By: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 4th, 2015
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.
She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn’t mean she has…
It took me a while to finally get my hands on Mortal Heart, after devouring the first two books in the series, but the wait was well worth it. Robin LaFevers delivers a touching last book, albeit one that manages to be unique and original. However, I found Annith’s story to be so different than the first two books that it was a little startling.
Annith is mentioned several times in both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph, and is portrayed in both as being quieter than either Ismae or Sybella, and perhaps both kinder and sweeter (although it’s not hard to be kinder and sweeter than Sybella). It was interesting to hear Annith’s side of the story and hear her deny that she was better than her sisters, although it rang false sometimes–Annith is definitely more squeamish about killing people than any other assassin nun.
Annith’s story also felt like it had more twists and turns, and was less focused on Breton history than the others. Annith is more introspective, and more immersed in the supernatural world that LaFevers creates, rather than the corporeal world of Anne of Brittany. I liked this, because you see so much more of the ‘old gods’ and how they interact with the people, but it gave Mortal Heart a very different feel than any other book in the series.
The love story helps reinforce the supernatural feel, since Annith falls in love not with a mortal Knight of Camulos, like the other two, but with the leader of the Hellequin, which is a cross between Mortain’s personal army and the faerie Wild Hunt. She travels with them for a portion of the book, and her story becomes entwined with them, in a way. As a love interest, I liked Balthazar, and thought that his dark, tortured, Sturm-und-Drang thing was a perfect counterpoint to Annith’s sweetness. I also liked how she was something of a positive influence on the Hellequin, and helped them remember some of their humanity. However, I might be biased–I just loved the idea of the Hellequin, men who erred but longed for genuine redemption at their time of death.
I’m less won over by the twist of the love story, the fact that Balthazar isn’t who you think he is (although it’s not a hard leap, or even much of a twist). That being said, all of the twists and turns of who is who missed an incestuous relationship by a hair, which creeps me out a bit. It’s really only saved by the realization that Annith isn’t actually a child of Mortain, but the fact that she thought she was for about 20 years makes the love story decidedly strange.
On the subject of twists and turns, I enjoyed the sudden emergence of Annith’s parents, and their presence explained some puzzling twists and turns found in the first two books. I also thought that Annith had a very reasonable relationship with her mother, considering that she was appearing after 20-odd years. There was no ‘I forgive you all’, or ‘I’m just glad to have you now’, there was an actual addressing of problems. I also liked that the ending was somewhat cathartic for both of them, without ignoring the reality of the situation.
This review is getting a bit cryptic, but I’m loath to spoil a lot of the twists, even though they are all logical leaps. Ultimately, though, Annith turns out to not be a typical Daughter of Mortain, or even a daughter of Mortain at all. This is the main reason why the book felt so different than either Grave Mercy or Dark Triumph. Although I find Mortal Heart to be a fitting end to the series in so many ways, and a lovely book, it still puzzles me, what a different track LaFevers took for Annith’s story.
If you like what you read above, please follow using one (or more) of the social media sites in the sidebar!
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.