(Sorry in advance for my wonky English, I’m writing this in a rush because I just HAVE TO)
This won’t be a proper review, I can’t do those, I’m way too emotional to write them.
And I’m definitely too emotional now, since I just finished Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence, third book in the Book of the Ancestor series – or how I call it, the Nunjas Trilogy. And OH BOY what a book. It left me all warm and fuzzy inside, which is something only Mark Lawrence can achieve, writing a book about slaughter and war and leaving you feel good and hopeful and warm after reading it
This trilogy is hands down one of my favourite reads of all time, and not only because Lawrence has devised a kickass setting, a cool as heck plot, a mesmerizing magic system.
What really makes BotA series special to me are the characters.
It’s so rare to see so many beautifully written female characters. And queer characters. So many queer characters, all of them written with such awareness it really warmed my heart.
The story is woven around a group of battle nuns – hence the nunjas nickname – and I know what you may think: ugh, the old tope of the sword wielding female character who’s just so badass and not-like-other-girls. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Nona, the main character, is definitely good with a sword. And with fists, and kicks, and throwing stars. She’s a force to be reckoned with, fuelled by anger, but that’s not what drives her actions.
It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.
Nona’s driving force, and the running theme of the books, is friendship. Nona loves her friends to the bone, even those who betrayed her, and everything she does, every action she takes, is weighted on this friendship which burns hotter than the Sun Focus Moon.
And Nona’s not the sole protagonist, all the other nuns, Nona’s friends and teachers, are equally important. A group of women each of them with their own personality, their own strengths and weaknesses, playing each of them an important part in the plot devised by Lawrence.
And there’s no rivalry between them! No jealousy! The interactions between the girls – children, because at the beginning of the story this is what they are, children turning women by the end of the trilogy – are all so incredibly positive I found my old, black heart growing softer. Their friendship, Nona’s hope and goodness beneath her rage and her blade, it all made me feel so good.
And the queer representation in these books was so on point! There are a bunch of f/f couples (one involving two main characters) and they’re all so… normal. There’s no sexualisation, no drama, the focus is where it should be: on the love between the girls involved. Nona herself is bisexual and this, too, is portrayed in such a positive and careful way. Following her journey from child to woman we can see her develop feelings for two different people, both of them incredibly positive figures, both of them her friends.
It doesn’t matter what she thinks of me. It doesn’t matter if she hates me. She’s my friend. I won’t leave her.
Because, then again, for Nona love comes after friendship – and even when she believes her feelings to be one sided, she never abandons her friends.
And honestly, I NEEDED THIS SERIES SO BAD, I need this positive representation of friendship and queerness. And I think you all need this too, so do yourself a favour and buy Red Sister (the first book) IMMEDIATELY if you haven’t read it. Because these queer nunjas are just so precious (and the plot and setting are equally amazing so, ya know, best fantasy book anyone?)