Thursday, October 30, 2014

Early Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Mortal Heart
by Robin LaFevers
Read: July 23 - 27, 2014
Published: November 4, 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: BEA (THANK YOU, HMH!!!)
Tags: Historical Fantasy, Brittany, Assassin Nuns

Series: His Fair Assassins #3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has

Mortal Heart is the conclusion of Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin's series, and we finally get to hear from Annith. Overall this was a strong ending to a series that combines history with fantasy and stars assassin nuns. You can see my brief thoughts on Grave Mercy and my full review of Dark Triumph. I've tried to keep my thoughts below as spoiler free as possible, even if you're new to the series. 

What I loved: The women 

1) The Duchess of Brittany: All through this series, I've been fascinated by the real historical events that surround the story, and especially Anne, the young Duchess, and her fight for her beloved Brittany. As countries, armies and suitors surround her, trying to control her and take away Brittany's freedom - many in the name of "helping" - Anne stands firm in her convictions and desire to protect her land and people. The Duchess truly epitomizes the focus this series has on strong women, not just as trained killers, but in their internal will. 

In this story, the Duchess is dealing with not only the weight of Brittany, but also the failing health of her beloved sister Isabeau. I was moved so much by Anne's relationship with her sister, and Isabeau's own character. There's a scene in this book that involves Isabeau and another individual that was an incredibly powerful moment in this series. 

Sub point: I loved the entire historical context. This was such a tense and rich time period, with both ruthless and admirable characters. I love that LaFevers chose to set her story of assassin nuns into Anne's world. I think the way the historical aspects of this story conclude are riveting and exciting, including the fantasy weaved into tale. The book also made me want to research the actual events of this time, and I spent a while after reading this book doing so. Anytime a book causes me to do more learning about the past, it is a plus for me. 

2) Anninth: We have known Annith for two books now, seeing her longing to get out of the convent and begin a journey of her own. Constantly feeling like she's being cast to the sidelines, and not understanding why, it was incredibly rewarding to finally see Annith in the spotlight, discovering who she is and what she's capable of. I connected well to Annith through this book. I can't believe how much that girl has endured. I loved Annith's faith and determination, as well as watching her gain confidence and finally take action after years of honing her skills in practice. 

3) The Abbess: Of course, I didn't love the Abbess, but I didn't expect to enjoy her part of the story as much as I did. In this book we finally find out what the Abbess has been up to throughout the series. As the story unfolded, the Abbess became far more complex and real to me. Though I strongly disagreed with many of her choices, she truly stuck to her convictions and did her best not to let anything get in the way of them. I'm always impressed when an author can make me understand an unlikable character. Some of the revelations about the Abbess weren't completely surprising and there were many instances where I hated her choices, but I was surprised by how much I appreciated her story arc. I also think what happens to the Abbess in this book was well thought out and perfect for her character. 

4) Friends: I enjoyed getting to see Ismae and Sybella again. After spending so much time with each of them, it was wonderful to see them settled in their roles and relationships. I also loved finally seeing the three assassins work together. They are all so different, but a great compliment to each other. It made so happy to see Annith part of that, after she's felt pushed back for so long. I was just bursting with pride for these three, seeing how far they've come since the beginning of the first book. Sybella's story remains my favorite, but I truly love all these women and the different ways they've accepted their calls as death's handmaidens. 

What I wish: The romance had worked better

5) I wish I'd been able to get more into Annith's romance. I nearly didn't write a review at all, because I've felt so upset about not being able to love that part more. Unfortunately for me in this instance, how I feel about a romance has a heavy weight in my overall opinion of a book, and my feelings about Annith's love interest definitely affected my reading of Mortal Heart.  

While I think Annith's love interest Balthazar was a clever choice on the surface, in practicality, it didn't work for me. Maybe if we'd gotten to know him better, it would have helped? There's a point in this book when Annith finds out something important about Balthazar, and she just accepts it all without asking questions, and I needed more answers to feel better about the whole thing. Ismae finally brings up some things that I had been screaming in my head since the revelation, but Annith never seems bothered, and that bothered me. If I'm honest, the whole situation creeped me out, and I was majorly bummed. I thought that Sybella and Ismae's guys were perfect for them, but I didn't like this match at all. Good news for readers, I seem to be in the minority on this. Many have loved it.  

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Series conclusion


  1. The romance was a complete fail. And it ruined the book for me.

  2. After such a strong romance in Dark Triumph, I think I'll be sharing your views on the romance in this installment, sadly. *sigh* Still, so glad to hear there's a strong cast of female heroines--I never tire of those. Looking forward to reading this one soon and discussing with you afterwards, Lauren! :)

  3. I liked the romance in this a lot less than the first one mostly because we didn't get to know Balthazaar as much as I wish we had, but it didn't really dampen my enjoyment of the book. I still thought they had great chemistry and I just loved that we the three characters were back together. I can see why you were disappointed though.
    Great review! I talked about A Thousand Pieces of You on the blog today if you're interested to see why it didn't work for me btw! :)

  4. I've had copies of these books for quite a while but still haven't gotten a chance to check them out. I think I'm most excited about the historical aspects you mentioned plus assassin nuns! I'm glad you enjoyed the conclusion. Always a plus to hear before starting one!

  5. I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed to read this series Lauren!!!!!! I feel like the only person who hasn't yet, BUT, now that all the books are out I plan to dive in and not resurface until I've binge read all three:) I'm bummed the romance in this one didn't work quite as well for you though, I"ve heard such great things about the previous two couples. Still, seems like it's definitely a worthwhile read!

  6. Nooooo. I am so sorry that you didn't love the romance Lauren :( that is all kinds of depressing. I loved it. But I also understand why you had some issues. And I must admit to loving the romance in book one and two the most, but I loved the man in this one too, hih. <3 But other than that, I'm glad you loved the book :) Thank you for sharing your awesome review sweetie. <3

  7. I know we've talked a little bit about the romance before - I understand your hesitancy about it. It *is* a little strange, especially if you start thinking too hard about it lol. But I think it's the fact that I loved the guy so much - he's totally my type - so I was able to overlook the awkward.
    Great review, L! So glad we got to pick this one up at BEA. ;D

  8. I remember really liking the romance, but LOVING the romance of Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph (was that the name of the second book?) even more.

    I feel like at this point I would really LOVE a book with Anne as the main character, and also more revisiting with Ismae, Sybella and Annith.

  9. "I'm always impressed when an author can make me understand an unlikable character." YES YES YES. I think that now, re-reading your thoughts on this, I can appreciate this more. I want to re-read this series in succession because I absolutely loved the first book but it's been so long since I read it. Ismae is my favorite - I say that on every blog I visit - and I just miss her so much. But knowing NOW what I do about The Abbess, I wonder how I will feel if I read the series again? Because she is one tough cookie all the way through. I feel like the author planned this from the beginning so I want to experience it again.

  10. Thank you thank you thank you!! Every review I've read has swooned about the romance and it made me feel a little…icky. I won't say more just in case I ruin it for anyone reading this comment, but I just wasn't feeling the romance. At all. I mean, part of me feels like it was meant to be, but there's that icky, disturbing factor that won't go away. Glad to know I'm not the only one! :) ~Pam


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