Red Sister by Mark LawrenceRed Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister

byMark Lawrence

Mass Market Paperback | February 27, 2018

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The international bestselling author of the Broken Empire and the Red Queen’s War trilogies begins a stunning epic fantasy series about a secretive order of holy warriors...
 
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.
 
A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies. 
 
Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona’s secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself.
 
Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way.
Mark Lawrence is a research scientist working on artificial intelligence. He is a dual national with both British and American citizenship, and has held secret-level clearance with both governments. At one point, he was qualified to say, “This isn’t rocket science—oh wait, it actually is.” He is the author of the Broken Empire trilogy ...
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Title:Red SisterFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:496 pages, 6.75 × 4.19 × 1 inPublished:February 27, 2018Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1101988878

ISBN - 13:9781101988879

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mark Lawrence is a Fantastic Writer! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! I can't wait to start the grey sister!
Date published: 2018-06-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Okay I can see the appeal but just wasn't for me. This is high fantasy but I just wasn't in the mood for it
Date published: 2018-03-12

Read from the Book

1 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. Few children have lived long enough to understand the world into which they were born. Perhaps few adults have either, but they at least have learned some bitter lessons. Saida climbed the scaffold steps as she had climbed the wooden rungs to the Caltess attic so many times. They all slept there together, the youngest workers, bedding down among the sacks and dust and spiders. They would all climb those rungs tonight and whisper about her in the darkness. Tomorrow night the whispers would be spent and a new boy or girl would fill the empty space she left beneath the eaves. "I didn't do anything." Saida said it without hope, her tears dry now. The wind sliced cold from the west, a Corridor wind, and the sun burned red, filling half the sky yet offering little heat. Her last day? The guard prodded her on, indifferent rather than unkind. She looked back at him, tall, old, flesh tight as if the wind had worn it down to the bone. Another step, the noose dangling, dark against the sun. The prison yard lay near-deserted, a handful watching from the black shadows where the outer wall offered shelter, old women, grey hair trailing. Saida wondered what drew them. Perhaps being so old they worried about dying and wanted to see how it was done. "I didn't do it. It was Nona. She even said so." She had spoken the words so many times that meaning had leached away leaving them just pale noise. But it was true. All of it. Even Nona said so. The hangman offered Saida the thinnest of smiles and bent to check the rope confining her wrists. It itched and it was too tight, her arm hurt where Raymel had cracked it, but Saida said nothing, only scanned the yard, the doors to the cell blocks, the outer buildings, even the great gates to the world outside. Someone would come. A door clanged open from the Pivot, a squat tower where the warden was said to live in luxury to rival any lord's. A guardsman emerged, squinting against the sun. Just a guardsman: the hope, that had leapt so easily in Saida's breast, crashed once more. Stepping from behind the guardsman a smaller, wider figure. Saida looked again, hoping again. A woman in the long habit of a nun came walking into the yard. Only the staff in her hand, its end curled and golden, marked her office. The hangman glanced across, his narrow smile replaced by a broad frown. "The abbess . . ." "I ain't seen her down here before." The old guardsman tightened his fingers on Saida's shoulder. Saida opened her mouth but found it too dry for her thoughts. The abbess had come for her. Come to take her to the Ancestor's convent. Come to give her a new name and a new place. Saida wasn't even surprised. She had never truly thought she would be hanged. 2 The stench of a prison is an honest one. The guards' euphemisms, the public smile of the chief warden, even the building's faade, may lie and lie again, but the stink is the unvarnished truth: sewage and rot, infection and despair. Even so, Harriton prison smelled sweeter than many. A hanging prison like Harriton doesn't give its inmates the chance to rot. A brief stay, a long drop on a short rope, and they could feed the worms at their leisure in a convict ditch-grave up at the paupers' cemetery in Winscon. The smell bothered Argus when he first joined the guard. They say that after a while your mind steps around any smell without noticing. It's true, but it's also true of pretty much every other bad thing in life. After ten years Argus's mind stepped around the business of stretching people's necks just as easily as it had acclimatized to Harriton's stink. "When you leaving?" Dava's obsession with everyone else's schedule used to annoy Argus, but now he just answered without thought or memory. "Seventh bell." "Seventh!" The little woman rattled out her usual outrage at the inequities of the work rota. They ambled towards the main holding block, the private scaffold at their back. Behind them Jame Lender dangled out of sight beneath the trapdoor, still twitching. Jame was the graveman's problem now. Old Man Herber would be along soon enough with his cart and donkey for the day's take. The short distance to Winscon Hill might prove a long trip for Old Herber, his five passengers, and the donkey, near as geriatric as its master. The fact that Jame had no meat on him to speak of would lighten the load. That, and the fact two of the other four were small girls. Herber would wind his way through the Cutter Streets and up to the Academy first, selling off whatever body parts might have a value today. What he added to the grave-ditch up on the Hill would likely be much diminished-a collection of wet ruins if the day's business had been good. ". . . sixth bell yesterday, fifth the day before." Dava paused the rant that had sustained her for years, an enduring sense of injustice that gave her the backbone to handle condemned men twice her size. "Who's that?" A tall figure was knocking at the door to the new arrivals' block with a heavy cane. "Fellow from the Caltess? You know." Dava snapped her fingers before her face as if trying to surprise the answer out. "Runs fighters." "Partnis Reeve!" Argus called the name as he remembered it and the big man turned. "Been a while." Partnis visited the day-gaol often enough to get his fighters out of trouble. You don't run a stable of angry and violent men without them breaking a few faces off the payroll from time to time, but generally they didn't end up at Harriton. Professional fighters usually keep a calm enough head to stop short of killing during their bar fights. It's the amateurs who lose their minds and keep stamping on a fallen opponent until there's nothing left but mush. "My friend!" Partnis turned with arms wide, a broad smile, and no attempt at Argus's name. "I'm here for my girl." "Your girl?" Argus frowned. "Didn't know you were a family man." "Indentured. A worker." Partnis