more intimate story telling
* Magic schools/training