I feel like I’ve read a lot of Fantasy, and yet I keep finding myself behind on series that have been out for a while. Case in point; His Fair Assasins by Robin LaFevers. This series has been on my radar for some time, but took me a while to give in to the temptation. When I read the first book, I just planned on reading that, reviewing, and seeing where I ended up with the series after that, but this year is turning into a frenzy of read a first book, then get addicted and get the rest. So, to start this off simply; was this a good series? Yes!!
The Trilogy is made up of three books; Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph, and Mortal Heart, each with a different main character. The first book, Grave Mercy, follows Ismae (my favorite) as she finally gets to go on her own mission for the ___ of St. Mortain. Mortain, being a death god before Christianity had taken hold in Medieval Europe, now referred to as a Saint. Going past all the religious detail that comes up since it’s Medieval Europe, Ismae’s mission is to protect the young Duchess against her enemies at court. As simple as that sounds, it turns into a dangerous game as friends turn into foe, and those she suspects transform into allies. Not all is as it seems on the surface. Dark Triumph, follows her Sister, Sybella, and Mortal Heart, Anneith. I won’t go into detail on those since Spoilers, but each pick up right where their predecessor left off.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
What makes this Trilogy different than the last several series I’ve read/started that were multi character viewpoint is that while we switch protagonists for the different novel, it follows an overarching plot that carries us through the different points of views. We’ve changed characters, but it only allows the plot to deepen and expand, instead of simply forcing another character on us.
One of the cool bits to finishing a book in the trilogy was the author’s note section, where LaFevers broke down the main plot and how it related to history. This is a historical fiction novel, with some fantasy elements, so seeing how she took a small piece of history and turned that into this Convent of Assassins whose sole purpose is to kill in service to Mortain (which apparently was a real belief at the time) is amazing. The way everything was woven together – the historical facts, characters, and opposing religions- is seamless, each connected even though history itself was only part of this story.
I got attached to Ismae’s story rather quickly, and she definitely became my favorite, though that could be that she was the first. One of the main reasons I don’t do well with multi-character books, or switching protagonists altogether is that I get attached to characters easily, too easily sometimes (Game of thrones was really hard for me). Most times I don’t have an issue with that, since Authors want you to connect like that, except when it comes multi-character books. It just becomes a test for patience, and relearning everything you thought you knew. Getting past that initial hurdle, I enjoyed each of the protagonists and what they brought to the story. Ismae is still very much a student in how she goes into situations, and I honestly just love how she and Duval butt heads so often. Sybella is all fire, and confidence, even though there is quite a bit from her past that she’ll have to overcome, and then poor Anneith. Anneith, was the one that from the first book I was skeptical what kind of story would come from her, but good gosh LaFevers saved the best for last! Each of these characters and the supporting cast are well thought out, and introduced. Even some of the characters that are bad guys are given credible reasons, or an overwhelming desire for what they want when reason doesn’t exactly serve as a good excuse.
Going back to the plot and the world that it delves into, I’m still shocked that this is a Europe that was from our real history. From the moment we are introduced to Medieval Brittany, LaFevers makes a show of it, bringing to light the good and bad of a world before technology was even a concept. This setting is one of the reasons so many find themselves taken in at the convent; it wasn’t a world built for women to be free and independent. Even with that knowledge (which does make itself known throughout the series), the women who serve Mortain are revered, and rightly feared for the unknown they represent; death. Medieval Brittany in this story is filled with villages, castles, and battlefields, all vastly detailed, and interesting.
This trilogy was a blast to read, the speed I finished it at blinding. I still wish I could have had some more from Ismae at the end, but that’s just me being me, and not a real reflection on the author or her work. I wasn’t fully expecting a historical fiction novel out of this, but that twist of fantasy kept this interesting and new. I fully recommend this if you love the medieval time period, or are just out for a good read that involves a darker edge to history.