Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

20522640Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Genre: Historical, Romance
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 440
Format: e-book
Series: Grave Mercy (#1) | Dark Triumph (#2)
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon

I have loved the rest of the His Fair Assassin trilogy and I absolutely could not wait to start reading Mortal Heart, where we’d finally hear Annith’s side of things! However, I hate to say it, but I was bitterly disappointed with this as a conclusion! I can’t believe I didn’t enjoy this after loving the first two so much. Maybe it was because of how long it took me to get round to reading it, but I think its problems lie somewhere in these three things:

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Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Dark9943270 Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Published by: Houghton Mifflin
Pages: 385
Format: ebook
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Grave Mercy (#1)
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon

Dark Triumph is significantly shorter than Grave Mercy, exactly what I wanted! AND we got a new character perspective! I liked Dark Triumph a lot more than the first book in the series. I was so much more engaged in the story, and enjoyed the romance immensely, it didn’t seem forced or coincidental.

The pattern of the story was very similar to that of Grave Mercy, the only real difference being that in Sybella’s story her backstory is a slow reveal, which I loved. Much like Ismae’s story we’re thrown right into the action and there is little to no set up, but we know we’re with Sybella and that’s pretty much it. Sybella was briefly mentioned in Grave Mercy, but she certainly wasn’t a main character, and, of course, it took a little while to settle into her voice. She was in a similar court position as Ismae was in, but luckily Sybella’s personality was distinguishably different. Whereas I thought Ismae lacked a strong personality, Sybella had an engaging voice, that was only enhanced by the intriguing and haunting allusions to her past. Although Ismae and Dival did play a small part in the story, and it was nice to revisit them, Dark Triumph is very much about Sybella and Beast.

The beginning of the novel was relatively slow paced, but it build up Sybella’s lifestyle and her situation, which aided my understanding, as I still hadn’t quite gotten over the fact that we were just leaving the Duchess in Ismae’s hands, capable they may be, but I’ve learnt not to trust any one in the Breton nobility. After we were made to feel so strongly for the Duchess it did seem rather strange to suddenly be transported somewhere else, but what do you know! We were given two more sisters, one of them ill, to worry about! Yay! for His Fair Assassin tropes!

There was a lot more emphasis on the relationship side of things this time round, which compensated for the otherwise slow plot development. By far by favourite parts of the novel were Beast and Sybella’s exchanges, particularly when they visited the grave of Beast’s sister. Their relationship was bittersweet and, much like the plot, it was slow building. However, after reading plenty of instant romances this was a fresh perspective and I felt both deserved their happy ending – or was it happy? Was it even an ending, on that note? What was going on there? Am I the only one confused? Let’s hope things are explained in Mortal Heart, which I can’t wait to get my hands on!

Everything in this story was so well crafted, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so intrigued and repulsed at the same time! I never saw any of the plot twists coming, and was shocked by every single one of them – but that’s what I loved about this book, it had you guessing, it kept you on tender hooks. If I’d been looking hard enough, and thinking about it more than perhaps I was, then maybe I could have come to my own conclusions, but it was so lovely to be completely swept away by the story, as opposed to being too focused on conspiracy theories.

Overall, I would give Dark Triumph four stars – partly because I’m hoping to give that elusive five star to the final book in the series, just to prove that it gets better and better. I enjoyed the characters and the plot and cannot wait to see what happens next now that I have no idea who our villain could be!

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

9565548Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Published by: Houghton Mifflin
Pages: 549
Format: ebook
Rating: ★★★
Series: Dark Triumph (#2)
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon

Grave Mercy is set in 1485 Brittany, and luckily – thanks to my A-Level qualification in Tudor History – I knew the context of this time. However, even if you don’t know anything about Tudor History, or what was happening in Europe at the time, then Robin LaFevers explains everything as you go! In her acknowledgements at the end of the novel she also gives you a more detailed backstory on what was happening, and I was really surprised that the majority of the characters were based off of real-life figures! Now, my forte is Henry VII, and I knew that Brittany was going to be absorbed by France eventually, you need only look at a modern map to find Brittany isn’t it’s own country anymore – is it a spoiler if it’s a historical fact? – which did sort of take something away as I knew that even though Duchess Anne’s nobility worked hard to ensure he political independence, it doesn’t work out in the long run.

It might seem like a ridiculous thing to want, but I really would’ve liked a bit more information on Henry VII and the HRE, because they were mentioned, but only briefly and their relationships with Britanny I wanted to have been cleared. but anyway, enough about history, let’s talk about the characters.

I loved the first section of Grave Mercy, where were given Ismae’s backstory. It made it easier to slip into the fifteenth century mindset, because even the writing style and the language used seems historically accurate. Ismae was a strong character, and I loved her moral journey of who to trust. I loved being in the convent for that short period of time in the beginning of the novel, and I don’t think I ever got used to being with the nobles. I think this was mostly because I was promised assassin nuns, but what I really got was one assassin nun mingling with a bunch of people with a political agenda. I love a good boarding school type book, so I hope in the sequels that there is more of a focus on the convent itself, rather than just the girls.

Dival is our love interest, and I felt that their relationship developed relatively slowly for my liking, until the end when it was like ‘ohmygosh this romance seems to have come out of no-where.’ I really didn’t want Ismae to fall in love with anyone, I wanted pure assassin awesomeness, for once it would have been nice for our protagonist not to get distracted by love – perhaps Dark Triumph will deliver on that?

One of my only qualms with Grave Mercy was its length. I felt like it dragged on incessantly in the middle, and got rather repetitive. Realistically I don’t think it needed to be over 400 pages at best, so I was delighted to find out that the sequel is significantly shorter. I suppose we can mark the length up to the fact that she needed to pack so much backstory into a short space of time (or long space of time, as it transpired).

I have to say that I didn’t see the plot twist/big reveal coming, so that’s good! The mystery certainly kept me reading in the slower sections, I just wish that their could have been even more action that there was, as the whole assassin thing really was downplayed at times, although we were always reminded that Ismae could kill someone.

Overall, I enjoyed the plot, even thought it was slightly dragged out, and the historical fiction element was definitely a fun one! Reading Grave Mercy made me realise just how much I enjoy historical fiction, and it’s probably my favourite historical fiction book I’ve read. I’d give Grave Mercy 3.5 stars.