Also in this series: Dark Triumph
My content rating: Mature YA (Characters have sex, but it's not described; Some violence - she's an assassin after all!)
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?
When I got this book from NetGalley, I didn’t know too much about it except for a vague idea that it was fantasy and the absolute knowledge that everyone seems to love it. I was fairly certain I would enjoy it too, since I tend to enjoy fantasy and the synopsis intrigued me. I had no idea that it was really historical fiction (I loved the author’s note at the end that told about what was and wasn’t true) or that it took place in the 1400’s or even that it was a romance. And I had no idea how much I would love it. When I went to go write this review and saw that the book was 549 pages, I thought, Really? That seems impossible to believe. It felt like half that because it didn’t drag. Ever.
What I LOVED:
- Political intrigue. I put this first because this is actually something that I usually don’t love about these types of books. And yet, LaFevers somehow managed to completely engage me in the young Duchess of Brittany’s political plight. Ismae is sent to Brittany to weed out the duchess’s enemies – the problem is that there are so many. It is difficult for Ismae to determine who is trying to help the duchess and who is trying to secretly undermine her. She doesn’t know who she can trust – even the man she eventually grows to love is a suspect. I was definitely invested in the duchess’s story – and I was eager to see how it would all play out. For me, this proves that a book is well-written. If you can convince me to be interested in political intrigue, you are a fantastic author!
- The fantasy elements. This book was mostly historical fiction, but I loved that the fantasy was built off of some of the religious beliefs of the time (with some finessing by LaFevers). Ismae was supposedly sired by Mortain, the God of Death. Because of this, she has certain abilities – she is immune to poisons and can see someone who is marked for death. After being trained as an assassin, she is sent off into the world to use her abilities and her skills in service of her country. The mythology of the old gods was a really interesting backdrop for the story, and I loved seeing Ismae as she began to understand her abilities and her god.
- The romance. The romance in this story was hinted at relatively early on, but developed slowly – a perfect blend. I absolutely loved Ismae and Duval together. At first, they are both logically wary of trusting each other. Duval knows that Ismae is unwavering in her devotion to Mortain and her duty, and she won’t hesitate to kill anyone if she’s instructed to do so. Ismae knows that there are many people around the duchess who wish her harm, and that she can’t trust anyone, even those who seem devoted to her. Still, the longer these two work together, the more they are drawn to each other and the stronger the bond between them grows. I loved seeing that bond develop and grow.
- Figured out the villain early on. I did pretty much figure out who the ultimate villain was going to be early on in the book, but I still really enjoyed the characters’ journey to discover it – plus, I was never sure (but there were enough clues that I wasn’t surprised when it was finally revealed).
So, now I’m hooked and I’ll definitely be continuing this series. I ended up getting the third book from BEA (I actually thought I hadn’t picked it up – but I did!) so I’ll let you know how the rest of the series goes for me. I give this one 5/5 stars.
This series made it onto my All-Time Favorites List
***Disclosure: I received this book from NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry. It is not surprising she grew up to be a hopeless romantic.
Though she has never trained as an assassin or joined a convent, she did attend Catholic school for three years, which instilled in her a deep fascination with sacred rituals and the concept of the Divine. She has been on a search for answers to life’s mysteries ever since.
While many of those answers still elude her, she was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in the foothills of southern California.
In addition to writing about teen assassin nuns in medieval Brittany, she writes books for middle grade readers, including the Theodosia books and the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series.