by Robin LaFevers
Book 1 of His Fair Assassin
Audio book narrated by Erin Moon
**See Also: Collective Updates for Grave Mercy
I liked this book more than I expected to like it, and while there is a lot of monotony to be had between certain events, I surprisingly found those quite intriguing and nice anyway. Being that this book focuses a lot on history and politics of Brittany during the pre-Renaissance era, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it if only because I’m usually bored by books that are heavy with politics.
So, kudos to Ms. Robin LaFevers. I really loved this book in spite of the political conspiracies and the drawn out history lessons--in fact, these were the things, aside from the characters, that I found most fascinating.
But anyway, as I had let this book sit on my mind for a long time (a very long time), and then subsequently went back and "skim-read" it (via audio book) to refresh my memory before diving into reading what I thought were the last two books in this series (there have since been two more books added to the series), I really don’t have much in the form of a review. So I decided to just bullet-list my thoughts and then call it a day.
Actually, a lot of these notes and thoughts had been written back in 2014 when I first finished reading this book. Following, I decided to wait until the last book of the then-trilogy was published before reading the rest. Time ended up eluding me and I never got around to finishing the last two books until this time in 2016.
Anyway, moving along now...
Escaping the brutality of a forced marriage, Ismae finds sanctuary with the convent of St. Mortain who serves the God of Death. She learns that she is blessed by the God of Death and that all the sisters of this convent serve Mortain as his handmaidens, meant to mete out his wishes as trained agents in the art of Death.
And thus NUN ASSASSINS.
Ismae receives her most important assignment in the high court of Brittany where she comes across deeper intrigues of conspiracies and deadly games of treason. Her initial assignment is to uncover a possible treasonous plot taking place at court. Her overall mission is to serve and protect the Duchess.
Oh yea, and she meets a man named Gavriel Duval who, knowing what she has been trained for, is Ismae’s means of remaining at the court to complete her assigned mission. There’s also romance, but it’s quite subtle and not at all in the way of the actual conflict taking place in the story.
Meanwhile, Ismae slowly learns that maybe there is more to being a handmaiden of St. Mortain than simply killing in his name, and that her teachers at the convent may not always know what the God of Death truly has plans for.
What I liked:
- Once again, I give kudos to the fact that the book’s political-historical intrigues managed to hook me rather than put me to sleep. It’s not the fault of fictional politics, it’s really just me. While I like a bit of history here and there, I’ve never fully been able to care for politics, so books with court conspiracies and political intrigue tend to become boring to me. (I’ve spent my childhood watching old Chinese historical television series that involve court politics; after a while, every treasonous plot just starts to sound the same.)
- This book was a page turner--I hardly noticed this book was 500+ pages and actually yearned for more when it came to an end. The "re-read" of the audio book had me hooked as well--I found myself unwilling to stop the player long enough to read other books, or even to go to sleep.
- The subtle romance between Ismae and Duval was sweet and nicely developed. I like that they started off as friendly rivals in the game of their court-related missions, and I like that they were a witty set of Bickering Romance love birds slowly building their chemistry from friendship to lovers as they continuously got on each other’s nerves. And I like that once they got over their own stubborn prides and agreed to work together, they made a pretty powerful team.
- Ismae is strong, intelligent, and knows her priorities. When she realizes that she is in way over her head, she takes her self-proclaimed impatient ass back a step so that she can listen and learn and figure out what she needs to understand before she acts. To be honest, even though it is described that Ismae is often too eager to mete out death and punishment and too impatient to wait for something to happen, I actually found her to be quite sensible in her actions. And on top of that, romance does not tie her down and she knows what needs to be done first and foremost to best serve the Duchess and her God of Death.
- The writing is beautiful. Descriptions are vivid. The historical atmosphere is palpable.
What I didn’t like:
- There isn’t as much action as I would have liked. Because the book deals more in politics and history and world-building, the amount of fighting and action and even the number of people Ismae has killed in this book seem quite sparse for a book about NUN ASSASSINS.
- This wasn’t the gritty, gory, badass NUN ASSASSIN book I had been expecting. It’s much better than the other nun assassin book I had read previously, but it’s a lot calmer than I had expected. In fact, if the whole NUN ASSASSIN thing hadn’t been my first “OMG! I want this book so badly!” tagline, I might have just read it as a historical with political intrigue and there'd be no capitalization of NUN ASSASSINS to be had.
- As much as I liked the sweet and quiet, friendly bickering chemistry between Ismae and Duval, in an overall romance rating, the love story was actually kind of lukewarm. In fact, the two seem to mesh well better as friendly partners in crime with a sizzling undertone of attraction and unacknowledged chemistry.
I had decided that was probably time for me to fit in Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart somewhere (this will happen soon)--it has been a very long time since I finished Grave Mercy (see above introductory confession). I need to be able to, like, read twenty books simultaneously and take about two months worth of vacation to finish my reading list. Because while I found Grave Mercy to be immensely enjoyable, despite being a genre I don’t normally touch at all, I’ve noted that many reviewers have stated that the next two books are supposedly even more awesome. And so I really should have made time to finish reading the next two books to join and bask in the glory of having read the His Fair Assassin series.
This is a book I would definitely reread over again, to be totally honest. And it got me curious enough about the history of Brittany as well as the Duchess Anne to want to do some genuine research. Of course, so far, I’ve only done a Wiki search...