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The First Sister

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First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love. Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.


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First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love. Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.

30 review for The First Sister

  1. 4 out of 5

    R.F. Kuang

    This book is wonderful. Utterly absorbing from the start–if you enjoyed Red Rising/Mass Effect and wanted to see more women and queer characters, this is absolutely for you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    jenny✨

    It was our… becoming. The two of us forming a chrysalid that would break into a singular, monstrous being. 🌈✨🚀8/4/2020: It excites me greatly that this queer space opera is now out and about in the world for y'all to devour Not gonna lie, resurfacing from this book felt like finishing a marathon that pushed my poor sci-fi-averse heart to its limits. That being said, this. is. GORGEOUS. Absolutely epic. So fucking queer. I adored it. I read a post by Linden A. Lewis explaining The First Sister's It was our… becoming. The two of us forming a chrysalid that would break into a singular, monstrous being. 🌈✨🚀8/4/2020: It excites me greatly that this queer space opera is now out and about in the world for y'all to devour Not gonna lie, resurfacing from this book felt like finishing a marathon that pushed my poor sci-fi-averse heart to its limits. That being said, this. is. GORGEOUS. Absolutely epic. So fucking queer. I adored it. I read a post by Linden A. Lewis explaining The First Sister's origins as a short story about the wartime love between a priestess without a voice and her against-the-grain spaceship captain. I am SO glad the author decided to write this story into a novel, because it's become even more—something beautiful in its multidimensionality. ◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️ The First Sister takes place centuries into a future where Earth has been irreparably ravaged, sending humans into space. Two warring societies take centre stage: the religious Geans (colonizers of Earth and Mercury) and technologically superior Icarii (colonizers of Mars and Venus). Caught in the middle are the Asters, genetically modified humans comprising the lowest rungs of both societies, oppressed by Geans and Icarii alike. First Sister is a voiceless Gean priestess who services soldiers aboard a prestigious warship, taking confessions and warming their beds. All she dreams of is a home, a family, to be her own person away from the Sisterhood—until she meets her new captain, Saito Ren: the enigmatically untraditional woman who makes her question everything she's willing to sacrifice. Lito val Lucius fought his way out of the slums to achieve legendary status as an Icarii duelist, one half of an empathically bonded pair. But this is all ripped away after his partner, Hiro, betrays them to the Geans—and now Lito must kill the person who was once everything to him. Except... what if Hiro was onto something bigger than them both? ◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️ Full disclosure: Sci-fi isn't really my genre. Space operas don't get my blood pumpin' (unless they happen to be crass and full-colour illustrated, ahem Saga). I've never even read The Handmaid's Tale in its entirety (and YES I AM FULLY AWARE that as a Canadian and UofT alum this makes me a total plebeian). So yes—sometimes my attention did drift while reading The First Sister, and I think I'd personally rate this 3.5 stars rounded up. Even so, I found myself utterly blown away by the epic, epic worldbuilding. Linden A. Lewis's prose is gorgeous, and the universe they've created is lavish and extensive but never overwhelming. What's more, they've woven a story that centres queerness, and interrogates themes of reclaiming autonomy—of body, mind, gender, and identity. They had created some facsimile of family that was stronger than blood, because, despite our differences, we were kindred. First Sister (who's bi!!) struggles to forge an identity and destiny apart from the machinations of the cruel Sisterhood. Lito must grapple with the devotion to his Commander that he's known all his life. And Hiro— I freakin' ADORED Hiro. Of all the characters, they were without a doubt the most enthralling for me. Hiro is 100% enby badassery; they have rebelled all their life against their father's cruelty, at the cost of everything dear to them. I loved their blithe irreverence. The snarky comebacks always on the tip of their tongue. The distinctiveness of their voice in the chapters dedicated to them. What left the greatest imprint on me was Hiro's resilience. The Icarii government seizes everything from Hiro—their body and emotions and gender—to mold them into a weapon against the Geans. But they won't be weaponized. Neither will First Sister or Lito. And when the three finally come together, it marks the beginnings of a cosmic revolution that will change everything. I absolutely implore you to read their story. Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Riley

    i can't even begin to explain how obsessed I am with this book. I read it all in a single night because I couldn't put it down

  4. 5 out of 5

    ☀ Kat Nova ☀

    I really regret reading this… As an arc. Because I would totally binge the shit out of it if the whole series was out already. But alas, now I have to wait for the next books to be written and released. My impatient ass is weeping right now. “Be what they want. Be what they need. Be everything for them, so that they will leave your chambers without sadness, without guilt, without lust. No distractions while they’re on duty.” If I see a one star rating for this I will genuinely be shocked. As so I really regret reading this… As an arc. Because I would totally binge the shit out of it if the whole series was out already. But alas, now I have to wait for the next books to be written and released. My impatient ass is weeping right now. “Be what they want. Be what they need. Be everything for them, so that they will leave your chambers without sadness, without guilt, without lust. No distractions while they’re on duty.” If I see a one star rating for this I will genuinely be shocked. As someone who gets easily intimidated by sci-fi, let alone space operas, I can honestly say this was such a pleasant surprise… Confession time: I didn’t even know this was a space opera when I requested it, I just saw that gorgeous cover and hitting the “request” button was like a reflex. But hey, apparently if you take sci-fi and make it gay, it’s not that scary. And this truly was, so very beautifully queer. In our main squad we have our cottage-core bisexual: The First Sister, a priestess on a journey of finding her voice (literally). We also have a Hispanic gay with a bigass heart and a Japanese non-binary BADASS: Lito and Hiro, duelists (aka a duo of soldiers) on their journey of finding where their loyalties lie, and of course, finding each other. And guess what? I’m in love with all three of them. I was actually in awe of this story. The world was pretty complex but the author made it super easy to understand - On the surface, there is a war between the technologically advanced Icarii and the religious Geans. Obviously, it’s a lot more complicated and messed up than that but it was really fun to learn about. I loved seeing how different the two sides of the war are through the multiple POV’s, which we get three of. Each one was so different and yet so easy to get immersed in. I couldn’t wait for our character’s paths to intertwine, and boy was that wait worth it. Things definitely didn’t go as I expected but that’s a good thing. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that big reveal, my jaw was on the floor. This felt like a 500/600 page book. Not because it dragged on or anything, but because it was so incredibly engrossing. So many events happened. So many feelings. Actually, I kinda wish it was longer because I. Need. More. *Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the arc!*

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linden Lewis

    THE FIRST SISTER is a book about finding your voice and choosing your loyalty. A story about people who realize their society is broken and have to decide what to do about it. A tale about oppressed people who struggle to survive in a universe that thinks less of them, for one reason or another. I want to be transparent: there are NO GRAPHIC SEXUAL ABUSE SCENES. While it explores the dangers of rape culture and sexual assault, something that many of the characters have faced, it is a story far mo THE FIRST SISTER is a book about finding your voice and choosing your loyalty. A story about people who realize their society is broken and have to decide what to do about it. A tale about oppressed people who struggle to survive in a universe that thinks less of them, for one reason or another. I want to be transparent: there are NO GRAPHIC SEXUAL ABUSE SCENES. While it explores the dangers of rape culture and sexual assault, something that many of the characters have faced, it is a story far more focused on how to change that culture and build a better future from it. As a sexual assault survivor myself, the last thing I wanted was a story that could be seen to glorify sexual assault in any way, shape, or form, or one that could be seen as 'torture porn.' While the characters discuss things that have happened in their past, they are also highly focused on their futures, and I wanted to depict this in the most respectful way possible. I think you'll enjoy this book if you also enjoy: THE EXPANSE and RED RISING, but wanted to see queer characters upfront and center. THE HANDMAID'S TALE, but in space. You want sapphic ladies? You got sapphic ladies. You want explosions in space? BOOM! Thank you for your interest in THE FIRST SISTER, and please enjoy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Holly (Holly Hearts Books)

    The First Sister starts off strong right out of the gate but the potential is quickly lost amid the forceful amounts of romance and non exploratory world for a space opera. All my pros, cons, and first impressions in a “Should You Read It?” episode here: https://youtu.be/Icwl1YBUT-o The First Sister starts off strong right out of the gate but the potential is quickly lost amid the forceful amounts of romance and non exploratory world for a space opera. All my pros, cons, and first impressions in a “Should You Read It?” episode here: https://youtu.be/Icwl1YBUT-o

