Series finales often fill me with equal parts anticipation and dread. If I’ve really loved a series, and stuck with it through the final installment, I’ve invested in the story. But a disappointing ending to a trilogy can also color how I felt about the series as a whole, and it’s more of a risk that my expectations won’t be met. While I still recommend the His Fair Assassin trilogy overall, I found Mortal Heart to be the weakest installment.
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Published: November 4th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: ARC from publisher
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | Library
Genre: young adult fantasy
Synopsis: 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…
My thoughts: I enjoyed the first installment of the His Fair Assassin trilogy (see my review of Grave Mercy). The action and world-building were excellent from the beginning, and I really cared about the characters. But I really fell in love with this series because of Sybella and Beast in Dark Triumph (see my review). It was much more romantic and suspenseful.
The first 100 pages of Mortal Heart were so boring in comparison. The time that Annith spent at the convent plotting her escape could have been easily condensed into 25 pages. The beginning relied heavily on Annith’s repetitive internalization rather than action or world-building, which was a great contrast between the other installments.
Once Annith does escape the convent (had we any doubt she would?) the story gets more interesting. When she encounters a dark figure in the woods who leads a band of intimidating ghostly riders who gather the souls of the departed to usher them into the underworld, I was finally motivated to keep reading.
The romance that develops was in a different vein than the previous installments. Forbidden attraction is always compelling, and the tension is delicious.
While the historical details are rich, this is the first installment where I thought the politics overshadowed the plot. Between the story of the gods, the personal dramas of the Annith, Sybella, and Isame, as well as the complexities of nation-building, there are a lot of competing plots. While I generally appreciate a layered story, at times I thought the novel was trying to do too much.
My biggest complaint is how neatly the story wrapped up in the end. I understand that many readers prefer happy endings where all the mysteries are resolved, I thought this series had much more potential to explore moral ambiguities and realistic endings.
Don’t get me wrong: I do love this series and it’s one that I whole-heartedly recommend. I especially love this series because it follows three separate characters, rather than one first person narrator throughout. The magic is subtle, and the characters are well-drawn and complex. Still, I have some reservations about the execution of the brilliant ideas that inspired the story and the themes that drive it. Perhaps it is the stories that we love the most that we examine most critically.
Recommended for fans of: historical fantasy
Lisa at Read Breathe Relax: “The His Fair Assassin series has been such a ride. I knew from the first book that I loved LaFevers writing style, rich with historical flair and lovable heroines. This final book did an amazing job of wrapping up all the stories, and I think Annith is my favorite leading lady yet. Mortal Heart is the conclusion you’ve been waiting for, and it does NOT disappoint – get ready for the awesome.”
April at Good Books Good Wine: “Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers is EVERYTHING. This book is magical. This book is romantic. This book is history. This book is character development. This book is brave. This book is fierce. This book is emotions. This book is everything I could have asked for when it comes to a conclusion for LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series.”
Brittany at Book Addict’s Guide: “The plotting throughout the whole His Fair Assassin series is amazing. I enjoyed the first two books immensely, but with everything coming to a conclusion in MORTAL HEART, the action, the mystery, and the adventure really took off in this book and I could not put it down. If you loved the first two books, I don’t see how you can possibly be disappointed by MORTAL HEART at all.”
2 thoughts on “Book Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers”
I absolutely agree with you about how a disappointing ending to a series or trilogy can change your overall opinions and thoughts on it as a whole. I also agree with you that we do tend to criticize the books/stories that we love in a harsher manner just because we come to expect so much from them. Excellent review and I think I will be adding this trilogy to my tbr list.
I hope you like it!