Friday, April 28, 2017

**GIVEAWAY** Interview with Mark Lawrence - Red Sister - Review

I'm super excited to be bringing you an interview with an extraordinary talent in Epic Fantasy, he's a science nerd by day and an amazing hard fantasy storyteller by night and I've been devouring his fiction since his first novel. I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to interview the über-talented, Internationally Bestselling author Mark Lawrence.
Mark's publisher Penguin Random House has graciously sponsored a #Giveaway for one hardback copy US ONLY.
Contest details below.

ISBN-13: 9781101988855
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Release Date: 04-04-2017
Length: 480pp
Buy It: Amazon/B&N/Kobo/IndieBound/Publisher/Audible

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.

Penguin Publishing is sponsoring this #Giveaway of
One Hardback copy US ONLY of
Red Sister
please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good Luck!

Read an excerpt courtesy Mark Lawrence:


It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

From the forward aspect of the convent you can see both the northern ice and the southern, but the finer view is out across the plateau and over the narrow lands. On a clear day the coast may be glimpsed, the Sea of Marn a suggestion in blue.
            At some point in an achingly long history a people, now lost to knowledge, had built one thousand and twenty-four pillars on the plateau, Corinthian giants thicker than a thousand-year oak, taller than a long-pine. A forest of stone without order or pattern, covering the level ground from flank to flank such that no spot upon it lay more than twenty yards from a pillar. Sister Thorn waited amid this forest, alone and seeking her centre.
            Lano’s men began to spread out between the columns. Thorn could neither see nor hear her foe approach, but she knew their disposition. She had watched earlier as they snaked up the west trail from Styx Valley, three and four abreast, Pelarthi mercenaries from the ice margins, furs of the white bear and the snow-wolf over their leathers, some with scraps of chainmail about them, ancient and dark or bright as new, depending on their luck. Many bore spears, some swords, one man in five carried a short-bow of recurved horn. Tall men in the main, fair-haired, beards short or plaited, the women with lines of blue paint across their cheeks and foreheads like the rays of a cold sun.
           Here’s a moment. All the world and more has rushed eternity’s length to reach this beat of your heart, screaming down the years. And if you let it, the universe, without drawing breath, will press itself through this fractured second and race to the next, on into a new eternity. Everything that is, the echoes of everything that ever was, the roots of all that will ever be, must pass through this moment that you own. Your only task is to give it pause – to make it notice.
            Thorn stood without motion, for only when you are truly still can you be the centre. She stood without sound, for only silent can you listen. She stood without fear, for only the fearless can understand their peril.
            Hers the stillness of the forest, rooted restlessness, oak slow, pine quick, a seething patience. Hers the stillness of ice walls that face the sea, clear and deep, blue secrets held cold against the truth of the world, a patience of eons stacked against a sudden fall. Hers the stillness of a sorrow-born babe unmoving in its crib. And of the mother, frozen in her discovery, fleeting and forever.
            Thorn held a silence that had grown old before first she saw the world’s light. A quietude passed down generations, the peace that bids us watch the dawn, an unspoken alliance with wave and flame that lets both take all speech from tongues and sets us standing before the water’s surge and swell, or witness to fire’s consuming dance of joy. Hers the silence of rejection, of a child’s hurt, mute, unknowing, a scar upon the years to come. Hers the unvoiced everything of first love, tongue-tied, ineloquent, the refusal to sully so sharp and golden a feeling with anything so blunt as words.
Thorn waited. Fearless as flowers, bright, fragile, open to the sky. Brave as only those who’ve lost can be.
             Voices reached her, the Pelarthi calling out to each other as they lost sight of their numbers in the broken spaces of the plateau. Cries rang across the level ground, echoing from the pillars, a multitude of footfalls, growing closer. Thorn rolled her shoulders beneath black-skin armour, she tightened the fingers of each hand about the sharp weight of a throwing star, her breathing calm, heart racing.
            “In this place the dead watch me,” she breathed. A shout broke out close at hand, figures glimpsed between two pillars, flitting across the gap. Many figures. “I am a weapon in service to the Ark. Those who come against me will know despair.” Her voice rose along with the tension that always presaged a fight, a buzzing tingle along her cheekbones, tightness in her throat, a sense of being both deep within her own body, and above and around it at the same time.
            The first of the Pelarthi jogged into view, and seeing her, stumbled to a halt. A young man, beardless though hard-eyed beneath the iron of his helm. More crowded in behind him, spilling out into the killing ground.
            The Red Sister tilted her head to acknowledge them.

