Mortal Heart

Mortal Heart

by Robin LaFevers

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview


The powerful third book in Robin LaFever's critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling His Fair Assassins series perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Kristin Cashore, and Victoria Aveyard leaves Annith with a desperate decision to make that not only affects the future of Brittany, but the destiny of the god of Death Himself. 

In the powerful third book in Robin LaFever's critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling His Fair Assassins series, tensions between Brittany and Frace continue to rise as Annith watches 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.
    Combining romance, action, and political intrigue, Mortal Heart delivers a breathtaking conclusion to the war between Brittany and France...for now.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328567673
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Series: His Fair Assassin Series , #3
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 40,522
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Robin LaFevers, author of the New York Times best-selling His Fair Assassin books, was raised on fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and nineteenth-century poetry. It is not surprising that she grew up to be a hopeless romantic. She was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in California. Visit her online at robinlafevers.com and on Twitter @RLLaFevers. 

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Brittany, December 1488

For most, the bleak dark months when the black storms come howling out of the north is a time of grimness and sorrow as people await the arrival of winter, which brings death, hunger, and bitter cold in its wake. But we at the convent of Saint Mortain welcome winter with open arms and hearts, for it is Mortain’s own season, when He is full upon us. In such a way does the Wheel of Life turn, with every ending but a new beginning; that is the promise Mortain has made us.
   So while most people bar their doors and shut their windows tight, we have cause for celebration and go traipsing through the wood, gathering the sacred yew branches and collecting holly with its bright red berries that remind us of the three drops of blood spilled when Mortain was pierced by love and Arduinna’s own arrow.
   And while Mortain is a far more gentle god than most people give Him credit for, I do not think He would look kindly upon His youngest handmaidens jousting with the sacred branches that are intended for His holy fire.
   “Audri! Aveline! Stop that!”
   “She started it,” Aveline says, peering out from under the pale red hair that has fallen across her eyes.
   “No, I didn’t! You did. You always do. Because you’re good with swords and knives and fighting, you always want to fight.”
   “Girls!” I clap my hands, wincing at how very much I remind myself of Sister Beatriz when she loses control of the womanly-charms lessons. “Enough. Audri, go help Florette. Aveline, you come over here with me.”
   Thinking the other girl in trouble, Audri sticks her tongue out at Aveline, then hurries over to help Florette. Instead of scolding Aveline, I take her hand, lead her to a holly bush, and give her a knife. “You will fill that basket, and I will fill this one.”
   Pleased at being given a blade, something normally reserved for older girls or the training yard, Aveline turns to the bush and begins cutting.
   I keep my eyes on the leaves in front of me as I speak to her. “You are the oldest of the group, Aveline. There is no honor in besting those younger than you.”
   She stops her cutting and turns her strange, solemn gaze on me. “Are you saying I should pretend to be weak so they can feel strong? Is that not telling a lie?” Before I can untangle her knotted logic, she shrugs. “Besides, she is nearly as old as I am and likes to show off by going without her cloak and shoes.”
   I hide a smile, for it is true that Audri is quite proud of her ability to withstand cold. Not only does she not feel the wintry chill, but she does not suffer chilblains or deadened limbs when exposed to it. That is her gift for being pulled from the womb of a woman who had frozen to death in one of winter’s most savage storms. She is as impervious to the cold as one of the great white bears of the far north, and proud of it. “That may be true,” I concede, “but you have gifts every bit as glorious as hers and you constantly pick fights so that you may show them off.”
   For a moment, the old familiar wave of loss and longing rears up and I catch my breath at the pain of it. Among the handmaidens of Death our birth stories are our most treasured possessions, marking us as they do as Death’s true daughters. But on the day that I was born, no cuckolded husband paced nearby, no herbwitch pulled me from a cold, dead womb, nor did any hedge priest administer the last rites to a dying mother while I rooted futilely at her breast.
   Or at least, I think not, for the truth is that I do not even know the day on which I was born. I do not know the manner of my birth, the name of my mother, or even if she still lives, although we think she must not, else I would not have ended up on the convent’s doorstep when I was less than a week old. Of all the women whose feet have pattered along these stone floors, I am the only one to have no inkling of the circumstances of my own birth.
   It is like an itching, festering wound I have trained myself not to scratch. But some days the pain and burn of it are nearly beyond bearing. Especially when I am confronted with a cocksure nine-year-old who is blessed with reflexes so fast she has been known to snatch arrows from their flight.
   Aveline keeps her attention on the holly but watches me from the corner of her eye. “Does that mean you will let me fight you sometime?”