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    If I’m being honest, there are two reasons I do advance reviews of books. The lesser of the two is that I want to build sufficient reviewer cred so that I can get advanced copies of highly anticipated blockbusters. The greater of the two is being able to be the first one to discover something amazing and tell all you people about it. Nerd bragging rights and all. If that is my goal, my reviewer career may have peaked fairly early, because it’s hard to imagine me ever being first out of the gate o If I’m being honest, there are two reasons I do advance reviews of books. The lesser of the two is that I want to build sufficient reviewer cred so that I can get advanced copies of highly anticipated blockbusters. The greater of the two is being able to be the first one to discover something amazing and tell all you people about it. Nerd bragging rights and all. If that is my goal, my reviewer career may have peaked fairly early, because it’s hard to imagine me ever being first out of the gate on something as amazing as The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis. The letter at the front of the ARC from the Skybound books editor (thanks for the ARC, by the way) compares the book to Handmaid’s Tale, Red Rising, and Ancillary Justice. OK, I thought, that’s fine, it’s his job to sell it after all. But that’s a high standard, and that’s with me knowing Ancillary Justice only be reputation. I’m a big fan of both Margaret Atwood and Pierce Brown, and expected that comparison to be hyperbolic. I went into this expecting to be disappointed. I was not. Spoiler-free synopsis time. The book is set some centuries after humanity wrecked the Earth, and nearly did the same to Mars when Earth leaned too heavily on the new Mars colony for resources. While Earth and Mars were limping along and killing each other, a bunch of scientists said “fuck this shit” and went and built colonies on Mercury and Venus, using Unobtainium to build technological utopias. (Warning: TV Tropes) But since the humans of Mercury and Venus (the Icarii) aren’t interested in sharing their technology with the humans of Earth and Mars (now united as the Gaens), there’s been a long running war. There’s also the Asters, humans who live in the asteroid belt and are adapted to life in deep space, looked down upon and exploited by both sides. The Gaens are part military dictatorship, part theocracy, and the First Sister is the ranking priestess aboard a Gaen warship. The Sisters have no voice (literally – they’re rendered incapable of speech, though they can sign among themselves) and serve as … let’s call them comfort women to the Gaen military. The Sisters are there to hear the confessions of soldiers and offer forgiveness, so they don’t go into battle with a guilty conscience, and they’re available sexually to any soldier who wants them, so they don’t go into battle horny. The First Sister is an exception, of sorts, being reserved for the personal use of the captain. The captain of the warship Juno is retiring, however, meaning a new captain is coming aboard who will select a new First Sister. Our protagonist is determined to retain her position and not go back to being available for free use. Lito is part of the Icarii Special Forces, recovering from physical and mental trauma sustained during the Gaens’ recent victory in conquering Ceres. Icarii Special Forces serve with partners, to whom they are empathically bonded through a neural implant. Lito’s partner Hiro has been off on a classified mission for some time, and Lito is really feeling his absence. Then he receives word that Hiro has turned traitor, and Lito is given the chance to prove his loyalty by hunting his partner down. The book follows our two protagonists (I don’t think there’s really a “primary” protagonist, despite the book being titled “The First Sister”) as each gets caught up in the machinations of their governments. I’m not going to go any deeper into the books than that - everything I’ve laid out here, save some of the ancient history, is laid out in the first few pages. Read and find out. Are you a fan of the thrilling action of Red Rising? You’ll find that in The First Sister, though not to the exaggerated Michael-Bay-movie levels you sometimes get from Darrow. Are you a fan of the social commentary of The Handmaid’s Tale? You’ll find that in The First Sister, though it’s not nearly so bleak. There’s a strong dash of The Expanse thrown in as well, primarily in the Belters Asters. The plot kept catching me off guard - Lewis subverted my expectations at every turn. I kept thinking I had a sense of where the book was going, and then suddenly Lewis would give me a literary punch in the stomach and floor me. And then she did it again. This book is extremely LGBTQ positive. Gender and orientation are both presented as fluid, and physical intercourse isn’t the be all and end all. Lewis herself identifies as queer, making this book good for the #OwnVoices bingo square (though since it’s not supposed to come out until August, I’m not sure that’s going to help anyone but me). I really can’t rave about this book enough. It's the first in a series (though it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, thankfully - I hate cliffhangers) and I can’t wait for the next one. Seriously, this is amazing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Why has so much adult Science Fiction deteriorated into YA-style, surface level, dumbed down, mediocre writing? No science, immature and underdeveloped characters. Stupid dialogue. Trying to find good Science Fiction is like trying to find a good tv show amidst all the "reality tv". Will someone please write some new science fiction that requires a few brain cells?

  9. 4 out of 5

    iam

    *shoves face into pillow* *muffled screaming* I gotta take a minute because whew that was... Amazing. Draining, because fuuuuUUUCK, but amazing. Read the full review on the blog! Content warnings include: violence, death and graphic injury, amputation, PTSD, denial of bodily autonomy in various ways (prostitution, plastic surgery, neural implants, experimentation, gender expression), blackmail, execution, untreated mental illness, dysphoria, implied torture; mentions of child abuse. The First Sis *shoves face into pillow* *muffled screaming* I gotta take a minute because whew that was... Amazing. Draining, because fuuuuUUUCK, but amazing. Read the full review on the blog! Content warnings include: violence, death and graphic injury, amputation, PTSD, denial of bodily autonomy in various ways (prostitution, plastic surgery, neural implants, experimentation, gender expression), blackmail, execution, untreated mental illness, dysphoria, implied torture; mentions of child abuse. The First Sister was gripping, chilling and immediately engaging from the very start. All three protagonists have their own exciting plotlines that are entirely different in mood and character arc, yet all equally compelling. I loved them individually, but slowly realizing how their plots converge, seeing threads that seemed entirely separate merge and combine was amazing. It was masterfully done and a pleasure to read. I loved the world-building and setting as much as I loved the protagonists. It's definitely not for the faint of heart. Even aside the violence of war, pretty much every single character lacks autonomy about their own life, particularly their own body, be it they be forced into prostitution, muted, given unconsensual plastic surgery or invasive neural implants to make them controllable. There's toxic hierachic dynamics, human experimentation and oppression, and untreated mental illness. The latter is my only complain about the book. Neural degradation, something that can occur as side effect of the neural implant and is mentioned as serious and something that must be treated immediately, yet is pretty much brushed off in multiple instances without really being addressed. I liked the nonbinary representation through Hiro. They were an amazing character. However, I was extremely uncomfortable by some of the things Hiro was made to do, though that ties in with them being denied agency over their own body - which is something that all protagonists struggle with. They were not singled out due to their gender, and I wouldn't say that it's a story of queer suffering. Not when all characters (most of whom are queer, actually) are suffering. Speaking of representation, I liked that it was not a western-centric view of human future. The most spoken languages in the galaxy are Chinese, English and Spanish. While First Sister is a white orphan, Lito has Italian and Spanish ancestors, Hiro and Saito Ren have Japanese ones, and they frequently speak the languages they were raised talking. While the official blurb mentions falling in love The First Sister very much is not a romance. Please don't go in expecting one - you will be disappointed. Relationships are very much important to the plot, but romantic love and a couple's HEA are not a focus whatsoever. Found family as such is a theme too, though the plot is more in the foreground. The ending is satisfactory, but leaves a lot of space for a sequel, and I for one will be crossing my fingers very energetically for one! I received an ARC and reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

