Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

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His fair assassin, Counting darkness duology, book 1. Anderson Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781783448265.
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. Themes: Historical fantasy, France - History, Brittany, Assassins. After devouring the three books in the award winning His fair assassin series, I was thrilled to read the story of Genevieve, a young girl who has been undercover for so long, that she is no longer sure that she will be called up as a daughter of Saint Mortain by the convent. She becomes embroiled with a prisoner and manages to take matters into her own hands. Meanwhile Sybella from Dark triumph, returns and is accompanying the duchess on her way to be married to the King of France. She is surrounded by enemies and her only hope is to get help from the novitiates who had been hidden in the French court so many years ago.
Although Courting darkness could be read as a stand-alone, with the author giving enough information to set the scene, readers would enjoy the book more if they had read the first three books in His fair assassin series, Grave mercy, Dark Triumph, and Mortal heart.
The story is told from two points of view, that of Sybella and Genevieve. Sybella relates the travails of Anne of Brittany, who is trying to save her country. Sybella is terrified for the safety of her two sisters and is desperate for help. Genevieve's involvement with the unknown prisoner and her uncertainty about Saint Mortain, give another view of what is going on, and the mystery surrounding the prisoner is tantalising.
The world of medieval France is enthralling, with the descriptions of the intrigue, the power mongering, the fear and the prisons taking the reader right into this time in history. Peopled with real characters as well as the fantasy daughters of Saint Mortain, it makes for a fascinating read for lovers of historical fantasy.
A difficult wait for the second book in the duology is in store for the reader, who is left on a tantalising cliff-hanger. Readers who like Juliet Marillier's books, the Witchlands trilogy by Susan Dennard and the Lumatere chronicles by Melina Marchetta are likely to enjoy Counting darkness.
Pat Pledger