It’s so easy for her to speak over me when she has words, and all I have are my hands and their symbols.
I was recommended this book by a friend, as it had somehow completely missed my radar, and I’m so glad that they pointed it out to me because I adored this book. So much so that I finished my review copy and bought a hardback a few days later, because I know I’m going to want to hear the rest of First Sister and Lito’s adventures.
Rating: 4.5 stars!
Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the review copy of this book, it has not affected my honest review.
Trigger Warnings: violence, death and graphic injury, implied torture, amputation, PTSD, denial of bodily autonomy in various ways (prostitution, plastic surgery, neural implants, experimentation), blackmail, execution, untreated mental illness, mentions of child abuse, dysphoria, gender expression denial.
(Content warnings borrowed from iam’s review here, because they phrased them better than I could. Check out their review too, because they convinced me to read this, so they can convince you too!)
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 now 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.
What did I think?
This book. This book. I’m so glad that I had a friend who’d read The First Sister already, so I could shout in their DMs about it whenever this book punched me in the heart. Which was all time, damn. Reading The First Sister is an emotional roller coaster, and while it’s definitely important to note the trigger warnings for this book, the payoff is unbelievably good. The First Sister is a dark book. The lack of personal autonomy is a huge theme within the story and impacts all of the characters to varying degrees, from the First Sister who has her voice taken from her, to Hiro and their…. whole life. It’s hard to explain the specifics without delving into plot points that are just too well revealed for me to be willing to ruin them for any readers, but I audibly gasped when I reached a particular reveal and sent about forty messages to my friend to scream about it before I could even bring myself to turn the page. Any book that can get such a strong emotional response from me is an absolute favourite, and I finished this book and immediately ordered a finished copy.
I don’t quite know what I was expecting when I started this book, but what I got was a complicated and well-developed space epic, with tangled politics that extended across planets and dragged characters from across cultures together in ways I could never have predicted. I think this is the kind of book where I’ll read it again and find more and more things I missed. Every time I was absolutely certain I knew what was happening next, Linden pulled the rug out from under my feet and then tipped me down the stairs for good measure. I had no idea what was going to happen, and I loved that. It made for constant surprises, and meant that every single twist swept me away until I was so deep in the story I couldn’t shake it from my bones.
There’s so much rep going on in this book that I honestly can’t remember it all. First Sister is white, Lito is Italian and Spanish, Hiro and Saito Ren have Japanese ancestry and no attempt is made to westernise those cultures or languages. The main characters include non-binary, bisexual and pansexual rep and all kinds of LGBT+ characters and relationships are scattered casually throughout, and there’s also what I swear is a QPR between Lito and Hiro, two soldiers who have a unique bond that’s made them closer than close friends. Diversity leaps out of this book, but doesn’t feel forced. I absolutely love the relationships in this book, and I’m honestly really glad that it’s plot-first and not romance-first because the plot of this book is so complex and interesting that it deserves all the page-time. Despite my very fierce desire for Lito, Hiro and First Sister to retire to a space farm somewhere and live happily ever after, this book doesn’t lean on HEA at all. The book ends on a solid, hopeful note, but I know things are going to be absolutely terrible throughout book 2 and 3 and while I’m dreading it I’m also looking forward to having my heart ripped out over it.
Add it on Goodreads here!