   I cannot help it—I laugh. “You think you can best me?”
   She lifts one shoulder. “I think I would like to know if I could or could not.”
   At her words, my smile wobbles and it is all I can do to keep from throwing my knife down in defeat. Even this child thinks I am no longer a match for her. I carefully avoid looking out at the ocean, just beyond the trees. It is too painful a reminder that both Ismae and Sybella have been sent to places I have not, have begun to fulfill their destinies while I am stuck here playing nursemaid to a gaggle of budding assassins.
   I feel a tug at the corner of my gown and look down to find Florette standing there with wide eyes. “We did not mean to make you sad, Annith.”
   “Oh, you didn’t, sweeting. I am just”—what? Feeling sorry for myself? Pining for my friends? Wishing fate had dealt me a different hand?—“eager to finish up with these branches so we can begin decorating.”
   Her small face clears and she goes back to her own work while I move on to the next branch. It is hard—so hard—not to feel wasted, like a new sword that has been allowed to rust before it has ever been used. I tighten my grip on my blade, reminding myself that the abbess has assured me it is just one of Mortain’s many mysteries, why He has called the others first. If I ever come face to face with Him again, I shall ask why.
   Politely, of course.
   “Annith?” Aveline says.
   “Hmmm?”
   “Are we supposed to chop at our branches like that?”
   I look down, appalled to see the gouges and scars where I have hacked my knife, again and again, against the pale silver bark of the yew. Saints! “No! Of course not. It is simply that this knife needs to be sharpened.”
   She arches one of her pale red brows at me, looking far older than her nine years.
   “Annith! Look!” At the sound of Florette’s shouting, I turn around to find her pointing through the small copse of trees. Is it a crow? For I have promised to pay Florette if she alerts me whenever she sees one approaching. It is our little secret. In exchange, I change the sheets on her bed when she wets it and I tell no one, although I think many of the others suspect.
   I hurry to the trees, my eyes scanning the sky, but I see nothing.
   “No, not in the sky, in the water. It’s a boat.
   I jerk my gaze down to the horizon, where I see that Florette is correct: a boat is making its way to the island. There is a quick, sharp stab of fear in my gut until I see that the boat does not bear one of the ominous black sails that portend death. “Aveline, go find Sister Thomine and Sister Widona. Tell them a night rower has arrived. Audri, you stay here with the other girls and continue gathering the greenery.”
   I slip my knife into the sheath at my waist, lift my skirts, and hurry across the rocky beach to the landing. There are two men in the boat, the rower and one other—a hedge priest, I presume. A girl sits between them. She is small, small enough that I do not think she can be older than Audri or Florette. As the boat comes steadily closer, I see that her hands are tied, and a rope is around her waist, securing her to the boat.
   The night rower meets my furious gaze. “You can quit yer glaring, missy. We tied ’er up only so she wouldn’t jump into the water. Thinks she’s a fish, she does.” I blink in surprise and turn to the hedge priest for an explanation.
   He nods in greeting. “It’s true. The locals sent her to Saint Mer at first, thinking she was one of theirs. But the abbess took one look at her and knew she wasn’t. Turns out, her mother drowned, but they found her in time to cut the child from her womb. Except then the father wanted nothing to do with her. Thought she’d caused the mother’s death.”
   Her story, like most of the girls’ stories, twists my heart. So many mothers dead, so many daughters blamed. It is almost enough to make me glad I do not know the circumstances of my own birth. What sort of death did my mother suffer? What sins were blamed on me for daring to come into this world?
   “Well, you’re ashore now, so untie her at once. What’s her name?”
   The hedge priest shoots an uneasy glance at the rower as he unties her. “Melusine,” he says. The sailor lifts the sacred conch shell he wears around his neck to his lips.
   When I roll my eyes, it is his turn to glare at me. “’Tis a bad-luck name, miss. Especially for us sailors.”
   “It is a foolish name,” the hedge priest mutters.
   Ignoring them both, I turn my attention to Melusine herself. “What do you think of your name?”
   She looks up at me with eyes the exact color of the sea, and nearly as fathomless. “I like my name. I picked it myself.”
   I smile. “Then I like it too. The names we give ourselves are always the best. Now, come.” I hold out my hand to her. The hedge priest carefully helps her to the bow, then over the side and onto the beach. The girl glances longingly over her shoulder to the sparkling blue water. I quickly grab her hand and pull her toward me. “You can go swimming later,” I tell her. “When it is not so cold.”