            Then it began.

Mark Hi, Welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Tell my readers a bit about Red Sister, your debut novel in The Book of The Ancestor series.
I’ve always been bad at telling people about my books. I don’t read reviews before I read a book, I don’t even read the blurb on the back. I go by recommendation. So my gut feeling is that a book is best consumed exactly as the author wrote it.

However, we are all different and so … it’s a story focused on a young girl as she grows up on a harsh ice-bound world. She gets in trouble and ends up at a convent. The trouble follows her there, but fortunately it’s a convent where the novices are taught armed and unarmed combat, the arts of poison, and various forms of magic. So she can put up a fight! 

I have loved and devoured both your previous series and loved getting to know Nona, her friends and her story.
When you started the series did you know all about Nona or has she surprised you as you wrote about her?
I don’t generally plan my stories, though when a book deal is based on a sample rather than the actually book the publishers like a sketch of how the rest will go, just to give them a sense of security. But, although I often start with no idea how the first chapter will go, I always have a firm sense of my main character. So yes, I knew a lot about what sort of person Nona was. Her personal history and how her experiences would turn out though, were largely things I discovered as I wrote.

Mark I loved the personality you gave Nona and her friends while at Sweet Mercy Convent, you especially made the antics they got up to very realistic.
Did you use your own childhood shenanigans as a blueprint or are they all figments of your vivid imagination?
Heh, shenanigans is a good word. I think, if I’m honest, I owe a debt to the hugely prolific Enid Blyton who wrote hundreds of children’s books in the 1940s and 50s. I read her Famous Five books as a kid and my severely disabled daughter, Celyn, has become addicted to listening to Blyton’s Malory Towers books on audio. Only she has to have someone with her while she listens, so I can now basically recite the first five Malory Towers books by heart. Blyton may not be high literature but she knows about girls’ schools and gets the interactions right, and Malory Towers is girls’ boarding school. I guess some of that rubbed off on me. You might even call Red Sister Malory Towers with knives! It isn’t a children’s book though, by any means.

Your day job is/was a research scientist and it’s only fairly recently that you became a published author.
Will you share your road to authordom with my readers please?
I started writing fiction in earnest in my early thirties, nearly twenty years ago. It was really just an extension of the writing I used to do before that for fantasy games of various sorts. A creative release. I never had any ambition to be a published author. It seems strange now but at the time it appeared impossible. I thought that getting published depended on having far more skill than I had and also upon networking, going to the right gatherings, having the right contacts etc. And having a great deal of good fortune.

In the end a friend on a writing group essentially forced me to send my most recent manuscript to a few literary agents. After that it took very little time before I had a three book deal in the UK, US, Germany and France. My view on the publishing business now is that you don’t need contacts or networking … but you probably do have to be very lucky.

Mark your fantasy is addicting and dark, and although I love it, it’s not for the faint of heart.
How do the ideas for your novels come to you?
Has your muse ever whispered in your ear to try another genre?
I get my ideas whenever I leave my head empty. So if I stop thinking about whatever is absorbing me then they come. Generally it’s when I’m doing something like cycling to work (though I no longer do that), digging the garden, or wheeling my daughter around the park. At such times ideas just tend to roll into my head from nowhere in particular.

