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