  10. 4 out of 5

    ༚༅༚˳hiba˳༚༅༚

    CWs: graphic violence, murder, implied torture, threats of sexual violence, implied sexual assault, implied rape, child prostitution, loss of bodily autonomy, non-consensual surgery, human experimentation, gender dysphoria, misgendering, PTSD, racism Rep: bisexual white MC, Hispanic panromantic asexual MC, Japanese nonbinary MC, amputee character with prosthetics (this review has mild spoilers but nothing specific) I had very mixed feelings for most of this book and was actually contemplating 3 st CWs: graphic violence, murder, implied torture, threats of sexual violence, implied sexual assault, implied rape, child prostitution, loss of bodily autonomy, non-consensual surgery, human experimentation, gender dysphoria, misgendering, PTSD, racism Rep: bisexual white MC, Hispanic panromantic asexual MC, Japanese nonbinary MC, amputee character with prosthetics (this review has mild spoilers but nothing specific) I had very mixed feelings for most of this book and was actually contemplating 3 stars. But decided to lower my rating after reading the last 20%, which I disliked a lot. So I'll talk about that last 20% first: basically, a major plot twist occurs regarding our nonbinary MC, Hiro, related to their gender identity. Just want to make a few points clear: the author is nonbinary so this is an ownvoices portrayal of that specific rep. I really liked Hiro's character - their personality stood out to me the most from the cast; their strength and determination, their self-confidence, and how they fully embraced their gender identity in a rigidly binary gendered world. I also liked the occasional use of Japanese words and phrases in their dialogue. Also, I'm a cis woman so won't go too much into this as it's not my place. I was just extremely uncomfortable with what is revealed about Hiro towards the end (although it fits the theme of loss of bodily autonomy that the author tackles in this book). Apart from that aspect, the plot twists in general and the climax as a whole did not work for me at all. **Check out this ownvoices take by a nonbinary reviewer: iam's review** (will try to link more here as I find them) Other things I didn't like: - This novel is HEAVILY advertised as being inspired in part by The Handmaid's Tale with queer characters at the forefront, and it definitely is - but it never really explores those themes? Like, we learn about the cruelties our protagonist the First Sister faces in the Sisterhood; how she is stripped of her voice, name and identity, groomed as a child, forced to sexually service all the soldiers - but that's just it, we learn about what happens to the First Sister and not all the other women similarly stolen from their homes or sold by their families. There are only perfunctory mentions of other girls. It almost felt like individualizing an institutional and societal failure. Even in the end, there's no mention of abolishing the Sisterhood, only reforming it instead. - Rather than interrogating the misogyny, patriarchy, and institutionalized sexism that can bring about such a system, the author decides to focus on specific instances of the Sisterhood mistreating the Sisters, e.g. taking away their voices, denying them education, killing those who dissent. I wanted a more cutting, harsher look at how this system came about in the first place. - While I appreciate how the sexual assault and rape are implied rather than graphically shown, I personally needed to see an explicit discussion on these things and the trauma that entails. Instead, it felt like it was avoided. Also, what about things like the threat of pregnancy, abortion, etc? It's not even mentioned, which I thought was really strange. - That's why the whole Sisterhood thing felt kinda gimmicky and tacked on to me, honestly. Not only was it barely explored, it didn't really mesh with the main plot of bringing an end to a centuries-long space war. - Also, there are several scenes in which some characters experience deteriorating mental health (e.g. hallucinations, severe breaks with reality) due to using certain tech. And the story treats this in a too-bad-nothing-can-be-done-about-this way. - The overarching plot was fairly simple and I don't think it warranted all the meandering that happened in this story. - There was a little too much introspection from the MCs for my taste. - The villain's character was poorly done, in my opinion: hardly intimidating and way too easily defeated (maybe cause this is a planned trilogy? since the real villain didn't have a huge role here...either way, I'm judging this book on its own). - Lito as a character had a lot of potential but was ultimately a pretty bland guy. He just felt very passive to me; reacting to people and events around him rather than taking action on his own. That's part of his character arc but even after facing some major revelations, I didn't see much growth in him. I doubt I'll be continuing with this series. Despite all my issues though, these are *my* issues at the end of the day. If you want to see a queer dystopian space opera with easily digestible world-building, I'd say give this a shot! The writing is pretty good and I liked the pacing. Also, I found some of the side characters super interesting. I absolutely loved the premise and the themes the author set out to examine. Sadly, the execution fell short for me. PS: the blurb is slightly misleading. I wouldn't really call this a romance. A couple of romantic scenes but no actual romance. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This was freaking phenomenal! I am a sucker for sci-fi, especially sci-fi with queer characters and The First Sister did not disappoint one bit. In this story we follow three people: The First Sister, she has no name and a servant in a matriarchal religious sect. Hiro, once a promising soldier and rich noble, they have now disappeared and might be a traitor to the nation. And finally, Lito, a decorated soldier tasked with hunting down his bond partner Hiro after they defect. This world was built This was freaking phenomenal! I am a sucker for sci-fi, especially sci-fi with queer characters and The First Sister did not disappoint one bit. In this story we follow three people: The First Sister, she has no name and a servant in a matriarchal religious sect. Hiro, once a promising soldier and rich noble, they have now disappeared and might be a traitor to the nation. And finally, Lito, a decorated soldier tasked with hunting down his bond partner Hiro after they defect. This world was built so well. I loved the culture of all the various parts of the Empire and how magic/technology was handled by each. The magic system and use of tethers between people were so cool! I just want to know everything about the world. I loved First Sister which is a title. I think getting to explore The Sisterhood through her was one of my favorite parts because it was so different. I was really enjoying the relationship that developed between First Sister and Captain Ren. I liked seeing Ren bring out more of First Sisters personality and getting her to not just be a pawn for the Sisterhood. And then there's Hiro and Lito. God the pining between these two was perfection. I loved seeing Lito look back through his memories and realize he loves Hiro. And then Hiro's story broke my heart. I hope they get all the good things in the sequel. The plot was awesome! I thought in the beginning it was slow, but really pieces were being moved so that the last half everything snapped into place and my mind melted. The First Sister was a freaking phenomenal debut and I cannot wait for Lewis's next book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    June 13, 2020: AH, I can finally read an early copy of this! It's clearly one of my most anticipated books of this year and with that gorgeous cover, I'm about to find a favorite or so I feel. Thank you, Simon & Schuster for a digital copy! Read this interview of the author over on my blog! May 19, 2020: Why are more people not talking about this?! It sounds perfect for an epic space opera and it has a non-binary hero SO what's not to be excited about COME ON. June 13, 2020: AH, I can finally read an early copy of this! It's clearly one of my most anticipated books of this year and with that gorgeous cover, I'm about to find a favorite or so I feel. Thank you, Simon & Schuster for a digital copy! Read this interview of the author over on my blog! May 19, 2020: Why are more people not talking about this?! It sounds perfect for an epic space opera and it has a non-binary hero SO what's not to be excited about COME ON.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bookphenomena (Micky)

    THE FIRST SISTER was an engrossing read, once I hit a third through, it was really hard to put down. Told from two different POVs, two sides of a war and two characters that couldn’t be more different, it took quite a time for these separate stories to converge but both narratives were gripping. The worlds of Mars, Venus, Mercury, the asteroids and moons were complex in their settlements and evolving races but only in retrospect. This complexity was woven so carefully into the narrative without i THE FIRST SISTER was an engrossing read, once I hit a third through, it was really hard to put down. Told from two different POVs, two sides of a war and two characters that couldn’t be more different, it took quite a time for these separate stories to converge but both narratives were gripping. The worlds of Mars, Venus, Mercury, the asteroids and moons were complex in their settlements and evolving races but only in retrospect. This complexity was woven so carefully into the narrative without info-dumping. There was a drip of information when it was needed, so I was never jarred by getting to know history and contemporary life and their hierarchy. I was probably most fascinated with the life of First Sister, her tenuous position on the ship, the new Captain and her self-discovery. First Sister was more than she first appeared, more than her silence, more than her role to serve and comfort. Her self-discovery and stretching of her own boundaries was riveting. Her relationship with Ren, slowly and naturally unfolded. Lito, Hiro and the Asters were also great reading, as was life on the worlds. This book had a superb non-binary character that I loved, how they were written was just really beautiful in my non-own-voices opinion. I just had a niggling feeling about the later twist and I was right; I felt quite smug about that. I couldn’t be more excited to see this is the start of a series and not a standalone. I need more from this story of worlds, more from these characters who have found a home in my heart and I want to see justice in this opressive wrangling of species and races. THE FIRST SISTER is one heck of a debut, written with deep thought, ingenuity and natural flair. The research underpinning the writing felt solid. Linden A. Lewis has my attention and I will be ready and waiting for more. Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy. This review can be found on A Take From Two Cities Blog.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Xiran Zhao

