(NOTE: Again, review of the third book in a series without reviews of the first two books! This seems to be a habit of mine, what with Heir of Fire and Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but I did want to get my thoughts down.)
(NOTE: Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph spoilers will most probably make an appearance. If you haven’t read them, please go do that instead of exposing yourself to possible spoiler attacks.)
(NOTE YET AGAIN: With a new year comes a new part of my reviews! I’ll be spotlighting my favorite non-spoilery quotes in every book I revew.)
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Age Group: YA
Genres: Historical fantasy
Pages: 444 (hardcover)
Format/Source: Hardcover, borrowed from library
Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | or look for it at your local indie!
Rating: 5/5 Stars
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…
What an earth-shatteringly awesome conclusion to an earth-shatteringly awesome series. Just letting everyone know this now – the His Fair Assassin trilogy is an absolute gem that you all need to read.
Every book in this series revolves around a different heroine, but each one is layered and strong in her own amazing way. Ismae comes into her own magnificently in Grave Mercy, and Sybella deals with her dark past with sass and deadly awesomeness in Dark Triumph. Annith was just as powerful of a protagonist, and managed to stand out beautifully (I have to applaud LaFevers for creating three distinct, amazing main characters in the space of one series). We don’t get as much info as we’d like about Annith in the first two books–we know vaguely that her behavior is positively saintly, and that she’s one of the most skilled assassins the convent has ever raised, but not much else. Then we see her perspective on things: she’s been hurt and broken in horrifying ways, but she’s come out of it as a perfectly molded weapon, devout and determined. She’s not the stereotypical ‘good girl’, as we’ve been led to believe. She struggles to know her own mind, and when she’s in need of guidance, she turns to her faith without fail.
My favorite part of this book, hands down, is how the terrifying and beautiful world outside the convent shapes Annith as a person and makes her better for it. She starts to realize that yes, she is awesome. She starts to own her awesomeness, whether people like it or not, and it’s amazing. She learns that she completes herself and she does not need anyone to shepherd her if she doesn’t want them to. And she notes that she has grown and changed, and that’s the best realization of all.
Balthazaar and Annith gave me extreme shippy feels–to put it, you know, very lightly. They have undeniable chemistry from the moment they meet, and they complement each other SO WELL it’s actually maddening. I love that their relationship is founded on respect and understanding of each other’s abilities and personalities first and foremost, and then on all the fun bits, like sharp sarcasm and annoyingly awkward moments.
PLUS. KISSING SCENES. *melts into puddle*
I also couldn’t help but love the little peeks at Ismae and Sybella’s lives and how far they’ve come. I have a special place in my heart for them both, and it was such a treat to see them interacting with their respective love interests–Duval and Beast BE STILL MY HEART–with both grace and power.
I’d also like to give a shoutout to the Arduinnites–they’re so cool and I WANT TO BE ONE. (Think huntresses of Artemis, medieval style. Now think over that again. Is that not THE BEST?)
There was feminism everywhere because that’s how this series is, and it’s positively splendid. The character dynamic of ‘my boyfriend is cool but I am cooler’ (which is my favorite thing of ever because of important reasons) ran rampant, which made my fangirl heart flutter all over. And all the women in this series are just so multifaceted, and they’re allowed to be human, and they have genuine power that they put to use–sometimes in great ways and sometimes in not so good ones. But that’s the point. This series explores what it means to be a ‘strong’ woman and then blows all stereotypes out of the water.
(See: the political and sisterly ‘strength’ of Duchess Anne and Princess Isabeau being portrayed as having just as much merit as the ‘strength’ of the assassins learning to be lethal in the convent.)
Of course the interweaving of history and magic was superb, and I’m not just saying that because history and magic basically sum up my worldly interests. IT’S ALL FREAKING SEAMLESS. MY MIND IS COLLAPSING. The medieval elements and the fantastical ones perfectly blend into each other, and it’s so subtle and well-handled. Two thumbs up for all the worldbuilding that LaFevers has done over the course of this series, because its richness and atmosphere is phenomenal.
Mortal Heart had arguably the best plot twists in any book I read in all of 2014. Its pacing was very tight, and its events were convoluted, with enough action to keep me on my toes. Plus, there were two *huge* twists in particular that actually made me stand up and shout PLOT TWIST. So there’s that. (I’m including all this plot appreciation despite the fact that I’m not a very plot-driven reader, which should tell you that this plot is indeed a standout.)
Robin LaFevers’s writing in the His Fair Assassin series can only be described as graceful. It’s sure-footed and absolutely certain of where it’s going, which lends it a proportion and simple beauty that few other authors can achieve. It also includes a very nice historical tint without ever being heavy-handed about it–surely something every reader can appreciate. Plus, it is never lacking in emotional power, though you might expect it to be somewhat detached. LaFevers’s prose contains ALL THE FEELS. TAKE CAUTION.
And LET’S TALK ABOUT THE SERIES ENDING. I totally didn’t see it coming, and while in some respects it was a little weird (I can’t really elaborate without dropping the spoiler-bomb on everyone’s heads), it still worked out and it was GREAT. I felt like all the characters ended up in lovely, realistic places, and every plot thread was finished off with a bang. I’m so happy about the conclusion and know that this series will stick with me for a long, long time.
Overall, the His Fair Assassin series is historical fantasy at its absolute finest, and Mortal Heart is no exception. The fandom for this series is sadly a bit on the small side, so this is my cue to you all: BROADEN YOUR LITERARY HORIZONS. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and I just spent an entire blog post explaining why you absolutely should), is to obtain this series for your reading enjoyment immediately.
Favorite Quotes (taken from Goodreads because I unfortunately returned my library copy a *long* time ago)
We are all of us, gods and mortals, made up of many pieces, some of them broken, some of them scarred, but none of them the total sum of who we are.
“I am sorry. I did not see you. Normally you are lurking in the corners or skulking in the shadows, not standing in plain sight.”
“I never skulk, and lurk only sometimes.”