Rating: 4.5 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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…
Well, color me surprised. I absolutely loved this!
“We are all of us, gods and mortals, made up of many pieces, some of them broken, some of them scarred, but none of them the total sum of who we are.”
This is my favorite book of the series. Before it was Dark Triumph and then far, far behind was Grave Mercy. I mean, Sybella, guys. You don’t get more of an insane, beautifully written broken female protagonist than Sybella. She was such a bada**, to put it quite frankly. She was beautifully vicious and heartbreaking.
I was really not expecting to like this as much as I did. As I said, I quite enjoyed Dark Triumph with Sybella, but Grave Mercy did nothing for me. Partly I think that was because of how long it was and my utter lack of knowledge about this time frame with Brittany and France and yadda-yadda. Also, I really didn’t care for Ismae. She was kind of boring to me, which is odd, since usually when I find a female assassin who has zero qualms about said killing, I love her on the spot. But Ismae . . . yeah, nada.
But now, my favorite has to be Mortal Heart, followed closely by Dark Triumph and far, far away in the distance floats Grave Mercy. Which might just also be the author getting better and better as she writes as well, which isn’t uncommon.
Before, Annith came across as a bit (read: a lot) of a pushover. Of all the girls in the convent, she seemed to be . . . well, weak, to put it simply. I couldn’t imagine her killing anyone or holding her own in a fight. I pictured her as being all talk and no bite.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Make no mistake – Annith is deadly. She is more skilled then any of the other convent girls – including Ismae and Sybella – at nearly everything. All the arts are now nothing to her. She has put more effort into being the best at everything than anyone else, and gosh, does it show.
Annith proves to be devious in the best ways. She is by no means a pushover. She looks at the convent, quirks and eyebrow, and politely says no thanks, I’m outta here. All the while waving her bow and arrows in a hearty goodbye.
She does not find any comfort in killing. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Does she do it without hesitation, even though later she might feel sick? Of course. Nothing less can be expected. She is honest and true to those she loves and you’d better hope for your own sake that you never are on the opposite side of rage. Because what makes Annith stand out from Ismae and Sybella is her intelligence and ability to mask her true feelings. While Sybella can be – to put it meekly – a loose cannon, Annith controls her anger (to an extent) and instead waits and listens for her opportunity to stab you in the back at the most convenient time.
Also, Annith’s love story is so much more heartfelt than Ismae’s or Sybella’s. Did I feel for Sybella and Ismae’s love interests? Heck, yeah. But Annith’s? Her’s absolutely killed me.
Annith’s love interest is covered in shadow. It’s much more magical than either Ismae’s or Sybella’s, which worked wonderfully here. Honestly, I don’t think anything less would do for Annith.
She doesn’t need love to tend to old wounds or make her feel something, but simply wants it, which is something to be admired. She doesn’t want it in the unhealthy way so many YA female’s do, but instead she wants it because she wants an equal. And just . . . because. Because she’s mortal, and, gosh darn it, she wants a lover!
“I follow you for twelves leagues, accost you in the dead of night, and you are worried about my penance?”
“You did not accost me; I let you kiss me, make no mistake.”
She holds her own. Both emotionally and mentally and physically, Annith holds her own. The girl we saw in the previous books? The one that was cast in shadow behind Sybella and Ismae? Yeah, that’s a lie.
I’m just gonna come out and say it: I love Balthazaar.
“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.”
“I never skulk, and lurk only sometimes.”
He is literary the idea every guy should want to live up to be. Does he have his moments, particularly those that make me want to swat him upside the head? Of course. Who doesn’t? I AM a difficult human being to please – I’ll be the first to admit to that.
We don’t get to see much of Balthazaar – not nearly as much as I would have liked. But this is not a romance novel, but a novel about love and religion and doing some pretty darn painful things. The best kind.
But what I did see was incredibly admirable. He respects Annith. Not just as an assassin, but as a woman. He knows she can hold her own, not only physically but emotionally and mentally. He does not LET her do anything, because he does not control what she does. At some point in their developing relationship, should he have some say? Sure. But that goes both ways. She does not have to be with him or seek his acceptance of what she does all the time . . . actually, almost never. Because she is smart and wise and not (completely) reckless. And when she is, it’s justified. The same goes for him.
And it’s beautiful.
I’ll admit it – I swooned over him. Yes, swooned. Like one of those belladonna’s out of a Civil War novel. *Cringes internally*
It takes a lot to make me swoon over a fictional guy, especially with how much YA I read (I mean, come on. All of us out there that read a lot of YA know of the pain and cringe-worthy-ness of so many YA romantic leads. Come someone say ewww?), but Balthazaar succeeded.
Gosh, that man.
“And have you never questioned your faith? Never doubted or turned your back on Him?”
“No. I have not.”
Personally, I love the religion aspect of this series. But particularly in this last installment.
I’m religious – Christian, if you care to know – and I found myself connecting a lot to Annith in terms of faith. (Obviously we do not worship the same god, of course. Mortain – as far as I know – is simply the creation of Ms. LaFever’s imagination. I do not think it has any background other than that.)
She sees the unfaithful ways of her covenant (particularly those of her abbess) and does not connect these mistakes with her god, but with the people around her. Too many times I see people who are faithful loose their religion based on the teachings of those around them and not because of the teachings of God. There is a distinct difference in what the people around Annith believe to be true and what she believes to be true. She sees and hears the abbess rectify her actions by saying it is the will of Mortain, and Annith looks upon this and knows in her gut and soul that this is a false testimony. And that, in and of itself, is glorious.
I feel that there is some real depth here as far as religion – any religion – goes. The good and the bad. The false teachings it can have and the opinions of the people around you who say one thing and behave another way. Annith sees the good and the bad and knows she has to make up her own mind on what to believe. She is mature in this aspect, which is not something you find all that much in YA novels.