waved the matter aside. "Open the door, will you, good fellow. She's down to drop today and I'm late enough as it is." He frowned, as if remembering some sequence of irritating delays. Argus lifted the key from his pocket, a heavy piece of ironwork. "Probably missed her already, Partnis. Sun's a-setting. Old Herber and his cart will be creaking down the alleys, ready for his take." "Both of them creaking, eh? Herber and his cart," Dava put in. Always quick with a joke, never funny. "I sent a runner," Partnis said, "with instructions that the Caltess girls shouldn't be dropped before-" "Instructions?" Argus paused, key in the lock. "Suggestions, then. Suggestions wrapped around a silver coin." "Ah." Argus turned the key and led him inside. He took his visitor by the quickest route, through the guard station, along the short corridor where the day's arrivals watched from the narrow windows in their cell doors, and out into the courtyard where the public scaffold sat below the warden's window. The main gates had already opened, ready to admit the graveman's cart. A small figure waited close to the scaffold steps, a single guardsman beside her, John Fallon by the look of it. "Just in time!" Argus said. "Good." Partnis started forward, then faltered. "Isn't that . . ." he trailed off, lips curling into a snarl of frustration. Following the tall man's gaze, Argus spotted the source of his distress. The Abbess of Sweet Mercy came striding through the small crowd of onlookers before the warden's steps. At this distance she could be anyone's mother, a shortish, plumpish figure swathed in black cloth, but her crozier announced her. "Dear heavens, that awful old witch has come to steal from me yet again." Partnis both lengthened and quickened his stride, forcing Argus into an undignified jog to keep pace. Dava, on the man's other side, had to run. Despite Partnis's haste, he beat the abbess to the girl by only a fraction. "Where's the other one?" He looked around as if the guardsman might be hiding another prisoner behind him. "Other what?" John Fallon's gaze flickered past Partnis to the advancing nun, her habit swirling as she marched. "Girl! There were two. I gave orders to- I sent a request that they be held back." "Over with the dropped." Fallon tilted his head towards a mound beside the main gates, several feet high. Stones pinned a stained grey sheet across the heap. The graveman's cart came into view as they watched. "Damnation!" The word burst from Partnis loud enough to turn heads all across the yard. He raised both hands, fingers spread, then trembling with effort, lowered them to his sides. "I wanted them both." "Have to argue with the graveman over the big one," Fallon observed. "This'un"-he reached for the girl at his side-"you'll have to argue with me over. Then those two." He nodded at Dava and Argus. "Then the warden." "There'll be no arguing." The abbess stepped between Fallon and Partnis, dwarfed by both, her crozier reaching up to break their eye contact. "I shall be taking the child." "No you won't!" Partnis looked down at her, brow furrowed. "All due respect to the Ancestor and all that, but she's mine, bought and paid for." He glanced back at the gates where Herber had now halted his cart beside the covered mound. "Besides . . . how do you know she's the one you want?" The abbess snorted and favoured Partnis with a motherly smile. "Of course she is. You can tell by looking at her, Partnis Reeve. This child has the fire in her eyes." She frowned. "I saw the other. Scared. Lost. She should never have been here." "Saida's back in the cells . . ." the girl said. "They told me I would go first." Argus peered at the child. A small thing in shapeless linen-not street rags, covered in rusty stains, but a serf's wear none the less. She might be nine. Argus had lost the knack for telling. His older two were long grown, and little Sali would always be five. This girl was a fierce creature, a scowl on her thin, dirty face. Eyes black below a short shock of ebony hair. "Might have been the other," Partnis said. "She was the big one." He lacked conviction. A fight-master knows the fire when he sees it. "Where's Saida?" the girl asked. The abbess's eyes widened a fraction. It almost looked like hurt. Gone, quicker than the shadow of a bird's wing. Argus decided he imagined it. The Abbess of Sweet Mercy was called many things, few of them to her face, and "soft" wasn't one of them. "Where's my friend?" the girl repeated. "Is that why you stayed?" the abbess asked. She pulled a hoare-apple from her habit, so dark a red it could almost be black, a bitter and woody thing. A mule might eat one-few men would. "Stayed?" Dava asked, though the question hadn't been pointed her way. "She stayed 'cos this is a bloody prison and she's tied and under guard!" "Did you stay to help your friend?" The girl didn't answer, only glared up at the woman as if at any moment she might leap upon her. "Catch." The abbess tossed the apple towards the girl. Quick as quick a small hand intercepted it. Apple smacking into palm. Behind the girl a length of rope dropped to the ground. "Catch." The abbess had another apple in hand and threw it, hard. The girl caught it in her other hand. "Catch." Quite where the abbess had hidden her fruit supply Argus couldn't tell, but he stopped caring a heartbeat later, staring at the third apple, trapped between two hands, each full of the previous two. "Catch." The abbess tossed yet another hoare-apple, but the girl dropped her three and let the fourth sail over her shoulder. "Where's Saida?" "You come with me, Nona Grey," the abbess said, her expression kindly. "We will discuss Saida at the convent." "I'm keeping her." Partnis stepped towards the girl. "A treasured daughter! Besides, she damn near killed Raymel Tacsis. The family will never let her go free. But if I can show she has value they might let me put her into a few fights first." "Raymel's dead. I killed him. I-" "Treasured? I'm surprised you let her go, Mr. Reeve," the abbess cut across the girl's protests. "I wouldn't have if I'd been there!" Partnis clenched his hand as if trying to recapture the opportunity. "I was halfway across the city when I heard. Got back to find the place in chaos . . . blood everywhere . . . Tacsis men waiting . . . If the city guard hadn't hauled her up here she'd be in Thuran's private dungeon by now. He's not a man to lose a son and sit idle." "Which is why you will give her to me." The abbess's smile reminded Argus of his mother's. The one she'd use when she was right and they both knew it. "Your pockets aren't deep enough to get young Nona out of here should the Tacsis boy die, and if you did obtain her release neither you nor your establishment are sufficiently robust to withstand Thuran Tacsis's demands for retribution." The girl tried to interrupt. "How do you know my name? I didn't-" "Whereas I have been friends with Warden James longer than you have been alive, Mr. Reeve." The abbess cut across the girl again. "And no sane man would mount an attack on a convent of the faith." "You shouldn't take her for a Red Sister." Partnis had that sullen tone men get when they know they've lost. "It's not right. She's got no Ancestor faith . . . and she's all but a murderer. Vicious, it was, the way they tell it . . ." "Faith I can give her. What she's got already is what the Red Sisters need." The abbess reached out a plump hand towards the girl. "Come, Nona." Nona glanced up at John Fallon, at Partnis Reeve, at the hangman and the noose swaying beside him. "Saida is my friend. If you've hurt her I'll kill you all."

