Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

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His Fair Assassin, bk 3. Andersen Press, 2014. ISBN 9781783441785
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Historical fantasy. Brittany - History. Romance. Assassination. YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Annith has watched Ismae and Sybella leave the convent, going on their dark business to serve Mortain, the god of Death. She is distraught when she realises that the abbess has no intention of sending her out into the world. Instead she is being groomed to be the convent's Seeress, closeted in a tiny room and unable to go anywhere. Annith decides to leave the convent and travels across Brittany, but as she searches for answers she finds that everything she has believed in has been false. These secrets threaten not only her security but that of her country.
LaFevers is a master at weaving together a strange fantasy background with real historical facts and people. As with the first two books in the series, Grave mercy and Dark triumph, the reader begins to build up a picture of what life was like in Brittany in medieval times and what the politics of the times were. The plight of the young duchess and the events surrounding the war with France are expanded and brought to a conclusion in Mortal Heart.
Life in a convent is also vividly described and it is easy to empathise with Annith's dismay at the idea of being confined to a cell for the rest of her life. The old religious beliefs, centring on the god of death Mortain, and Annith's certainty that she is a daughter of Mortain add to the complexity of the plot, but also make for an interesting and challenging book.
While introducing entirely new ideas and a new romance, Mortal Heart also re-introduces characters from the previous books, so the reader of the series is pleased to find out how Ismae and Duval are getting along, as well as Sybella and Beast, but it Annith, with her devotion to Mortain, her steadfastness and determination to find the truth about the abbess and her machinations that dominates the plot.
I really enjoyed this series. The historical background made it stand out, and the adept writing, world building and great characterisation make it a stand out in the fantasy genre.
Pat Pledger