Edit [June 2020]: After seeing Mark Lawrence’s sexist behavior and comments on the internet and his treatment of reviewers who don’t like his books or dislike his treatment of female characters – and let’s not even mention the Bury Your Gays that happens later in the series – I can’t recommend this book anymore.
Grey Sister is dark, bloody, brilliant… and not as good as the first book. A worthwhile read, of course, and I can’t wait for Holy Sister, but it could have been better.
Second books in trilogies are not my favorites. Not because they’re inherently lesser or filler, but because many of them tend to backtrack. We solved something with the end of book one? No, that’s actually still an issue – maybe a villainous character wasn’t actually dead like the ending led you to believe, maybe the main character overcame a challenge once but can’t again. This is a cheap way to create conflict. We already had that character development, we already had that arc, I don’t need to see it again. The plot should never feel like Penelope’s shroud; in this book, it kind of did.
Grey Sister starts with the introduction of a new character, Keot, who shouldn’t have appeared out of nowhere. Why wasn’t he in the end of Red Sister? That’s when Nona “met” him, after all, so…
To end the negative section, I can say that some of the things I liked the most about Red Sister were the school setting, the lack of girl hate and the lack of romance. Grey Sister, however, starts with the introduction of an irredeemable (or so it seems, so far) mean girl, continues outside of the convent, and also introduces what could be a set up for a very boring m/f romance (really: why would anyone pay attention to Regol when there are Arabella and Zole? Unrealistic.)
But! There are many things I liked about this book, so I can’t really say I was disappointed; Grey Sister is still a very solid novel.
The more I know about this world, the more I’m intrigued. Half of this book isn’t set in the convent anymore, which means we get to see more politics and what’s actually up with Sherzal and all the horrible people around her. Also, I can’t wait to see how the focus moon plotline ends. It’s probably the aspect of this world I like the most; it’s almost a sci-fi element in a fantasy setting and I’m curious.
While the first book was narrated only by Nona, here two PoVs are added: Abbess Glass’, which is mostly politics – seriously, that woman is a great chessmaster and I love her a lot; some of her chapters were kind of boring, but the ending? Totally worth it – and Kettle’s. I really liked Kettle in the first book – her and Apple are the best couple – and I liked her even more here. She’s not special like Nona and Zole, she is just very well-trained.
And about Nona and Zole: we all know how much I love Nona, she gets more awesome with every page, but I was surprised by how much I liked Zole in this book. I didn’t feel strongly about her during the first one, but here? I loved her. She almost never talks, but when she does… she almost made me cry with one line.
The friendships are still the best part of this series.
The writing was as good as it was in Red Sister. It’s a bit heavy, and this may not work for some, but I don’t mind the many descriptions and details if this means I get these beautiful action scenes. Most of the book isn’t set in the convent, there was almost no Blade Path, but the action scenes are still very interesting to read. They’re never the same in this series; also, the scenes that were set in the convent were perfect. The plotline about the caves was kind of terrifying and I loved it, and the shade trial was my favorite part of the book.
This may not have been perfect, but it’s a very good setup for the third book, and I can’t wait to see which path the story will take next.
My rating: ★★★★