    *Spoiler-free review* Personal Rating: I'd betray any higher power to join Hemlock's gang Reasons to Read: Richly-realized worldbuilding, compelling characters, non-binary rep, multilayered tension, mindblowing plot twists You know, despite literally being a sci-fi author, I've always had trouble connecting with space operas. I don't know why. But I DEFINITELY didn't have a problem with this book. The worldbuilding, character work, and unraveling plot threads were so perfectly balanced that I breez *Spoiler-free review* Personal Rating: I'd betray any higher power to join Hemlock's gang Reasons to Read: Richly-realized worldbuilding, compelling characters, non-binary rep, multilayered tension, mindblowing plot twists You know, despite literally being a sci-fi author, I've always had trouble connecting with space operas. I don't know why. But I DEFINITELY didn't have a problem with this book. The worldbuilding, character work, and unraveling plot threads were so perfectly balanced that I breezed through it without a single moment of boredom or confusion. Even though it was this far future space society with so much history, everything was presented in a very digestible way. The gist of the setup is that Earth and Mars originally fought a long war over resources, during which a bunch of scientists were like "aight, this is a lost cause" and flew out on a vessel called the Icarus to colonize Mercury. There, they found the fantastical substance hermium, which fulfilled all their nerdy scientist dreams and kicked their tech up to another level. By the time the war ended, with Earth and Mars' combat AIs growing sentient and being like "aight, this is a lost cause" and peacing out to the outer planets, the Icarii were so much more technologically advanced and prosperous that they could afford to turn Venus into basically the Hollywood/Instagram planet, with a lavish entertainment industry. BUT they refused to share their resources, particularly hermium, so Earth and Mars joined forces as the Geans and entered a new war to scavenge tech from the Icarii. The story is told through 3 POVs on different sides of the conflict, 2 in real time and 1 through these cool voice message transcriptions, and they're all easy to get invested in. The first, the First Sister, is literally nameless and voiceless, both having been taken from her when she was 12. She is a "priestess" of the Sisterhood, the chief religious organization of the Geans, but what her duties really entail is comforting soldiers on a starship by listening to their feelings, or "confessions," and providing them with sexual relief (though no sexual assault happens in the book itself). This is clearly an allegory to how women are expected to listen to and comfort and serve everyone around them with a smile on her face, without troubling them with her own emotions in return. It's like a male fantasy come true and codified into a system. On the surface, the First Sister acts like a loyal, demure servant of the system, but she secretly wants out badly. The only way she can avoid the advances of the entire starship of soldiers is if she has the captain's exclusive favor, which she did before the start of the story. She thought she would soon be free from all this when that captain promises to take her off the ship with him as he retires, but she learns a painful lesson to never trust the promises a man makes in bed when he straight up leaves without her. Now, with a hardcore new captain Saito Ren on board, she has to fight for the white armband that marks the captain's exclusive favor all over again. Except, this time, she receives a personal mission from the Mother, leader of her religion: spy on Captain Saito and report back any fishy details, despite their religious doctrine specifically forbidding this type of treacherous behaviour. She's hesitant about this mission to begin with, and it only gets harder when she finds that Captain Saito wants to know more about her as a person instead of seeing her as an outlet for venting. They're two lonely women who slowly get closer, but a sense of doom constantly presses down on their budding romance, and the biggest question of the book is how the hell they're going to get out of this. The second POV is Lito, a soldier on the other side of the war who worked his way up from the very bottom of Icarii society. He is a Duelist, a kind of elite Icarii soldier who fights in pairs with transforming hermium blades controlled by neural implants. He is a shining example of the Icarii equivalent of the "Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps" doctrine, so much that he even got his sister out and funded her pursuit of a career in art. However, a major failed battle prior to the start of the story made him fall from grace and caused the Icarii to separate him from his partner Hiro, who he is basically soulmates with. Lito and his sister still live in the top rung of society, but there's a lot he's unhappy about, and he has a tendency of repressing all those emotions with commands from his neural implant. His big dilemma comes when the army sends him on a mission to kill Hiro, who apparently went rogue while on a deep uncover mission in Gean space. His struggle deepens when he discovers that Hiro may have betrayed the Icarii for very good reasons (because, despite living so close to the sun, the Icarii are SHADY AS HELL). But if Lito doesn't complete the mission, his sister is still back home, and he doesn't know what could happen to her if he goes rogue. The third POV is a batch of voice messages that Hiro secretly ships to Lito, and it definitely has the strongest voice of the POVs, providing iconic non-binary rep. Hiro is a character that EXUDES personality, mainly because they grew up in a such a repressive picture-perfect home that they decided that they could not deal with being anything other than unapologetically themself. There's not a lot I can say about them without going into spoiler territory, so I'll leave it at this: you will be delighted and mindblown by how the mystery behind their motivations resolves. Overall, The First Sister is a tense, thrilling, emotional read that's easy to get sucked into, and worth a try even if you're not typically into space operas. It's out NOW, so go check it out! Full review and more cosplay shots on my blog Find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr

  15. 5 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    On my blog. Actual rating 2.5 Rep: bi mc, mlm mc, Japanese nonbinary mc, amputee character CWs: threats of sexual violence, child prostitution, gender dysphoria/body dysmorphia, non-consensual surgical procedures, human experimentation Galley provided by publisher In all honesty, I’ve been putting off writing this review because I don’t want to think about this book, and in particular, a plot twist in this book, any longer since finishing it. It’s one of those books that is going along fine, and On my blog. Actual rating 2.5 Rep: bi mc, mlm mc, Japanese nonbinary mc, amputee character CWs: threats of sexual violence, child prostitution, gender dysphoria/body dysmorphia, non-consensual surgical procedures, human experimentation Galley provided by publisher In all honesty, I’ve been putting off writing this review because I don’t want to think about this book, and in particular, a plot twist in this book, any longer since finishing it. It’s one of those books that is going along fine, and then something happens, and it leaves the worst taste in your mouth. But back to that later. Firstly, this book is a space opera featuring two rival empires. We are shown POVs from both sides, First Sister and Lito. With First Sister, we follow the story of the Sisterhood, who provide comfort women to the empire’s ships and rule the empire from the shadows. With Lito, we follow a soldier instructed to find and kill his partner, who has betrayed their home. Let me start with the good things before I get to the… less good, let’s say. I really enjoyed the writing in this one. It was easily readable and sucked you into the story. Granted, from the start, I had a bit more interest in Lito and Hiro’s storyline than First Sister’s but I still enjoyed reading hers. It was the kind of writing that makes you feel as if you’re living in the world yourself, until you pull back from the page and find you’re not, after all. Add into that some very interesting worldbuilding, I thought I was absolutely going to love this book. And then the twist. There are big spoilers here, so, if you want to avoid those, just skip the rest of the review. I don’t have much more to say apart from a discussion of the twist. Let me set the scene. Hiro was sent undercover to kill the Mother, leader of the Sisterhood. On hearing that they have defected, their superiors send Lito after them, to kill his (duelling) partner and complete the mission. The twist is that, to be sent undercover, Hiro has been genetically modified (and had some limbs amputated) to become Saito Ren, who they and Lito had faced and killed in the loss of the planet they were living on. The major problem I had with this twist is that it seemed to me a fairly pointless way of bringing the stories together (which I think could have been done way later, besides. Like almost split what’s in this book into two separate books, because there was enough content for that. As it was, things felt a little brushed over). You could definitely have had Saito Ren still be alive and not be a genetically modified Hiro. Because the real kicker is the whole thing seemed merely to show how far Hiro’s own father and their side would go with regards to experimentation (which has already been shown by their experimentation on an alien race, surely?). Not to mention that the body they have now been forced into now elicits a ton of gender dysphoria for Hiro. They comment that they can’t even look at themselves naked anymore because they’re in now in a female-presenting body. I’ve tried to work out what this plan actually achieved, on Hiro’s father’s part particularly, and have come to the conclusion that it was not much. In all honesty, it seems to have been done from spite, because Hiro’s father hates them, and for no other reason. Not to mention, the whole plot twist of “Saito Ren is actually Hiro!” felt a lot like it was done for shock value in the Saito Ren/First Sister romance. So yes, I can see how this is meant to parallel the whole “your body is not your own” message of the Sisterhood, but I don’t think it paralleled it very effectively. It was somewhat a blunt message, and could equally have been done with the neural transplants that all duellers had. You have that right there, so why are you introducing this? The other argument is that it’s about the invasion of rights, but again, I would point to the alien race and ask, is this not shown well enough already? I don’t know if I have managed to effectively communicate just how much I hated this plot twist. It just left me feeling a little bit discomforted after finishing the book. I’m not trying to say that it was overtly “problematic” or whatever (for one, I am not the right person to be suggesting so, and obviously not everyone has had the same reaction), but I didn’t enjoy it. And as such it ruined my enjoyment of the book (which I had liked up until then). So, on the whole, what I was left with was a book that had a lot of potential, and just failed to deliver.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Humanity has spread out into the solar system, gone to war, and after humanities subservient machines rebelled and left the inner solar system, humans have split genetically and split periodically. Mercury and Venus are the domain of the technologically advanced Icarii. Earth and Mars are the domain of the traditionalist and religious Geans and the asteroid belt is the home of the new human species called the "asters". First Sister is a nameless and voiceless member of the Sisterhood, the religio Humanity has spread out into the solar system, gone to war, and after humanities subservient machines rebelled and left the inner solar system, humans have split genetically and split periodically. Mercury and Venus are the domain of the technologically advanced Icarii. Earth and Mars are the domain of the traditionalist and religious Geans and the asteroid belt is the home of the new human species called the "asters". First Sister is a nameless and voiceless member of the Sisterhood, the religious order of the Geans. Her inability to speak (and to object) allows her to take confessions from her ship's crew and to provide them comfort with her body. As First Sister, this last is something she only has to offer to the Captain of the Juno. After the previous Captain leaves the ship, her position is in jeopardy unless she ingratiates herself with the new Captain, but it quickly becomes apparent that the new Captain is a target for First Sister's politically-minded supervisor in the Sisterhood. Meanwhile, the Icarii send a newly recovered agent towards Ceres that sees him on a collision course with both his own past and the machinations of the Sisterhood. This was terrific. A bit like Red Rising by someone who's actually passed primary school science mixed in with thinking about the role of people in societies that think of them as tools, both in terms of a capitalistic society and a militaristic/religious one. Character-wise this is pretty good, with First Sister developing throughout her intolerable situation and the Icarii agent Sol Lucius. Plotwise, it seems straightforward but ends up being very twisty. I'll be interested to see where it goes in the rest of the trilogy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Edit (the following day, because I kept thinking about this one). So. The book is a page turner, no questions about it. The narrarive is good, but the more I think about it, the more I realise the part I loved more are the parts I loved more from.other books/shows. What I mean: - the sisterhood it's the one on the handmaid's tale. She even has the Aunts. And the girls are sent to ships and places and take confessions and are used for sex. In the handmaid's tale they are sent to families to have k Edit (the following day, because I kept thinking about this one). So. The book is a page turner, no questions about it. The narrarive is good, but the more I think about it, the more I realise the part I loved more are the parts I loved more from.other books/shows. What I mean: - the sisterhood it's the one on the handmaid's tale. She even has the Aunts. And the girls are sent to ships and places and take confessions and are used for sex. In the handmaid's tale they are sent to families to have kids, but the gist is similar. In the tv show they even took away the voices of the handmaid's by stitiching their lips together... - the expanse. This is the one this book lies more heavily into. The colonisation of space. Ceres. The Belt. Some needing water and and interchanging products or it... which brings me to the Aester. Which are, basically, elven Belters. The Belters were the first one sent to space, to work on the Belt. They evolved naturally into something else. They are humanoid, but taller, ganglier, and can't withstand gravity like the one on Earth. They are exploited by the Earthens and other planets. They rebel, fight for themselves and organize to end the abuse they get. They have their own language and also have different hand gestures. Sound familiar, right? The only difference is that the ones on this book have black eyes and are experimented upon, something that i would have liked to see more, honestly, as i felt it was quite important. - the big robot like units some of the soldiers get into to fight. Very similar to the Martian's ones in The Expanse. Very. Only in the expanse they don't tie strips of clothing to their units. - Hiro's father makes me think of a certain cientific that appears on the expanse, Pierre Mao, which is someone who "hides" in the shadows and moves people like pieces. He is also experimenting with this humanoid entitites which are infected with the protomolecule... Also, Mao has 2 daughters, one of them (julie mao) defects and joins the rebellion...the other daughter wants to avenge her father. Things happen, tho. So. While it's a decent debut, it lies so heavily onto other books lore to have me a little bothered. _-_-_- I don't know how to rate this one, honestly... guess I am complicated... why am I so complicated? I flew thru the pages, the book was good, and I was awed by some inventions, but... I don't know how I feel about the book overall? Do I unhaul, do I keep? I mean, I loved the world created, specially the Sisters, which are very similar to the Handmaid's from 'The handmaid's Tale'. I was horrorified by the child abuse and how they were used for confessions and for sex, although I feel like there was some depth missing from it. Maybe it was done on purpose, as the author has survived sexual assault and maybe they didn't want to make the book heavy on that sense. Another thing is how their voices are stripped from them. Also I feel like way more weight could have been given to it, see more of the inner workings of the Sisterhood, the Aunts' role (seems pretty similar to the Aunts of the handmaid's tale to me) and the Mother's. I wouldn't have minded more pages added to that purpose, as it was easily my fav part of the book. Hiro's recordings are ok, but merely there so Litus can 'borrow' some info he is gonna need afterwards. I also liked how they are represented, how irreverent they are, but we know them most as Litus' POW. Litus story is okay, but for me it was the last favorite of the book. It seems like he was easily convinced when it is needed (ehem, trying to keep it spoiler free) and I would have loved more profundity on the reactions some discoveries have on him. I mean, this is one of the less impactful parts of the book, how life changing thibgs are so easily brushed off or added. I would think more thoughts, impacted decisions and doubts, not to speak about lingering trauma could have benefited the story immensely. O, there is trauma in some cases, but it looks easily brushed off to me. Also, there is lots of tech that allow for supression of emotions, linking minds and also genemodifications that I feel could have had more weight invested on them. So, while the overall feeling is a good one, I also feel like when you watch a movie that entertains you but that you won't remember much some days after watching it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Landice (Manic Femme Reviews)

    Initial thoughts (Aug. 8, 2020): HOLY FUCKING SHIT, Y'ALL. Review to come when I'm able to pick up the pieces of my heart and brain and put them back together. I just finished this ARC, but I plan to journey to the book store for my own hardcover copy in a few hours. Yes, I loved it that much. Update (Aug. 19th, 2020): Book acquired, and wow, is that matte, embossed jacket gorgeous, or what?! Anyway, now that I'm a bit more coherent: I really appreciated both the explicit and casually queer rep i Initial thoughts (Aug. 8, 2020): HOLY FUCKING SHIT, Y'ALL. Review to come when I'm able to pick up the pieces of my heart and brain and put them back together. I just finished this ARC, but I plan to journey to the book store for my own hardcover copy in a few hours. Yes, I loved it that much. Update (Aug. 19th, 2020): Book acquired, and wow, is that matte, embossed jacket gorgeous, or what?! Anyway, now that I'm a bit more coherent: I really appreciated both the explicit and casually queer rep in this book. I loved Hiro, my new all time favorite non-binary character, and had a major crush on most of the ladies. So good. The First Sister is also simultaneously a plot and character driven story, and Lewis balances those two aspects impeccably. I would definitely check out some content warnings before picking this one up, because there is a lot of heavy and potentially triggering content. Please read The First Sister, but read with care! The First Sister was very easily a five star read for me! I do wish we'd gotten more of First Sister's POV, and I agree with other reviewers who say the ending might have been the weakest point of the book, but neither of those things were enough of an issue to negatively impact my rating. I will be very anxiously awaiting the next book in this trilogy! This is one of the most discombobulated reviews I've ever written because The First Sister was very layered and complex, in the best possible way, and I feel like I'd need to write a doctoral thesis to touch on everything I loved about it. Maybe I'll be able to put all my thoughts on paper one day, but for now I'll just run around shouting Linden Lewis' praises from the rooftops! Thanks to Dom for the rec, and Skybound Books & Netgalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own, and my opinion is that this is one of my favorite books this year. I also listened to parts of the audiobook, which was excellent! Let's be friends! Bookstagram | Book Blog | Twitter