   When I turn to escort Melusine back to the convent, I find a small knot of three girls watching us with large, curious eyes. Aveline arrives just then, breathless from her running. “Sister Thomine is teaching the others right now, and Sister Widona is tending to a mare who is foaling. They said you can see to the new arrival. You’ve done it often enough.”
   And so I have.

I shoo the younger girls on to their next lesson a little early—comportment with Sister Beatriz. She will be annoyed, but her petty annoyances are a lesser concern than getting this newest girl settled. I do not think Melusine is injured or ill, but it is customary to have new arrivals thoroughly examined, for many come to us malnourished, beaten, or in other ways physically abused.
   As I lead her down the hall, I try not to think of all the other novitiates I have escorted this way, novitiates who are even now serving Mortain in a much more glorious manner than I. I try not to think of Ismae, ensconced at court with her finery and weapons, doing the work she was born to do. I push away thoughts of Sybella, currently on her fourth assignment, with no word for well over six months. Although I did not escort Sybella down the hall—it took four full-grown nuns, two on either side of her, to be certain she did not injure herself or bolt.
   No, I will not think of that now. I will not indulge in the weakness of doubt and self-pity. Even though the infirmary door is open, I rap softly on it so that our presence will not startle Sister Serafina. She often becomes so absorbed in her work that she forgets to eat or sleep or even, sometimes, where she is. “Sister? We have a new arrival today.”
   Sister Serafina looks up from a long, complex series of tubing and flasks, a contraption of her own design she built in order to streamline her making of simples and tinctures. She peers over a coil of copper tube at us.
   “Her name is Melusine, and she was mistakenly sent to the convent of Saint Mer. Apparently, she has an affinity for water.” I smile down at the girl so she will know this is meant without judgment.
   Sister Serafina sets down a glass flask, wipes her hands on a linen towel, and studies Melusine. “Fond of the sea, are you?”
   “Yes, ma’am.”
   Once I have placed the girl in Sister Serafina’s capable hands, I leave the infirmary to inform the abbess of our new addition.
   As I draw near her chambers, I hear voices coming from within. Hoping they have gotten word of Sybella or, better yet, word of some new assignment for me, I stand near the door as if merely waiting my turn to see the abbess, then lean my ear close.
   “That is dire news indeed.” It is Sister Eonette who is speaking.
   “It is most unwelcome,” the abbess agrees. “And could not come at a worse time.”
   “Does it not worry you for other reasons?” Sister Eonette puts an odd emphasis on the word other, an emphasis that has me pressing my ear closer to the door.
   “You mean other than Sister Vereda’s illness leaving us Sightless at a time when our young duchess is fending off angry suitors and trying to keep the French from sweeping in and claiming our duchy as their own? When our country is threatened by civil war and risking outright invasion?” The reverend mother’s voice is drier than the week-old bread we feed the pigs. My thoughts fly immediately to Ismae and Sybella and countless others out in the world. Without a seeress, how will we guide their hands? This will leave them exposed and instructionless when they can least afford to be.
   “I should not have to point out to you that it is rare enough for one of Mortain’s handmaidens to take ill, even one as old as Sister Vereda. Does that not hint at some—”
   “Enough!” The abbess’s voice slices through the air, cutting short the words I was so breathlessly waiting to hear. “You are not to share your doubts or concerns with anyone. Have Sister Thomine sent to my office immediately.”
   There is a long, heavy pause that is finally broken by Sister Eonette. “But of course, Reverend Mother.” Her voice drips with sarcasm so sharp it is almost mockery. I expect the abbess to take her to task for it, to slap her or order her to do penance for showing such disrespect, but she does not.
   The soft tread of Sister Eonette’s footsteps approaching the chamber door spurs me to action. Quickly, before she exits, I scamper down the hall, then begin walking toward the office so I am a good six paces away when Sister Eonette steps out. She glances at me. “She has a meeting with Sister Thomine,” she tells me.
   “Is Sister Thomine in there already?” I ask innocently.
   “No, I am to fetch her.”
   “I will only take a minute.” I give her a quick, cheerful smile meant to appease her, but she simply jerks one shoulder in an annoyed shrug. “Very well, but I warn you, she is not in good humor this morning.”
   “Thank you for the warning, Sister.”
   She nods curtly, then brushes past me to fetch Sister Thomine. With my head swirling full of questions, I rap softly on the abbess’s door.
   “Come in.”
   It has taken me well over five years to be able to enter this office without my heart racing in fear. I am pleased that today all I must fear is that the abbess will sense my curiosity.
   “Annith!” The abbess puts down her quill. Even though she smiles, it does not reach her eyes, and her skin is pulled tight with worry. “What a lovely surprise. Have we a meeting today that I forgot?”