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Red Sister"Fabulous, in-depth world building, great characters, and as always with Lawrence, plotting that is fresh and unpredictable...If you like fresh, take-no-prisoners fantasy, this is for you."—Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Burning Maze“Dark, passionate, tense, with a female hero anyone could relate to—I was utterly fascinated! This is no pretty, flowery tale, but one of vastly different people struggling to survive when a hostile government comes to power.”—Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Battle Magic“The lyrical excellence of previous books is present in full force here and it’s fair to say that Mark Lawrence has evolved into a master of his craft. In Red Sister he has produced a novel that is as thought provoking as it is entertaining, and as poignant as it is ferocious. Highly recommended.”—Anthony Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Waking Fire“In this stunning, action-filled series launch, Lawrence ('Broken Empire' trilogy) establishes a fantastic world in which religion and politics are sharp as swords, with magic and might held in the hands of wonderful and dangerous women. Impatient George R.R. Martin fans will find this a pleasing alternative until the next installment in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” saga arrives.”—Library Journal, starred reviewPraise for the novels of Mark Lawrence“Different than anything I have ever read.”—Terry Brooks, New York Times bestselling author   “An amazing series, and I eagerly anticipate Lawrence’s next literary effort, whatever it may be.”—Peter V. Brett, New York Times bestselling author   “It’s not like anything I’ve ever read before.”—Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author   “Dark and relentless...A two-in-the-morning page-turner.”—Robin Hobb, New York Times bestselling author   “Epic fantasy on a George R. R. Martin scale but on speed.”—Fixed on Fantasy   “Mark Lawrence’s growing army of fans will relish this rollicking new adventure and look forward to the next one.”—Daily Mail