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I’m in a scifi mood at the moment and this did not disappoint. The First Sister is a fast paced adventure in space, featuring a complex travelling sisterhood of nuns who do not speak, trained members of a the military trying to destabilise a planet their government lost in a previous war, corruption, intrigue and cool technology. This was a really quick read, definitely one which I would describe as bingeable. Also it features a non-binary protagonist who uses they/ them pronouns and no one seems I’m in a scifi mood at the moment and this did not disappoint. The First Sister is a fast paced adventure in space, featuring a complex travelling sisterhood of nuns who do not speak, trained members of a the military trying to destabilise a planet their government lost in a previous war, corruption, intrigue and cool technology. This was a really quick read, definitely one which I would describe as bingeable. Also it features a non-binary protagonist who uses they/ them pronouns and no one seems to focus on this or find it strange. It’s so cool to see they/ them pronouns normalised and to see non-binary characters in stories that are not focused on their gender identity. (Obviously stories focused on gender identities are valid, it’s just cool to see nb characters out there living their lives in a future sci-fi universe.) What didn’t really work for me was the world building, I would have liked things to be more fleshed out in places, in particular in relation to the sisterhood. Also some of the twists and reveals that were meant to be shocking were things I had seen coming. One thing I will flag is that the author is white and has written a POC perspective character in Hiro. I am white so I would not presume comment on how well this has been done. Nothing in particular stood out but I would suggest checking ownvoices reviews from Japanese reviewers to get their thoughts. *digital arc received via netgalley in return for an honest review

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This was absolutely phenomenal! Easily one of my favourite reads of the year so far. If you’re interested in a space opera with queer characters, look no further than this book. I don’t delve often into sci-fi space novels, mostly because I find them not living up to expectations: they’re usually shallow, lacking world-building and complexity. But THIS. Was AMAZING. Lewis peels back the layers of the conceived societies, hinting at wars with possible androids, and exploring colonization across th This was absolutely phenomenal! Easily one of my favourite reads of the year so far. If you’re interested in a space opera with queer characters, look no further than this book. I don’t delve often into sci-fi space novels, mostly because I find them not living up to expectations: they’re usually shallow, lacking world-building and complexity. But THIS. Was AMAZING. Lewis peels back the layers of the conceived societies, hinting at wars with possible androids, and exploring colonization across the four inner planets of our known system. The story never feels bogged down in exposition—things are explained at the proper moments, with just enough detail for readers to understand without feeling overwhelmed (or underwhelmed!). And the characters! The relationships! There are two main characters narrating in the present-time of the story, First Sister and Lito. First Sister is a voiceless priestess who works as a companion aboard a warship for the soldiers, who dreams of a better life outside the Sisterhood. Lito is a legendary duelist who’s one half of an empathically-linked pair—whose partner’s betrayal ripped away everything Lito fought for. Interspersed between these two narratives is the transcript of Lito’s partner, Hiro, who tries to explain their actions. I truly adored everything about this book. It takes so many unexpected twists and breaks everything the characters thought they knew about their world. And the writing is gorgeous. The sequel is high on my must-read list for next year. An ARC was provided to me for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    Imagine this: You are a Basic Gay and are shown a book with a beautiful cover and a cast full of queer characters. It is set in space. You are well-versed in the arts of online shopping. What do you do?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon

    This book is EXTREMELY difficult for me to rate, especially without divulging spoilers. I keep shifting between anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 and since I can’t rate it either of those and I do generally prefer to round up on books that fill diversity gaps or from newer authors, I’m going with a 3. [EDIT: knocked down to 2/5 after realizing that spending half an hour writing a long, frustrated review and then going on to spend another half an hour venting about it probably means I didn’t enjoy the boo This book is EXTREMELY difficult for me to rate, especially without divulging spoilers. I keep shifting between anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 and since I can’t rate it either of those and I do generally prefer to round up on books that fill diversity gaps or from newer authors, I’m going with a 3. [EDIT: knocked down to 2/5 after realizing that spending half an hour writing a long, frustrated review and then going on to spend another half an hour venting about it probably means I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I wanted to...and I wanted to like this one so much!] The First Sister was one of my most highly anticipated releases for the year. The description and the cover (look at it! I got the UK edition with gorgeous sprayed edges through Goldsboro’s SF/F monthly delivery, but the US cover is gorgeous and I kind of wish I had that one, but... sprayed edges!) really reeled me in, even though I’m somewhat hesitant to read anything marketed as similar to The Handmaid’s Tale. I think maybe the fact that I was so looking forward to it and thought the description was brimming with potential might make me a bit harsher in my assessment of it, because I was a little... disappointed. What I liked: I found the setting really interesting, if overly simplified at times. Still, I was really intrigued by both of the societies and I loved reading Lewis’ descriptions of both. I’ve seen mixed reviews of Lewis’ writing but I actually really enjoyed her writing and thought the prose was really beautiful — descriptive and poetic at times but also straight to the point and accessible at others. The writing really stood out to me during scenes that “set the stage” for setting and location, especially in the Icarii city Cythera and in the Gean city of Ceres. The book did feel incredibly immersive in that I could picture the world perfectly. At times, the writing was like candy, I just wanted to keep reading those descriptions! I found the societies and their polarities interesting, and honestly would have liked to see more of those. This book is very character focused (which I normally prefer) but I found myself wanting the scope to open a bit more to show the setting as it pertained to more than just the main characters. This book is also definitely a page turner. I would have probably finished it faster if not for work being busy. I think the structure and the alternating POVs helps with this, but I definitely raced through it and found myself staying up later and later to finish it. I really liked aspects of the characters. First Sister was both sympathetic and incredibly frustrating; I liked that she was portrayed as a character that is at once ambitious and a bit cowardly, one who is sympathetic but also deeply flawed. I found Saito Ren intriguing yet impersonal. Lito was...grating at times; I really wanted to like him especially as I do think he is probably one of the most sympathetic and good natured characters in the story, but at the same time he often bored me. Hiro was incredibly intriguing and I had really looked forward to their POV chapters. What I didn’t love, spoilers will be indicated below This book was so all over the place. It really was. I think that’s okay, but I found the part where it was all drawn together to be really underwhelming and at times arbitrary. It didn’t necessarily feel well planned and executed, but at times very... Deus Ex Machina. At times it felt like as soon as an obstacle was presented, some barely foreshadowed solution would materialize. At times I found myself literally going “Why??” because I couldn’t quite reconcile the actions of the side characters or events in the book as anything other than intended to simply...facilitate the goals of the main characters even when it seemed at odds with their own intentions. It also felt like there were a lot of Revelations At Just The Right Time, or really there were Implications of those things directly before they were revealed, and THEN there were Revelations At Just The Right Time, and then if you didn’t get it already the POV character would Hammer The Point For You. Repeatedly. There are also a couple of twists that came that I didn’t necessarily love. The biggest one: (view spoiler)[I saw the Hiro/Saito Ren twist coming, and have a few issues with it. I do think it plays into the concepts of bodily autonomy within the story and it isn’t really my place to judge that twist — the author is trans, I am cis, people deserve to tell all kinds of stories relevant to their own identity and reality, even ones that are painful or difficult — but it’s something that I definitely would want to keep in mind when recommending the book to other readers and warning for, especially for trans/nonbinary readers. Beyond that, I just... didn’t think it was really well executed? I understand that trauma does many things to a person but reconciling Hiro and “Saito Ren” was difficult; they seem like two completely different characters. As a plot twist it just didn’t feel very well executed. (hide spoiler)] I also wasn’t entirely sold on the romance. It came very quickly and didn’t seem to get a lot of buildup; I think this is due to the fact that it comes solely from First Sister’s POV and she really only gets about a third of the book, whereas the Hiro/Lito dynamic gets the other two thirds. The romance felt super rushed and lackluster, though, it just wasn’t convincing to me. At the same time, at the end (view spoiler)[I was kind of surprised because?? Hiro/“Ren” just?? Seems to show absolutely no sorrow at losing First Sister at the end. Like, they built up that romance and the two of them being “in love” and the split between love and duty and then there was no emotional fallout on their part. (hide spoiler)] I also think that for a book being marketed as “like The Handmaid’s Tale” with the titular character being part of an organization of space nuns who must relinquish bodily autonomy including name, voice, and ability to withdraw consent for sexual services, the story totally brushes over a lot of that. First Sister’s trauma is thrown in there here and there but I still feel like it wasn’t a super nuanced take on the story. And another issue I have is just... The book is named after her, but First Sister really doesn’t have a lot of autonomy and in a lot of ways it’s.... just not her story. It’s Hiro’s story and Lito’s story, more than it is hers. Even by the end, when things are drawn together, the two stories felt very disjointed and in some ways, her part of the story felt neglected. I just found that disappointing. As for Hiro and Lito? Their motivations just weren’t super compelling to me; I said earlier but the book is very character focused when sometimes I wish it would “zoom out” and we would get things on a wider scale. In this way it felt very YA to me even though I would never refer to this as a YA book... Also, another twist at the end, (view spoiler)[the revelation that the sisters had the implants? Yeah, that made sense and I think was well set-up. First Sister having neural degradation because of it, Ringer being a hallucination?? That did not. That was super jarring. That being said, I did really find myself cheering for her.... like yes queen, you go!! Be unhinged, murder your religious leader, take her place, the world is your oyster, baby! I still didn’t think it was well set up. (hide spoiler)] I’m glad I read it because it is a fun, fast paced, unique book, and there are a lot of aspects of it I will continue to think about and I thought the writing was good.... and honestly, I probably will read the next installation because I’m curious about where it is going to go. There was just so much going on in the book and I didn’t feel it was all pulled together well enough for me to say that it wasn’t something of a disappointment.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eri

