Personal Thoughts: I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to finally finish the His Fair Assassin’s trilogy. I really enjoyed Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph which I read last year but I hadn’t reached for Mortal Heart until very recently. Maybe I was worried about not having anymore to read once the story concluded but someone pointed out to me that we’re getting two more books set in the same world over the next couple of years so I suppose that’s why I felt ready to dive in! I was certain that none of the girl’s stories would top Ismae’s for me (Grave Mercy) but I actually think that Annith has taken her place as my new favorite.
Plot Summary: Following the events of Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph, the tweenage Dutchess of Brittany is in quite the predicament. The French are threatening to take over Brittany and they’ve been sending their armies in for war. With the help of Ismae and Sybella, the Dutchess has been able to avoid several assassination attempts and attempts at usurping her but the situation is really coming to a head in this final installment which follows Annith, the last of the sisters never to be sent out on a mission by the convent so she takes matters into her own hands.
Critique: Annith is by far one of the most interesting girls at the convent of Saint Mortain. As a handmaiden of death, she spent her entire life training to be sent out on a mission but time and time again she’s seen many of the girls, some much younger and less prepared than she be sent out while she’s stuck at the convent. The mysteries surrounding her birth and her relationship with the abbess and her predecessor is a complex web that is fascinating to watch unfold. I love that Annith takes matters into her own hands and despite always being the agreeable person she is, she really challenges authority, searches for truth and handles the revelations she discovers with a large amount of grace. She never loses sight of herself or her main objectives despite all of the questions that her past leaves her with. I also really loved the relationship between her and Balthazaar. Annith’s unwavering faith in Mortain is also something to be admired and I just loved where her storyline went because it diverged far away from what I had been expecting. I also think Mortal Heart is my favorite of the series because we get to see Annith, Ismae and Sybella reunited and there are so many heartwarming moments between these sisters. Everything plays out nicely and the story is completely tied up upon the completion of the novel but there are enough questions that the further installments will definitely be high upon my TBR list!
Do I Recommend?: Oh yes! But you must start with Grave Mercy and work your way to Mortal Heart first! If you like historical fiction with an element of fantasy and appreciate 15th century jokes, this is the book for you!
**Warning! If you haven’t read Grave Mercy which is the first book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers, there will be spoilers ahead. You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers is the second book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy but as it is a companion series, it follows a different set of characters than those in Grave Mercy. The main story continues from book one with the Duchess fighting against those backstabbing her and plotting to take her reign of Brittany away from her. This time around, we see the story progress through Sybella’s point of view with Beast as a major character as well. Sybella is a character you may remember from Grave Mercy as she is one of Ismae’s half sisters, or daughters of Mortain, who was trained at the same convent, while Beast is one of the two men Duval placed his trust in. I have to say that while I did love Dark Triumph, I did not quite enjoy it as much as I did Grave Mercy.
Dark Triumph is a darker tale than Grave Mercy. We’re clued into some of Sybella’s supposed madness as we see it through Ismae’s eyes in Grave Mercy but in Dark Triumph we are able to delve deeper and find out firsthand why Sybella suffers the way she does. I really enjoyed the progression of Sybella’s character and the growth she undergoes during her tumultuous time in the D’Albret household. Sybella is chosen to go undercover in his household as she has the best cover of any of the other assassins, D’Albret believes her to be his daughter. I bet you can gather where some of her psychological issues are stemming from. Sybella is extremely hard on herself and it’s not until she opens herself up in the latter half of the book that she finally begins to accept her past and live more in the present.
The love story between Sybella and Beast is absolutely adorable. Their characters are such great compliments for one another and there’s a darkness that dwells in each of them which explains why they’re so drawn to each other. I also appreciate that there attraction is largely non-physical. Sybella looks past Beast’s physical appearance and she loves him for who he is and Beast wholly accepts Sybella and all of her past. Their relationship develops and they establish a bond built on mutual respect. If I have one complaint about Dark Triumph, it’s that while I enjoyed the Sybella and Beast story and there were definite things happening to move the overarching plot along, I felt like their story often distracted from the elements I loved in Grave Mercy which left me wishing for more information about the politics and further information about the occurrences in Ismae and Duval’s household. Also, I would’ve just liked to see more Duval in general.
Final Thoughts: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers is the follow up to Grave Mercy but it takes us to D’Albret’s house while he continues to plot against the Duchess. The story focuses on Sybella and Beast, two strong characters with dark pasts who are coming to terms with their place in the world while forging a slow burn romantic relationship. As the name suggests, Dark Triumph is a much darker story than Grave Mercy and it’s much more psychological and character driven at its heart. I’m looking forward to reading Mortal Heart and learning more about Annith before this historical fantasy comes to a close.
When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convnt were only too happy to offer her refuge – but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.
But her assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for… (via Goodreads)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is the first book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. It’s a series I put in my Series I Plan to Read in 2016 video since I’ve heard such wonderful things about it from several credible sources. Plus, it follows an assassin so that certainly caught my interest. As someone who hadn’t really enjoyed historical novels in the past (until I learned I recently that I actually LOVE them see: Hamilton and Passenger), I had been expecting to have a difficult time getting into Grave Mercy but I was completely wrong. Once I learned everyone’s names (which was a little bit confusing in the beginning), I found I had no problem enjoying the story and reading at my normal pace.
Our main character is named Ismae and she is the daughter of Mortain, the Saint of Death. After a horrible childhood with an even worse stepfather, he sells her to a farmer for three coins. Ismae has a scar on her leg from her mother attempting to abort her so she is viewed as undesirable. On her wedding night, she get whisked away by a man who takes her to a convent that serves Mortain and after being tested, she accepts her new role as an assassin of Death. I was shocked at how quickly Isame was willing to accept her new job offer but after being wronged by so many people I suppose I should’ve seen that coming. I had honestly expected her to be hemming and hawing for a good portion of the novel but I’m so happy it was a quick decision because the remaining pages were used to tell a very captivating tale. I love Ismae as a character. She is eager to learn and serve her convent and despite what might seem like an impulsive first decision, she is very thoughtful in her actions henceforth. I also love Duvall who strongly values family and puts his sister, the Duchess Anne above all else. He protects her in ways that none of her other trusted advisers do. Additionally, I also grew very fond of Duvall’s most trusted men, but particularly Beast. These characters have secured a place in my heart and I cannot wait to find out more about them.
Seeing as how this is an historical novel, I would be remiss not to mention the intriguing setting of Brittany in the 15th century. After completing the novel, I read the author’s note, only to find out how historically accurate all of her characters (with the exception of two) and much of the plot were (minus the whole Death’s daughter as an assassin thing). For me, it is fascinating to learn about history when I can feel a deep connection to the characters involved instead of the dry recounts found in modern textbooks so everything about this story really worked for me. I had so many feelings about what was going on and especially toward the latter half of the book I could feel my heart pounding in my chest while I read. The fantasy elements interwoven in Grave Mercy enhanced the overall story and would add just as much if they were only metaphorical. I love everything about the lore of the assassins, the tense atmosphere due to French threats in Brittany and the fate of these beloved pawns in an intricate political game. As I understand it, the second book focuses on another character who meet in this book, but I’m still eager to find out more of the story!
Final Thoughts: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is the first book in the His Dark Assassin trilogy and it follows Ismae, an assassin who serves as her father Mortain, the Saint of Death. I was completely captivated by Isame’s tale and the political situations in 15th century Brittany. Robin LaFevers totally nailed it and I would highly recommend giving this series a read if you’re into historical fiction with fantasy elements.
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart? (via Goodreads)