A war rages between a coalition of Earth and Mars versus one of Mercury and Venus. Geans vs Icarii. Naturalism versus augmentation. Old versus New. First Sister is the highest ranking member of the Sisterhood, a religious/military organization, on a spaceship called the Juno; her role is part silent counsel listening to all of the soldiers confess and share and part concubine providing escape and pleasure for all of the soldiers on board. That is the role all Sisters play. Lito is an elite Icarii duelist tasked with finding and killing his former partner, Hiro, who is suspected of treason. The First Sister and Lito quickly learn there is more to the war than they were led to believe, and they both have the opportunity to turn the tides, but in which way?
Overall, this book is solid. Lewis has a firm grasp of storytelling by shifting effortlessly between two main narrators on opposite sides of the war and a third narrator who seemingly bridges the two sides. Lewis has written clear and distinct voices for everyone, even those characters who physically cannot speak (the Sisters). Lewis does an excellent job of living in the murky grey area of war. All characters make compromises. All characters wrestle with what is right and good: that which is aligned with the own convictions or that which is best for their homeland? Lewis provides no clear answer to these quandaries and the story is all the better for it. I got some very series Leviathan Wakes vibes from The First Sister but Lewis has certainly crafted her own story.
What absolutely deserves a huge shoutout is the trans and non-binary representation in The First Sister. Hiro is non-binary and goes by they/them pronouns. They don’t act as a mechanism to teach another character or to give anyone a redemption acr through learning their error of their prejudiced ways. Hiro simply exists, and no one seems to care about their gender. Their pronouns are never questioned and, with the exception of one punk in basic training, no jokes or concerns are ever raised about Hiro’s gender (and that one punk was soundly humiliated for even questioning someone else’s gender). Hiro simply and fully exists. While coming out stories are powerful and should still be told, especially because there is still so much stigma around being trans, it was refreshing to read something different.