   “No, Reverend Mother,” I say as I curtsy. “I just came to inform you that a new girl has arrived, sent from the abbess at Saint Mer.”
   “Ah, yes. The abbess had written to me of her.” She reaches for a small pile of correspondence and removes a letter from the top. “Her father thought her cursed and wanted nothing to do with her, so she was raised by her mother’s sister, until that woman died giving birth to her own child. Her name is Melusine.” The abbess wrinkles her nose at that. “An altogether frivolous and silly name.”
   “The child chose it herself,” I explain. “Perhaps an attempt to grasp the very things that others feared her for and remake them as something lovely and mysterious.”
   The abbess looks up at me. “You are most likely correct, and very kind to have thought of that. She may keep it, then.” She leans back in her chair. “You have such a deft touch with newly arrived girls, I wonder if we should have you serve as our novice mistress. At least until you are called by Mortain.”
   We have not had a novice mistress in years, not since the abbess herself—then known as Sister Etienne—held that position under the former abbess, whom we called the Dragonette.
   She arches her brow, her mouth quirking in rare humor. “Since you look as if you have just swallowed a cup full of verjuice, I gather that you are not much pleased by that idea.”
   “While I do enjoy helping with the new girls, I fear that if I were to focus solely on that, my other skills and reflexes could easily grow dull so that I would not be ready when Mortain’s call did come.”
   It was the abbess who kept me from despair when Ismae was sent out and I was once more left behind. She assured me it could have nothing to do with my skills or dedication, for who was more skilled or dedicated than I? Clearly, it was some whim of the god. She was certain He was saving me for something extraordinary.
   “Very well, then. But from what I hear, you have surpassed many of your teachers in their fields.”
   I cannot help but savor her praise. Not because she is stingy with it—she is not—but because I so desperately need it to fill the hole that opened up inside me the day Ismae was chosen over me.
   Perhaps fearing the praise will go to my head, the abbess changes the subject. “And how are preparations for midwinter coming along?”
   “Aveline and Loisse have both grown so much that they need new white cloaks, but Sister Beatriz is taking care of that. She has assured me they will be ready by the midwinter ceremony.”
   “And how does young Audri fare?”
   “She is fine. The fumes from the mandrake root only made her sick. Sister Serafina says she will fully recover. Her appetite is good, her bodily humors are in balance, and she sleeps deeply, with no nightmares or other problems. She should be ready to join the others for lessons as soon as this afternoon, if you wish.”
   “Make it so, then. There is no reason to keep her idle. And Lisabet? How is she?”
   I smile. “Also fine. Indeed, she has found a new way to mimic death and is much pleased with herself.”
   The abbess sighs, as if bracing for the worst. “And Loisse’s arm?”
   “As you suspected, the fall from her horse did not break her wrist, merely sprained it. She also will be well enough for the midwinter ceremony, although she will have to carry her torch with her left hand.”
   “That will ruin the symmetry.”
   I try to keep the surprise out of my voice. “You would rather she did not participate?”
   She waves her hand. “No, no. It is just a minor annoyance, an imperfection that cannot be helped.”
   “She will not try riding her horse while standing up again, I assure you.” I do not tell her that Loisse was doing it in an attempt to match my own skills, as there is no legitimate reason for an assassin to ride in that position, and I fear the abbess will recognize it as sinful pride.
   “Very well. Thank you, Annith.” She picks up her quill, my sign that I am dismissed. I curtsy once more, then turn to leave the chamber, but pause when I reach the door. A question hovers on my lips, but before I can ask it, the abbess speaks. “I will save you a trip to the rookery,” she says without looking up from her work. “There has been no word from either Ismae or Sybella.”
   “Thank you, Reverend Mother,” I say as I close the door behind me. I am touched by how well she knows me, that even with her own problems weighing so heavily upon her, she takes the time to reassure me. For her problems do weigh heavily upon her, I realize. It was clear in the tightness around her eyes, and the grim set to her mouth. She has always been the strongest among us. Even when the great tragedy struck our convent seven years ago, she was the one to keep her head and move us forward when others were wont to wail and wring their hands.
   Sister Eonette’s veiled insinuations have plucked at my long-held vigilance, and seeing the abbess’s distress causes every muscle in my body to grow tight. The need to know what is afoot is like a small hungry creature yapping at my heels.
   I quickly check the hallway to be certain no one is coming, then dart into the short corridor hidden behind a tapestry of Saint Arduinna pointing her silver arrow at the dark, cloaked figure of Mortain. It leads to the small, private chapel that opens into the abbess’s office. Few know about it, and I only learned of it because once, when I was five years old and locked in the wine cellar as punishment, I had overheard Sister Appollonia and Sister Magdelena discussing it, neither of them realizing my big ears were merely one thick door away.