    One of my favorites for this year! I had so much fun reading this! Oh my god this is my new obsession! This book is a fast paced science fiction novel with three protagonists. Our first protagonist is First Sister, a nun for the ship Juno. This is the Handmaiden's tale part, they're all forced into having sex and rejection means losing their status basically. The Geans (the people First Sister is a part of) have some kind of strange theocratic society, that isn't nearly as fleshed out as it shoul One of my favorites for this year! I had so much fun reading this! Oh my god this is my new obsession! This book is a fast paced science fiction novel with three protagonists. Our first protagonist is First Sister, a nun for the ship Juno. This is the Handmaiden's tale part, they're all forced into having sex and rejection means losing their status basically. The Geans (the people First Sister is a part of) have some kind of strange theocratic society, that isn't nearly as fleshed out as it should be in my opinion. There was so much I wanted to know about the society. Her story revolves around Saito Ren, the new commander whom she is chosen to spy on and eventually falls in love with. The second perspective is Lito who, honestly I wasn't very invested with. But his side of the story is where most of the action is. He is part of a group called the Icarii who are at war with the Geans and instead of a theocratic society they rely on technology for everything, including simple things such as calming themselves down. This side of the story also has huge themes of lack of bodily autonomy, but this one is to the military rather than a theocratic society. The last perspective is Hiro. Their story is mostly told in flashbacks and doesn't at all feel necessary to the story and I really hate to say that about a fellow enby. But rest assured they do serve a huge importance. Characters: I only liked First Sister and Saito Ren, everyone else was kind of meh. I didn't truly hate anyone and the characters were clearly defined (heavy praise there), but on a personal level I couldn't connect with them. World Building: Cool world, not enough explanation. I want to know more about the technology of the Icarii and the religion of the Geans. I want to know more about the Asters and their society (though this book sets up more). I also want to learn more about those implants, but I assume we'll learn more about this stuff later. One of my complaints is that this felt like a glimpse of the world when it should feel like more of an introduction. Pacing: It honestly was disjointed because we cycled through characters. It was always First Sister, Lito, Hiro in cycle and since their stories were so far apart, I would sometimes forget what happened on First Sister's side by the time I finished Hiro's chapter. Worse of all my ARC had no indication of who was speaking. I pray this is fixed by the final release to avoid confusion. By the time everything starts to tie together it felt a little too late. This book definitely needed to be in third person but I guess I can understand why it wasn't. This is ultimately a story about taking control and what better way to present that than first person? Writing itself: Solid. Nothing to ride home about, it was fun, punchy, and serviceable which is all I ask for in a fast paced science fiction novel Final thoughts: This was a book about taking control over one's life and body. It is empowering to see that and to see it happen to men, women, and nonbinary people, because it can happen to anyone. That in itself is such a beautiful message and why I will hold this book so close to my heart. I also love how it criticized colonialism, imperialism, the military, and how people are dehumanized by the powers that be. I think it's very relevant to the problems we have now. On the negative side there were some cool ideas that weren't fleshed out and left me hungry for more so that's a good thing. I will definitely recommend this book for anyone hungry for queer rep because we have a whole cast of queer main characters. This story does have themes of rape but none of it is on screen, so all of you who say that you don't like adult fiction because A) shows graphic rape B) isn't diverse enough, this book has you covered. It’s diverse and there is no graphic sexual assault on screen (there is an attempted one though). Strong 4 Stars I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review

  24. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Booklover

    I knew. I kneeeeeew that when I read this book it would instantly become one of my favorite books. On one of those rare occasions where I dip my toes in the pool that is sci-fi, and enjoy myself because of this wonderful masterful harsh world that Lewis has created. I love the entire world-building element of the First Sister. It was so vivid and real. The different races and cities and attitudes were all so well crafted I just felt like I was there. The characters were memorable too. The First I knew. I kneeeeeew that when I read this book it would instantly become one of my favorite books. On one of those rare occasions where I dip my toes in the pool that is sci-fi, and enjoy myself because of this wonderful masterful harsh world that Lewis has created. I love the entire world-building element of the First Sister. It was so vivid and real. The different races and cities and attitudes were all so well crafted I just felt like I was there. The characters were memorable too. The First Sister, Lito, and Hiro were all quite amazing—though I will say Hiro Val Akira remains my favorite of the three protagonists with their sassiness. The First Sister was a realistic girl who anyone could relate to in her situation. She was afraid, she was cautious, and entirely unable to trust with good reason. A beautiful girl who led a harsh life and made the best of her situation. I loved her journey of discovering who she was and how to survive despite being let down, manipulated, and backed into a very tight corner by those who were above her. Lito sol Lucius was the gay man I always wanted in a sci-fi adventure. Very to-the-books and stiff but still super queer and entirely head over heels for Hiro. I didn’t know how I would initially react to him, because despite being gay he wasn’t exactly interesting to start with. I did enjoy seeing the world from his perspective, but it wasn’t until he left on his mission to destroy the Mother that I truly started to dread his chapters coming to an end. I saved Hiro for last because my goodness. What a person they are. Also...SPOILERS from here on out. So leave if you haven’t read it. Hiro Val Akira is quite the person. You’re presented with someone who tells their life to Lito, and then of course you ship them because Lewis crafts such a wonderful feeling of longing between Hiro and Lito. Ugh. But also you grow to learn about Hiro and Lito before their current situation, and how they were together, and how Hiro felt the whole time and I just...couldn’t. I wanted them to reunite so badly. I feel like there were hints to Hiro being Saito, but I didn’t catch any of them 😂 because I was just zipping through his chapters much too fast. I loved his heavily Japanese background and I loved how Lewis even gives us some base level Japanese phrases, as someone who used to practice Japanese, I had a very fun time with that and it also contributed to the world-building in a very interesting way. Anyway, back to Hiro. I loved them. They were so uniquely crafted and then of COURSE Hiro is also SAITO REN. Like I mentioned that but I had to let that sink in. Holy shit. Besides that I really enjoyed their sassiness, and their resistance to all that was forced upon them. They literally middle-fingered every rule ever enforced upon them and I was so here for it. Also another spoiler that’s INSANSE. Ringer not being real. What the FUCK I almost lost my mind. I can’t believe it was a result of The First Sister being broken. My goodness, what a twist. Anyway, I’m ded (not a typo but completely on our prose) where is book 2?!!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Abi | Scribbles and Stories

