Title: The First Sister
Author: Linden A. Lewis
Publisher: Skybound Books
Publication Date: Aug. 4, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction
Shelves: Female-fronted, female-authored, non-binary
Half absolutely fantastic and half just okay, I’ll split the difference and call The First Sister really good with moments of great.
The half of the story that I found absolutely fantastic was that of First Sister and Captain Ren. Both are deep, well-rounded, likable characters with backstories of substance – events in their past that guide them, shape them, and drive their actions in the story. I was fascinated by the whole concept of the Sisterhood, its Goddess-oriented religion, and the odd clash of confessional and erotic duties (as flawed and potentially traumatic as all of that is), and the relationship between Captains and their chosen First Sisters was something to make you think. The relationship between First Sister and Ren was something that developed naturally, revealing new facets of them both, and the tension surrounding it, the ever-looming sense of doom, was what kept me reading.
Unfortunately, the half that I thought was just okay dominates most of the book. Lito was a solid character, just interesting enough for me to become invested in his mission, but Ofiera I really didn’t like or care about – she felt like a stock character whose primary role was to contrast the whole Rapier/Dagger dynamic, contrast with that of Hiro. As for Hiro, I desperately wanted to like them, I wanted to root for him and Lito to get back together, but so much about him rubbed me the wrong way. Defining and exploring that Rapier/Dagger dynamic is something I enjoyed, particularly with the bond or connection between them, I just didn’t like the characters bonded as much as the bond itself.
The plot was okay, serviceable enough to keep the story moving, although I would have liked more world-building and more even pacing. The themes it explores, however – the exploration of identity, autonomy, and control over one’s body and the conflict between classes, races, and species – was what kept me reading even through the okay parts, intrigued by all the possibilities and curious to see if/how those themes would be resolved. There are so many institutionalized barriers between peoples, roles and expectations and restrictions, and yet so many deeply intrusive bonds between individuals that are a sickening sacrifice that can also create a powerful sense of belonging . . . but one that can so easily be betrayed.
I didn’t love the experience of The First Sister as much as I had hoped I might, but I did admire the message behind it, and I loved First Sister and Captain Ren to make up for the others. It’s definitely worth a read.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2
My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.