Red Sister (the first book of Mark Lawrence's The Book of the Ancestor trilogy) and Nona Grey has been living comparatively quietly at the Convent of Sweet Mercy. She's not, as you might expect, spending long hours in prayer, or working on calligraphy or needlework, for this is a convent with a difference. One where, under the supervision of Abbess Glass and the sisters, novices are trained in martial arts - both practical hand to hand combat and the subtler ways of poison and mind manipulation.
Nona is now leaving many of her friends behind and moving up a level to Mystic class; making new enemies there, to add to the powerful ones she already has outside the convent. Combined they're determined to see her thrown out of the convent, preferably killed. Fairly obviously, Nona isn't going to co-operate - and a lot of other people are going to end up dead.
The second book of a trilogy is always tricky - the characters have been introduced, the world building is done, but the reader needs to be reminded of things they may have forgotten from the first book, while the action has to move forward to keep us engrossed. Despite a slightly slow start with a little too much emphasis on the 'school' aspect of Nona's life for my liking, I really enjoyed this return to Nona's world. As the story progresses the pace picks up with plenty of fight scenes and danger, but I also liked the less violent, sly, political manoeuvring of the abbess.
Something I hate about fantasy series is the hiatus between books as the next is written, edited and finally published. It's taken me an awfully long time to get round to reading this, so I'm lucky in that the third and final book, Holy Sister is already published.
Just a couple of warnings - despite the school style setting this is NOT a children's book (don't confuse it with Harry Potter or The Worst Witch) and you DO need to have read book one, Red Sister;without it little will make sense.
Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Harper Collins (Harper Voyager)
Genre - Adult fantasy