    Can I give this book 6 stars? Because it was 5 stars the whole way through and then the ending brought everything up a notch. You're now looking at my favourite book of the year, and I had the joy and privilege of getting to read it as an ARC. I also now have the despair of waiting even longer for the sequel. It ended not with a cliffhanger but by setting up each of the main characters at the start of a new journey (a far better choice, in my opinion). The First Sister is what most Sci-Fi wishes Can I give this book 6 stars? Because it was 5 stars the whole way through and then the ending brought everything up a notch. You're now looking at my favourite book of the year, and I had the joy and privilege of getting to read it as an ARC. I also now have the despair of waiting even longer for the sequel. It ended not with a cliffhanger but by setting up each of the main characters at the start of a new journey (a far better choice, in my opinion). The First Sister is what most Sci-Fi wishes it could be. Epic in scale, with character's actions having far-reaching consequences, yet close and personal on an emotional level, investing you in the unique struggles of each character. Best of all, it's queer. So queer, and so beautiful. This world is a harsh one, of war, abuse, people used as pawns, their personal agency taken away. There are many triggering subjects (I will provide a list at the end of the review) but they are handled with grace and care - the true horror of these actions laid clear, their consequences shown. Characters confront their ignorance and problematic beliefs, learning and taking action to do better. In the vein of my other favourite Sci-Fi, Saga , this is a book about people from opposite sides of an interstellar war coming together to end it. A bisexual woman trying to reclaim her agency from those who have stolen it, a gay Latinx soldier figuring out where his loyalties lie, and a Japanese non-binary hero who's just trying to save the worlds. If that sounds like all you've ever wanted (and it does to me), then I urge you to pick up The First Sister and enjoy it in all of its glory. Trigger warnings (I'm not an expert at doing these so apologies if I missed anything) : Mention of previous forced sexual activity (never shown on page). War, death, character struggling with PTSD. Racism towards an alien species. Slight spoiler warning for this one (but I felt it was too important not to include): a non-binary character being forced to present as a gender they don't identify with. If you've read the book and think I've missed anything, please let me know!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dom

    Normally in my reviews I try to balance what elements I thought were done well with those needing a bit of refinement. In the case of Linden A. Lewis’ THE FIRST SISTER, I can honestly say I have zero critiques. It’s like this book was made for me; I read it in a single sitting and laughed, cried, gasped, and nearly chucked my tablet at points. Sci-fi at its finest and a series I can’t wait to read more of. The First Sister might also be for you if you enjoy: *A complex organization of space priest Normally in my reviews I try to balance what elements I thought were done well with those needing a bit of refinement. In the case of Linden A. Lewis’ THE FIRST SISTER, I can honestly say I have zero critiques. It’s like this book was made for me; I read it in a single sitting and laughed, cried, gasped, and nearly chucked my tablet at points. Sci-fi at its finest and a series I can’t wait to read more of. The First Sister might also be for you if you enjoy: *A complex organization of space priestesses reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, with a nuanced woman who belongs to said organization as one of the POV characters *Galactic dystopian societies embroiled in war and violence similar to the vibe of Red Rising *Multiple LGBTQ protagonists, including a non-binary protagonist whose character doesn’t solely revolve around their gender expression *Fast paced plotting with twists and turns that will leave you breathless *Excellent worldbuilding with elements familiar to fans of the genre with their own unique, original flair *Nuanced political factions within said amazing world with questions of moral culpability *Drift compatibility a la Pacific Rim without the giant mechs *Women who aren’t afraid to fight for what they want *A tense, dark, disturbing mood as the stakes ratchet higher and higher *Endings that resolve the novel while setting a beautiful stage for the next book in the series (But here’s a secret: Even if the above list hasn’t sold you 100%, I still believe you should give The First Sister a read. Seriously. It’s that good.)

  27. 4 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    I should have known this wouldn't be my jam as it's been described as a combination of The Handmaid's Tale and Mass Effect. Margaret Atwood style 1970s feminism that focuses on the suffering of white women is, among many other things, not very interesting. Then the second chapter had a bunch of world-building info dumping. I also think it's very difficult to pull off present tense narration, and this novel is certainly not up for it. I wasn't even interested in staying for the queer content!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rian *fire and books*

    Oh I love love love this. It fulfilled my Handmaid’s Tale set in space needs with a bunch of gene modding, conversations about women’s bodies, and trans people y’all. I cannot emphasize how much this book means to me. I loved it wholeheartedly. I would like to add this story does NOT deal with a traditional trans story and might be incredibly upsetting to some. Please use caution in regards to this particular plot line. If you have questions about this particular point feel free to reach out and Oh I love love love this. It fulfilled my Handmaid’s Tale set in space needs with a bunch of gene modding, conversations about women’s bodies, and trans people y’all. I cannot emphasize how much this book means to me. I loved it wholeheartedly. I would like to add this story does NOT deal with a traditional trans story and might be incredibly upsetting to some. Please use caution in regards to this particular plot line. If you have questions about this particular point feel free to reach out and I can explain.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Little bit of Star Wars. Little bit of Handmaid's Tale. Plenty of space opera dramatics with some handwavey stuff where the science goes. The First Sister is easy enough to read but curiously unsatisfying, perhaps because neither the writing nor the characters are very distinct. It probably deserves a more thorough review than this, but it's not going to get one from me.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Isaiah

    To see more reviews check out MI Book Reviews. I got an ARC of this book. iam said I needed to read this. I requested it, because iam really knows how to recommend a book. If they say you will like it, you will like it. It is almost a guarantee. This book really just seals it. The original description I read the first line of compared this to The Handmaid’s Tale and Red Rising. One of my favorite books is The Handmaid’s Tale. I have read it multiple times, my first pre-order as an adult was the seq To see more reviews check out MI Book Reviews. I got an ARC of this book. iam said I needed to read this. I requested it, because iam really knows how to recommend a book. If they say you will like it, you will like it. It is almost a guarantee. This book really just seals it. The original description I read the first line of compared this to The Handmaid’s Tale and Red Rising. One of my favorite books is The Handmaid’s Tale. I have read it multiple times, my first pre-order as an adult was the sequel. I am obsessed. The thing is, this book stands up so well to that comparison. The Sisterhood is so much like how the Handmaid’s work. The way everything flows is magnificent. It is clearly its own entity, but if you are a fan of Offred’s story, you will love the First Sister’s story. The comparison to Red Rising is also apt. It is a little more subtle and takes knowing more about the series to really get. There are some similarities, but it diverges wildly. There is more a focus of morality and family ethics, versus overthrowing a huge caste system (there is a caste system in place in both books, but it is more of a focus in Red). If Red Rising was intimidating or a little too much for you, this is a great book. It has similar elements, but it isn’t as hardcore of a sci-fi story. There are breaks. The story was captivating, there storylines were clear, the narration was excellent. I could go on and on about this book. The queer rep was just yes. There is a nonbinary character, there is a bi/pan character (I know these are different identities, but the character did not come out or use a label so I am using the closest labels for her). I have heard there is ace rep, but it is hard for me to see. There is so little talk of sexual attraction (consensual sex), that there is no way for me to really tell if it is there or not. There is no coming out for the character either. I am ace and I missed it, so your mile may vary on that one. It was nice that the character’s love was evident since ace people can fall in love and I really did ship that relationship hard. I shipped a lot of things. My heart is a little broken. The one thing I seemed to care about above all else in this story was is Astrid ok? Who is Astrid? Is the First Sister really Astrid? Apparently I have weird priorities, but it looks like some of my questions will be answered in the already announced sequel, The Second Rebel. Overall, this was an amazing read. It kept my attention and I would read until I couldn’t physically keep my eyes open any longer. Why did I wait so long to start this?

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