Title: Mortal Heart
Author: Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin, #3
Publication Information: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014
Genre: Young Adult – Historical Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Recommended For: Do you like assassin nuns? The correct answer is yes, you do.
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…
(Summary from Goodreads)
This wasn’t my favorite book of the three, but that’s not really saying much since I still really loved it. It started off a little slow, but once it got going it didn’t let up. On the one hand, the first 100 pages take place at the abbey, which would be a much quieter setting, and Annith in the past has been a more quiet character. But on the other hand, it took 100 pages to leave the abbey and get to the meat of the story, which was Annith striking out on her own and figuring out what she wants with her life. So, there’s that.
One common thread I like with this series is how each of the three girls – Ismae, Sybella, and Annith – has her own struggle to overcome in her book. For Ismae it was to realize that not all men are as horrible as her father and ex-husband; for Sybella it was to realize that she can do things because she wants to and not because it’s expected of her; for Annith, it was to figure out what she wants in life since she’s spent her entire life so far trying to please everyone else except herself. There were also some twists regarding Annith’s past about halfway through the book, so it was interesting to watch her reactions to those revelations play out.
I also really liked Balthazaar, the love interest. Annith and Balthazaar complemented each other really well: for Balthazaar, Annith represented light and good, things that he was missing out on in his life. And Annith was attracted to Balthazaar because of his darkness and how he didn’t judge her for being as good as everyone thought she was – he accepted that she was selfish, and impulsive, and sharp-tongued. (Also, he was tall, dark, and dangerous, which certainly helped.)
I felt like this book tied together the end of the larger story arcs – the war with France, the Duchess’s search for love on her own terms, the abbess’s true motives – really nicely. That’s one thing I admire about the series as a whole: how smoothly these arcs flow with each book feeling like it adds something essential to the story.
TL;DR: Starts off slow, but picks up with Annith’s quest to define herself.