Book Description:

The searing conclusion of the thrilling epic fantasy trilogy that saw a young girl trained by an arcane order of nuns grow into the fiercest of warriors…

They came against her as a child. Now they face the woman.

The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.

Nona Grey faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that she and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.

Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war.

The shiphearts offer strength that she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her.

A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, thrones burned.


Holy Sister, the final volume in Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy, was easily one of my most anticipated books of 2019 since I absolutely loved Red Sister and also rather enjoyed Grey Sister (both of which were among my favorite books of 2017 and 2018). Red Sister was an incredibly engaging introduction to Nona, a young girl condemned to die after defending her friend from a violent nobleman, who would have been mortally wounded if not for his family’s great wealth providing access to the best magical healing. Both Nona and her friend were to hang for this, and though the other girl did not escape her punishment, Nona was saved at the last moment by Abbess Glass of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. The abbess made Nona a novice and had her begin training in the Totally Badass Ways of the nuns of the Ancestor, whose trainees learned everything from geography, history, and religion to combat, stealth, and poisons. Nona easily won me over with her fierceness and loyalty, and I was also intrigued by the secret past that frightened this otherwise fearless girl so much that she kept it from her friends (and the reader) throughout most of the first novel.

Grey Sister only made me more invested in Nona, her friends, and her teachers. I appreciated the theme of strength and power having a variety of forms and the exciting events of the second half, but it was primarily these characters that kept me reading in spite of some uneven pacing and awkward writing that kept it from being as polished as the first novel. Unfortunately, I thought Holy Sister continued this trend of subsequent volumes declining in quality—except the difference between the second and third books is far more significant than the difference between the first and second books.

Holy Sister did have some of the features that made the previous books memorable from the intense moments of badassery to the importance of different types of strength and power, but I felt it lacked heart. Characterization took a backseat as it seemed like the characters were going through the motions of wrapping up plot points, and it just wasn’t satisfying even if there were occasionally some good scenes. The friendships I was once so invested in didn’t have the same life; conversations between characters who once had captivating interactions fell flat. After their scenes in Grey Sister, I wouldn’t have thought I could find Nona and Zole spending so much time together boring, but I did (even if I did like the general trajectory of their stories and the handling of the Chosen One trope).

Though Holy Sister is shorter than both the previous books, it felt like it had a lot of filler since I just didn’t find it as pleasurable to read. It alternates between two timelines, one starting right after the end of Grey Sister and one starting three years later that eventually ties in with the flash-forwards from the first two novels, and I didn’t think this method worked well. There was too much jumping back and forth without any real tension about how the past led to the present, and much of the past could have been condensed, especially since it just seemed to drag without interesting characterization or dialogue. The present timeline was more compelling, but it also seemed to plod at times until the last few chapters, the only part where I really wanted to keep reading. I also thought that the revelation of how the flash-forwards fit into the overall story was lackluster: looking back at the previous sections knowing how it all plays out makes them seem like they were only added for dramatic effect, not because they truly fit.

After spending so much time speculating about those scenes, this was a disappointment—but that basically sums up my feelings about Holy Sister: disappointing. I am glad I read it, but mainly because it provided closure after reading and enthusing about the previous two books, not because I found it a particularly entertaining reading experience (although most readers seem to have had a better time with it than I did, so you may feel differently!).

My Rating: 4.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from Holy Sister

Reviews of Previous Books in the Book of the Ancestor Trilogy:

  1. Red Sister
  2. Grey Sister