November 20, 2014

Thursday Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

Summary: Mortal Heart is the final book (SAD FACE) in Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin trilogy (Book 1 reviewed here; Book 2 reviewed here). The books take place in medieval Brittany and France, a setting which the author has obviously researched well in order to write these stories in such vivid detail. (I'm always impressed by that.) They combine some of my favorite genres and themes: historical fantasy, adventure, political intrigue, strong female heroines—and throw in a bit of romance to boot. And, assassin nuns! Who serve the death god, St. Mortain! Oh, and don't forget the Website of Gorgeousness if you want to learn more about the series.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers if you haven't read the first two books. (I seem to be saying that a lot lately—lots of trilogies and series I'm finishing up, I guess.) But here's a quick run-down. In the first two books, we followed the stories of two of Mortain's handmaidens, Ismae and Sybella. Book 3 is the story of their friend Annith, the one who got left behind. As Ismae and Sybella get dispatched on their first missions as assassins for Mortain, Annith waits for her first assignment back at the convent…and waits…and waits, only to find that the nuns have another future in store for her, and NOT one that involves getting to do fun assassin things.

Being one of their star pupils, Annith is enraged by this, and begins to question the logic behind the abbess's decision. Is something else going on? The only way to find out is to take her fate into her own hands, a choice that brings Annith adventure, unexpected love and friendship, and throws her right into the heart of the conflict between Brittany and France.

Peaks: As mentioned above, these books have All The Things that I happen to like. One of my faves is the underlying idea that the strong female heroines are exacting revenge for the horrors the world has wreaked upon them. In Annith's case, she was abandoned as a child and brought to the abbey of St. Mortain. Her story, like the others', is fleshed out well and the fact that we are acquainted with her from the first two books means we're fully behind her before the book even begins. This makes it even more egregious when she begins to feel betrayed by those who raised her and cared for her.

I particularly enjoyed the romance in this book, too. Without giving too much away, it includes everything I like about paranormal romance and deletes all the stuff I hate that tends to go along with that genre, like boring heroines and saccharine, codependent relationships.

Something else that impressed me: how well these books stand alone. While the events of the larger story arc do roughly take place in a specific order from Book 1 to Book 3, reading them out of order would not be a huge problem, and the time that passed between each book's release ended up not mattering so much. They're very well crafted in that way, and I felt like there was enough information about the meta-plot to remind me what had already happened in the first two books, without deluging me with unnecessary detail.

Valleys: I remember reading the first book and noticing a few things that felt anachronistic—not enough to really bother me, but a few teeny things jumped out at me, mostly just the occasional language choice. I didn't notice that in this book. I was fully absorbed in Annith's story from beginning to end. Now I'm just sad they're over, and feel like I want to read them all again…OH I CAN BECAUSE I OWN THEM ALL!

Conclusion: I love these books—they are so much fun and I want to live there. Well, maybe not quite. But if you enjoyed books like Graceling, or anything by Tamora Pierce—stories about powerful and independent heroines who stride through the world kicking ass—you won't want to miss these.

I bought my copy of this book as soon as it was humanly possible. You can find Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!


Jen Robinson said...

I enjoyed this book, too (review to come on Monday), but I was pulled out of the story by a reference to "run interference", which just didn't seem right :-)

Sarah Stevenson said...

Yes, you're right! That did jump out at me, but I'd forgotten already. :)

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