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Literature / Book Of The Ancestor

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It takes an army to kill a nun.

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…


The Ancestor trilogy is a series of books by Mark Lawrence which are based around the adventures of battle nun Nona Grey. The first novel Red Sister came out on April 4th, 2017.

Tropes present in this work:

  • Anyone Can Die: Typical for a Mark Lawrence work.
  • Battle Couple: Sisters Apple and Kettle.
  • Bi the Way: Nona admits to having a crush on both Arabella and Regal, not to mention Sister Apple.
  • Came Back Wrong: If someone is fatally wounded, it's possible to magically prevent their soul from passing on while healers work to fix their body. Unfortunately, the longer this takes, the likelier it is that something will notice and decide to hitch a ride back. Happens to Raymel.
  • The Chosen One: Deconstructed and played with as the nuns are all clear the prophecy is made up but the fact people believe in it makes it powerful.
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  • Crapsack World: The Corridor is a world covered in an ice age with the moon (a giant focusing lens) being the only thing keeping the ice away. It's also riddled with corruption, tyranny, fanaticism, and slavery.
  • Corrupt Church: The Church of the Ancestor isn't particularly devout and its members are decidedly venal. Despite this, they loathe the idea their primary concern is money and have a few principles they stand by.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Church of the Ancestor is very similar to Christianity, except for its sect of battle nuns.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Sister Thorn.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Abbess Glass repeatedly reminds the High Priest that her name is Glass now, not Shella.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The four Archons are all corrupt to at least some extent but none of them are happy at High Priest Jacob's attempt to have an eight-year-old girl executed for stabbing a Serial Killer engaged in rape, no matter who his father is. They're also disgusted by how obvious his corruption is, believing a High Priest should be more circumspect. Oh and they're angry at being made to travel a good distance for this farce.
  • Kangaroo Court: The trial by the Archons is supposed to be this. Averted when it's clear the Archons are a great deal less prejudiced than the High Priest assumed.
  • Kill Sat: What the Moon turns out to be, and used with extreme effect in Holy Sister.
  • Made a Slave: What happens to Nona in the beginning as she and many other children are sold by their parents for the possibilities inherent in their blood. Subverted in Nona's case as it was the only way to get her away from her village as no one owned the means to take her far enough.
  • Nun Too Holy: Not all of the Red Sisters are enamored of the Ancestor.
  • One-Man Army: What the Shields of the Chosen One, Sisters Thorn and Cage, become and several nuns before them in history.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: All the Sisters, as they take the names of objects once they take their vows to emphasize how they are set apart from the world. Twice over in the case of Sister Mop, who is actually Sister Chrysanthemum.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: A surprising number of these given the Crapsack World nature of the setting. The church is corrupt and its The Empire but generally, they all try to do their jobs. Likewise, the sisters are almost universally this.
  • Red Baron: Sister Cage the Shadowless
  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: A quality which is a fact of life in the convent due to Situational Sexuality.
  • Serial Killer: Nona critically engineers one of these, unfortunately he's the son of the richest man in The Empire.
  • Science Fantasy: Magic and demons abound, but the moon is actually a giant focus mirror put in orbit around the planet to keep the ice from swallowing it, and humans arrived in spaceships (which may or may not be magic themselves).
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Surprisingly averted. Raymel Tacsis and his son Thuran are the richest men in the Corridor, but they can't completely buy the Church or The Empire. It actually works against them as both the Archons and Emperor side with Nona because they're annoyed at the presumption they can be bought.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: All of the nuns of the Red Sisters are this. This includes lying to their charges, poisoning them, and worse. It's all for their own good, though.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Clera turns out to be this rather than Zole.
  • Smug Snake: High Priest Jacob who is in Raymel Tacsis' pocket. This brings about his stripping of the rank as the four Archons under him actually have more authority collectively and put him in power in the first place. They severely dislike his blatant displays of corruption and toadying.
    • Raymel Tacsis believes his father's money and power will allow him to be able to rape and kill as many girls as he wants. Also, to get revenge on Nona for resisting him. This gets him killed.
  • Terror Hero: Sister Cage. Everyone is terrified of her, and for good reason.
  • True Companions: Nona treats all friendships like this due to never been able to connect to anyone before. Sister Kettle warns her that not everyone is the same way, and she would do well to consider more carefully who she trusts this far.
  • Wolverine Claws: Nona is able to conjure six-inch long invisible blades from her hands, able to cut open chainmail armor with ease.
  • Younger Than They Look: Some of the powers gifted by the old blood cause people to age faster than normal.

Alternative Title(s): Ancestor Trilogy


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