   It is a habit I developed when young, collecting secrets like a miser collects coins. I would never have survived my years with the Dragonette if I had not read every scrap of paper that crossed my path, listened at every door, and peered through every keyhole, trying to determine what she expected of me so I could meet those expectations as soon as possible and avoid the painful consequences of disappointing her.
   Even though the Dragonette has been dead these last seven years, I have not been able to cast the habit aside. But, just like a miser with his coins, I have no intention of ever parting with any of these secrets. Instead, I use them to soothe the raw and chafed places of my soul and remind myself that others at the convent, others with skills more remarkable than my own, also possess human flaws.
   I push aside the tapestry that hides the chapel door, then carefully lift the latch and let myself in. I settle into position just as a sharp rap sounds on the abbess’s office door. “Come in.” The abbess’s voice is faint but distinct.
   Both Ismae and Sybella possess the ability to sense the presence of others, even when a door or a wall stands between them. It is yet one more gift that I lack. However, I have learned to compensate by growing adept at recognizing the nuns without seeing them. Sister Beatriz has a light tread, as if dancing on the balls of her feet, while Sister Widona moves so silently, one almost feels her movement rather than hears it. Sister Serafina drags her left foot every so slightly, and Sister Thomine is a great stomper, with loud, sturdy steps that can be heard four rooms away. Unless she is fighting—then she is as silent as the wind and as deadly as an arrow.
   “You sent for me, Reverend Mother?” I hear Sister Thomine say.
   “Close the door, please.”
   A faint click of the latch as it is closed, then quiet. “How are Matelaine and Sarra coming along in their training?”
   There is a long pause that makes me think that whatever Sister Thomine was expecting, this was not it. “Well enough,” she says at last. “Sarra is skilled and competent, but also lazy and unwilling to push herself. Matelaine has less natural talent, but is far more committed. Unfortunately, her unique skills do not aid her in her tasks. Why do you ask? They are young yet. Surely the next one to be sent out is Annith?” I wish to hug Sister Thomine for giving voice to the thoughts in my head.
   “Sister Vereda has taken ill.” The abbess’s words are clipped. “She is too ill to See for us anymore. I think Annith may be called upon to take the seeress’s place.”
   At first, the words do not make sense to me—it is as if the abbess has begun speaking in some foreign tongue I have never heard. Or as if the thick wall between us has inexplicably distorted her words. But a faint trembling begins in my gut and spreads throughout my limbs, as if my body understands the words before my mind does.
   “But Annith is our most skilled novitiate in years. Frankly, I am surprised you sent Ismae out before her, as Ismae had been here only three years and Annith has trained her entire life. Why would we waste those skills by having her be seeress?”
   I hold my breath, waiting to hear the answer.
   “I do not remember putting you in charge of such decisions.” The abbess’s voice is as tight as a newly stretched drum skin. “Annith has excelled in every task we have set before her. There is no reason to think that augury will be any different.”
   There is a short pause before Sister Thomine speaks again, this time so softly I can barely make out the words. “But will she welcome that fate? Again, she has trained since she was a babe to be an instrument of Death. Indeed, I believe that is what allowed her to survive her years with the Dragonette—”
   “Enough!” The abbess’s voice cracks across the room like a whip. “She is obedient and accommodating and always has the convent’s best interests at heart. She will do as she is told. See to it that Matelaine’s and Sarra’s training is increased so they will be ready if we must send them out. For too long we have focused on training the eldest novitiates and have not spent enough time training the others.”
   My heart pounds so loudly that I can scarce hear the abbess’s dismissal of Sister Thomine, and the sound of the office door closing feels so distant it could have come from the bottom of the sea. I grasp for the solid wall behind me, then slowly lower myself to the ground. What does she mean? How can she possibly—I put my hands over my face and scrub it, trying to restore my wits.
   In all my seventeen years at the convent, it has never occurred to me that being seeress was a path open to any of us. Although, thinking upon it now, I realize the seeresses must come from somewhere. But I’d always assumed it was a position given to a nun when she was too old to perform other duties. Or—well, the truth is, I have not thought about it much at all.
   And why would I? I have never shown any skill or affinity for scrying or augury. Nor have I ever been taught such things. I look down at my hands, surprised to find that they are still shaking. I clench them into fists.
   The abbess cannot be serious. She herself said that I was one of the most skilled novitiates ever to have walked the convent’s halls. It cannot possibly be Mortain’s will, for if so, why would He have given me these talents? These skills?
