Mortal Heart (Book 3 of the Assassin Nuns)

Mortal HeartBook Three of the His Fair Assassins series both aided and abetted my desire to take refuge from my overwhelming work and study load and alleviated and exacerbated my anxiety around ever successfully wrestling those work and study things into line.

But I’m done reading the gripping historical fiction series now, I think, for there are no more books currently available. Surely I can now return to my deadlines with a clear head and laser-like focus. Just as soon as I’ve penned my thoughts about the book in this here blog…

As I predicted/expected it would, Mortal Heart pivots point of view to the third novitiate, Annith. She’s the one who has, much to her frustration and to others’ confusion, never been sent out on assignment despite her incredible mastery of the assassining skills.

Unlike the other novitiates, Annith doesn’t know her birth story, something that pains and aggravates her. She feels empty and wasted and suffocated, especially as she’s told she is to become the convent’s new seeress, a position that will see her forever contained, Rapunzel-like, in the castle. Except less glamorously and without any hope of being rescued.

So she hatches a plan to seize and create her own future, starting with breaking out of the convent. Which is where the adventures and finding the answers to her gnawing, life-long questions really begin.

As with the two previous books, the details Robin LaFevers weaves into Mortal Heart make it inherently rich and interesting. For example, one of the novitiates offers her shoes up in their yearly winter-time sacrifice to Mortain, the god of death they worship. It’s an act that would be more selfless if the other novitiates were not all too aware just how much the novitiate in question hates to wear shoes.

LaFever’s witty dialogue is also bang on and made me marvel at how she continues to come up with this stuff. Also, whether it comes freely or is something she has to work at. (I suspect the former, which both impresses and depresses me.)

‘Don’t you need to sleep?’ Annith at one stage asks a kind of guard. ‘I was sleeping. Until you woke me. And if you’ll stop talking, I will sleep some more.’

Another exchange: ‘What brings Mortain’s own out of her mighty palace?’ is delivered teasingly. ‘I find I miss the smell of wood smoke and grew tired of eating off plates’ is the witty retort.

Yes PleaseYet another: ‘My lord! I am sorry. I did not see you. Normally, you are lurking in the corners or skulking in the shadows, not standing in plain sight.’ His mouth quirks slightly. ‘I never skulk, and lurk only sometimes.’ This is revisited later when he tells her: ‘Quit lurking in the shadows. That is my role, not yours.’

Of course, all this repartee is interspersed with moments so unexpectedly tender they make your throat tighten. This pulling together of these disparate emotion-tugging threads is what makes the books so addictive.

For instance, the deftness with which LaFevers writes scenes around a young, bedridden princess are, though involving the least assassin action, so insightful and heart-of-the-matter true they are some of my favourites. Better yet, in this book Annith’s storylines intersect with Ismae’s and Sybella’s, so we get to more fully enjoy following all three.

Maddeningly, I can’t entirely tell if LaFevers plans to continue the series beyond his third book. The ending is both satisfactorily resolved so characters could be laid to rest, but not so much that they couldn’t be resurrected and sent on new adventures should we or LaFevers’ publisher demand it.

What I do know is that I can no longer stave off my other study and work and must now dig into it bookless and slightly feverish with panic. Unless I read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, which has just arrived and which must surely hold some answers to life I need to know before attempting to surmount my deadlines …

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.