Thursday, April 30, 2015

REVIEW: His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers


“Hate cannot be fought with hate. Evil cannot be conquered by darkness. Only love has the power to conquer them both.” Dark Triumph


When book one, Grave Mercy, was recommended to me by a co-worker, I first thought "nun assassins"? I was skeptical whether this was the book or series for me but I have to say that I was delightfully surprised by the trilogy as a whole. My favorite of the three was by far Dark Triumph for the mere fact that I found Sybella the most compelling of Mortain's deadly handmaidens.

Set in medieval France, the His Fair Assassin series weaves historical fantasy with actual events from the 15th Century.  True, there was a power struggle for the duchy of Brittany with a mere twelve year old girl at the heart of the political intrigue, plotting and marriage alliances.  However, LaFevers artfully blends this historical plot line with elements of fantasy, thus making the series accessible for those readers who might not typically favor historical settings.


What is unique about this series is its storytelling.  We begin with Grave Mercy and Ismae's story. Following a turbulent childhood and a brutal arranged marriage, she finds shelter at the convent of St. Mortain--one of this fictional world's nine old saints and the patron saint of Death.  Here, Ismae and other young women like her train to be deadly assassins. Her first assignment takes her to the high court of Brittany and into the midst of the political turmoil. Ismae must use all of her skills when it comes to unforeseen matters which challenge her mind, body and soul.

The story continues in Dark Triumph but with a switch in POV. Readers now follow Sybella in her assignment as she is thrust back into the family at the epicenter of great grief and despair. Her task is to use her talents of death and seduction in order to spy on her father concerning his bid to take the duchy of Brittany for himself. Just as she accepts that true death would be better than to suffer more at the hands of her family, Sybella discovers a new ally who gives her something to live for besides vengeance.

Mortal Heart concludes this tale and finally allows reader's to experience Annith's story. Passed over for numerous assignments, Annith is hurt and confused as to why the Abbess refuses to send her on missions despite her advanced skills.  Annith leaves the convent of her own volition not only to be reunited with Ismae and Sybella but to confront the Abbess concerning what she believes are grave offenses in Mortain's name. Not only does she find truth in long buried secrets which will aid the duchy in its time of need, but also discovers unexpected love.

Readers looking for a bit of romance won't be disappointed. Ismae, Sybella, and Annith each find love interests who both nurture and challenge them but also provide the support and love each have been denied. Duval, Beast and Balthazar are truly are intriguing male supporting characters who learn to quickly that these fierce ladies have a mind of their own and will not bend to the typical female subservience notable for the time period.  This is certainly a 'girl power' read.

“I follow you for twelves leagues, accost you in the dead of night, and you are worried about my penance?"
"You did not accost me; I LET you kiss me, make no mistake.” ~Annith, Mortal Heart


Final Grade:  Grave Mercy 4 out of 5 stars, Dark Triumph 5 out of 5 stars, Mortal Heart 4 out of 5 stars.

Check out the author on Twitter: @RLLaFevers

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