   For the first time in over seven years, I find myself wondering what the Dragonette would think of this if she were still alive. No, I do not need to wonder. I know—she would never have considered such a thing. It would be like fashioning a weapon and using it to stir a pot.
   I do not even know if the abbess means this to be a great honor or a punishment.
   No, not a punishment, but a tempering. That is what the Drag­onette would have called it, her voice ripe with her palpable desire to create of me a perfect weapon, one whose existence would glorify Mortain.
   Only now it appears this weapon is to be locked away, never to be used for the purpose for which she was intended.

I slip out of the chapel and being walking down the hall. I must come up with a plan. Find some way to dissuade the abbess from acting on this notion of hers. As I turn the corner, I stumble upon a small clutch of the older girls huddling and whispering among themselves. At my approach, their gazes fix on me like hungry crows on a gobbet of meat.
   Merde, but I do not wish to speak with them now. Not with the abbess’s threat still buzzing in my head like angry hornets, for this news has upended me as thoroughly as one of the lay sisters empties a bucket of wash water.
   My long years of training rise up and take over, and I shove my distress and confusion behind a veil of piety and obedience. “Girls,” I murmur in a near perfect imitation of the abbess.
   Sarra grits her teeth; she hates me most when I act thus, but Mat­elaine and Loisse greet me warmly.
   “Do you know what all the furtive meetings with the abbess were about?” Matelaine asks as she and Sarra fall into step beside me.
   It galls me to have to pretend that they know something I do not, but I smile brightly at her. “No, I missed the fuss. What was it about?”
   Sarra lifts one eyebrow and places a mocking hand upon her chest. “Do not tell me that we know something that Saint Annith does not?”
   In a movement that shocks me, my hand snakes out and grabs her wrist. “Call me saint again and you will see just how saintly I am not.” My voice is low and filled with anger that has little to do with her.
   The begrudging admiration I see in her eyes surprises me almost as much as my own actions. I let go of her hand and take a deep breath. Everyone thinks that my goodness comes easily to me, that it hardly counts because I do not struggle with it, but I do. Just like rosary beads run through a priest’s fingers, so does a litany of goodness run constantly through my head: Be strong, be certain all your actions glorify Mortain, show no weakness, allow your will to bend before others’.
   It is especially appalling to be called a saint when I fear that my being so obedient is the very trait that threatens to alter the entire course of my life. I force my voice back to cheerfulness. “Now, you’d best fill me in so that I may know it too.”
   Sarra’s smugness disappears and is replaced by sullenness. “I do not know what it was about, only that there was a fuss. I was hoping you would have the details.”
   “No, but give me a day or two and I am certain I can ferret them out.” And with that, we reach the refectory, where we put our spat aside lest the nuns notice it and get involved.

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Mortal Heart 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
WorldsCollide More than 1 year ago
An absolutely brilliant conclusion to a magnificent series, Mortal Heart was just amazing. It had sweet romance, political intrigue, unexpected twists, and secrets that I never saw coming. LOVED THIS BOOK! Annith was a wonderful character. She started off as an obedient novice who always followed the rules. But, she began to question things, realized that not everything was as it seemed, and became determined to make her own way. By the end, she definitely proved that she was a strong, clever, and capable heroine and I really liked her. Balthazaar was the love interest and he was wonderful. Very sweet and utterly adorable. He had some huge secrets he was hiding that I never suspected and it made his character all the more interesting. I wish I had been able to get to know him more, but I still adored him. The romance was very sweet. Annith and Balthazaar were lovely together. My one issue was that I wanted to see more of a development with them, but I understood why it progressed the way that it did, so it wasn't a big issue. I still thought they were a wonderful couple. The plot was fast paced and I was totally hooked the entire way through. I was kept on the edge of my seat with all the political drama and the game-changing secrets that I never saw coming. These secrets changed everything for Annith and they totally took me by surprise. Of course, we see a bit of Ismae, Duval, Beast, and Sybella in this book and it was great seeing them again. I loved the story and the ending was perfect. Mortal Heart was a perfect conclusion to a brilliant series. From the romance, to the twists, to the shocking secrets, this book was amazing and I loved every bit of it. Fans of the series, you won't be disappointed with this one. And, YA lovers, this is a must read series. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