After the trilogy that starts with Red Sister I wrote a book set in the 1980s about a group of teens who play Dungeons & Dragons. There’s a sci-fi twist in it. So, yes, sometimes my muse does lead me in strange directions. One of the books I have on the go now is a modern thriller with no magic or sci-fi elements at all.

Your three protagonists from your three series, Jorg, Jalan and Nona are all very different yet Nona and Jorg especially share some similarities.
Are those similarities intentional or accidental?
I would say neither. Accidental implies something rather strong. There is a middle ground between intention and accident, and that’s where I would point. A great many people share similarities with other people. Nona and Jorg are, as you say, very different, but have some similarities. That seems to be a statement that is probably true about most pairs of individuals you might randomly select.

What I hope is that they are both interesting to read about in different ways. The main similarity between all three of these lead characters is that they have been broken in some way. The story is about how that affects their lives and whether they are able to repair themselves. 

Mark thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck with the novel.
Do you ever cross the pond for fan meet and greets?
Always a pleasure, Debbie. And sadly I don’t travel, not even outside my home town. My duties caring for my disabled youngest daughter make it impossible.

My Review of Red Sister

Red Sister
Red Sister, book 1 in Lawrence’s new Book of the Ancestor trilogy is amazing and a testament to his masterfully unique storytelling voice. Using his characteristic dark prose he’s made sure to dot all his beautifully violent world building i’s and cross all his mystical magical t’s eloquently locking together all the intricate story pieces. His noir-ish lead character(s) and amazing co-stars drive this fast-paced action packed start to another of his epic tales giving new meaning to Holy War. Nona is not his first child protagonist and like his first is an unapologetic combination of innocence and maturity garnering not only empathy from his audience but a bit of terrible awe as he takes Nona and her friends from wet behind the ear novices to full-fledged, licensed to kill, warrior nuns.
Abandoned by her mother, and sold by her village 9 year-old misfit Nona Gray eventually winds up in prison for the attempted murder of a despicable but noble bully. She escapes the hangman’s noose with the help of the Abbess of the Sweet Mercy Convent who takes her in as a novice with the intent to train her to become a fierce and deadly weapon to fight in the prophesied upcoming holy war.
Is the convent and the Abbess enough to keep her safe until she reaches the maturity and skill to fulfill it, or will the factions who want her dead succeed?

Mark's other works
The Broken Empire trilogy

The Red Queen's War Trilogy

Connect with Mark - Website - Facebook - Twitter - Blog

Meet Mark:

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 (Prince of ThornsKing of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns), the Red Queen’s War trilogy (Prince of FoolsThe Liar’s Key, and The Wheel of Osheim) and the Book of the Ancestor series (Red Sister).

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  1. Oh gosh I don't think I could ever start a book without having read the synopsis first! this does sound really interesting! Great interview and thanks for sharing this one and putting it on my radar. Have a wonderful weekend. :D

  2. Red Sister sounds captivating, intriguing and brilliant. Thanks for this fascinating feature and giveaway.

  3. I've heard so many amazing things about this book, can't wait! Love the interview too!!

    Happy reading ^_^

  4. This is an author that I've wanted to try. After reading your review and interview, I want to try him even more now. I do like dark stories. This sounds right up my alley. Thanks for sharing and the contest.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

    1. Yeah Melanie he's definitely not for everyone but when I first read Prince of Thorns he pretty much blew me away and Red Sister is just as good.

  5. Utterly fascinating. While I am not sure its for me with its darkness, I love how he writes out of being creative and has used Enid Blyton (often much maligned so good to see her getting some kudos) for a little knowledge of girls' schools. Great interview and I also love that he was so good his books 'just were published, no big sweat!'.

    1. Ha, yes Kathryn he's quite the comedian. He's also the father of a severely disabled daughter and along with his wife is her only caretaker. I really admire him

  6. New author for me and the book sounds really fun.

  7. I had totally forgotten about that other series...oh me