"The sum and total of who I am and who I will ever be is already contained within me." Sired by Death himself, all of the girls at the convent of St. Mortain are blessed with gifts from their godly father and tasked with carrying out his dark work in the world. Annith has watched her sisters come and go from the convent of St. Mortain, all the while waiting patiently for her own chance to serve Mortain and leave the confines of life in the convent behind. After years of proving herself the perfect novitiate, after passing every test, Annith's future outside of the convent is less than certain. When she learns that the abbess wishes to groom her as the next Seeress, Annith knows it is time to strike out and choose her own path--wherever it might lead--in Mortal Heart (2014) by Robin LaFevers. Mortal Heart is the conclusion to LaFevers' His Fair Assassin Trilogy. It is preceded by Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph. Like its predecessors, Mortal Heart works largely on its own since Annith is a new narrator and the arc follows her. The larger events of 1488 Brittany and the young Duchess' struggles to hold onto her country continue as do the machinations of the Abbess. Although there is a lot of overlap between these books in terms of their timelines, Mortal Heart is really the first time readers truly get to know Annith as more than an extremely skilled and obedient novitiate of Mortain. However, Annith soon reveals that she has quite a bit of grit. Even without special gifts from Mortain like her closest friends Ismae and Sybella, Annith is a fierce protagonist who is not afraid to seek out her own path. Readers of the first two books will expect a certain order of events to this story. While many expected elements (and familiar characters) do feature here, Mortal Heart still has numerous surprises to keep readers guessing (or, more accurately, gasping in surprise). As always LaFevers delivers a well-researched historical fantasy as well as a detailed author's note explaining what comes after. This book is well-plotted with a perfect balance between new story and tying up elements from the previous installments in the series. Mortal Heart is an expertly written conclusion to a delightfully clever series. The only regret readers will have is realizing that the series is truly over. *This book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2014* Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carringer, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Fire by Kristin Cashore, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, The Agency by Y. S. Lee, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Winner's Curse by Marie, Rutkoski, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series was amazing. I loved all the books. they keep you in suspense the entire time. I definitely recommend these books.
Alyssa75 More than 1 year ago
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers Book Three of the His Fair Assassins series Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication Date: November 4, 2014 Rating: 4 stars Source: ARC sent by the publisher Summary (from 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... What I Liked: It's officially official (again): this series is one of my favorite series everrrrrr. Grave Mercy was my favorite novel of 2012, and Dark Triumph was an excellent sequel (which I just read this past March). I preferred Ismae's story to Sybella's, but I just knew that I would love Annith's story. Annith has been in the convent, serving Mortain, longer than any of the other girls. She has never been on an assignment, whereas girls her age (like Ismae and Sybella) have been sent out. When Annith escapes, taking matters into her own hands, she discovers that some legends are true, and that she isn't quite like the other daughters of Mortain. Time is ticking for the duchess and the country, and Annith has an important role to play in the war to decide the ruling power of Europe. I love this series. I love that it appears to be a companion series, and it could be, but it really isn't. There are several general plots that run throughout the series - like the duchess and her marriage and the politics and the war and so much political scheming! Also, we get to see Ismae/Duval and Sybella/Beast in this book, as well as other characters from books one and two that I did not think would appear again. The first book is still my favorite of the series, but this book comes in second (with Dark Triumph in a close third). I love how complex this book is - it's not just about Annith and her self-discovery. The brewing war and overarching political conflict is also at the forefront of the book, as Annith is heading to Guérande (which is where Ismae, Duval, Sybella, etc. are). Annith has a key part to play in the war, but we don't get to see this until late in the book. The book is pretty long (450+ pages), but the story is so intriguing and fun to read. Maybe "fun" isn't the right word - I mean like, totally engrossing and engaging. I love Ismae/Duval, and I enjoyed reading about Sybella/Beast, and I really REALLY wanted to know more about Annith (and her love interest, who I will talk about later). We follow Annith from the convent to some crazy forest thing (no spoilers!) to where the duchess and Ismae/Sybella are, and there, Annith takes her place helping the duchess, but also, discovering secrets about the abbess, and her (Annith's) past. Annith is a mystery, for most of the book. We don't know who she is, or what she is, but we know that she cannot be an "ordinary" daughter of Mortain. She has no gifts of Mortain, but she is a faithful servant and a very skilled assassin. Annith is obedient, but there is always a thread of rebellion laced through her heart. She is determined to discover the truth of the abbess's schemes and plotting - and we know how twisted the abbess seemed in books one and two. Yes, yes there is romance in this book. The romance is a bit... unexpected, as LaFevers introduces a new element to the lore of the story. The male love interest in question is part of the new element of the story (which I won't give away). His name is Balthazaar, I'll give you that. I loveeeee Balthazaar - he is an interesting character, and has quite the dangerous edge. I like edgy. I won't say more. I thought it was interesting how LaFevers resolved the romance - I didn't know how it would end, honestly. This is probably my favorite historical fiction series in YA literature. Like, I loveee historical fiction, and I read a lot of it, but this has to be my favorite. Medieval historic times? Totally my thing. Plus all the politics and conflict AND breathtaking romance? Like woah. The ending of this book (and therefore, series) is good. I'm not going to say if it ended with a "happily ever after" or whatever - no spoilers from me! But it was good. I loved it. I love how things fit together. LaFevers addressed all of the conflicts in the book and series. Very well-done! Sufficient it to say, I was VERY pleased with this book. All the waiting and putting off reading this one despite having a review copy (I do things chronologically) was totally worth it. This book was stunning, beautifully written, solidly crafted, and all around, amazing! What I Did Not Like: Okay, I have to be honest, it took me a bit to get into the book. Maybe like, a hundred pages (or thereabout). It's a 450+ page book, so one hundred pages isn't really THAT much. Things get interesting when Annith leaves the convent, basically. Before that, I'm kind of like okay... I know LaFevers is setting up the scene, but eh. Necessary "evil". I don't really have many dislikes - this one just FEELS like a 4-star-read, you know? I loved Grave Mercy more, but I really liked this book! More like 4.5 stars. Would I Recommend It: I would recommend this book AND I would totally recommend this series in general! Seriously, this series is an Alyssa-approved series, one of my favorites (and probably my favorite YA historical fiction series). Plus, check out the covers! I like the original cover of Dark Triumph, but in general, I LOVED the covers of these books. And the books.  Rating: 4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars (only because it's not quite to 5 stars, like Grave Mercy. If that makes sense). But really guys, this book (and series) is so so so good! One of the best!
BookPrincessReviews More than 1 year ago
I wasn't a fan. This series is my love, but this one I knew I would have struggles with because I had struggles with it before. This book just lost the magic that the other two had, and I mean, I feel bad for Annith and ths book that it has to live in the book shadow before it. I think there were 3 main things that brought this book down for me: 1) Annith. I felt she was overshadowed by everyone else in the book. Yes, she was the star, but I never really got her. I never really felt her motivations besides focus on herself. She would all of a sudden worry about her other fellow sisters, but it never felt organic since it seemed to come out of nowhere. I just never connected with her, and I gave some half-hearted rooting for her. 2) The plot. At parts, it dwindled. I loved alllllllllll the moments with Sybella, Ismae, and Annith together and there were some great intrigue and continuation of the story happening. However, there were major parts that I was wanting to take a snooze. It was too sporadic with the slow moments and the intriguing moments. 3) The romance. I don't want to fully spoil anything, but it was not my jam. The love interest was quite possessive for my taste, and it was wayyyyyyyyyyy too fast. I mean, I blinked and they were having INTENSE feels, and like WHAT IS HAPPENING??? And the possession thing? I feel like the love interest was pushing his whims and wishes on Annith, and being WAY too protective. Duval, the love interest in the first book, is one of the best love interests I've ever seen in YA with all the respect and support he gives Ismae, and I felt like this love interest lost all of what I loved about the first one. As I said, there was still some major greatness. The writing is amazing as always and the plot was intriguing for the most part. I loved seeing the whole Assassin gang together, and there was some intriguing new mythology and more added. It's definitely a lot more fantasy than the others. Again, I think the other books just set the bar too high for this one, and it couldn't measure up. Still, I forever recommend this series. 2 crowns and a Cinderella rating!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great characters and plot. Must read all 3 books. So much girl power its wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Liked it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not only the best book of this series, but also the best book I have read! I don't think I have cried or laughed as much as I did with this book! I do NOT know what do with myself now that I've finished this series!!!
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
Well, this was one of those books that took me a little longer to finish. As with most final books in a series. Anyway, 3 stars for the first half and a mix between 3.5 and 4 stars for the second half. I like the characters, the writing style and characters. And while I liked this, it was a little long. The other two are as well, but with that, stuff was happening. I mean stuff was happening with this one but at a slower pace. Also like that the title for each book has to do with the main character and their story. Just as good as the other two, though Dark Triumph is my favorite out of the three. A good finale and sequel and one of my favorite series.
Mythicalreader More than 1 year ago
This whole series is great. Couldn't put down this final book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Simply wonderful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up this one before the others (On real paper with hardcover. Amazing, right?!) and instantly fell in love with the book (and Balthazaar ;3). It's a must read for feminists and romantics alike. =D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A definite must read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have no idea how to ever put into words how much I enjoyed this series. Simply put, it is the best series I have read aside from the Harry Potter series. LaFevers again writes in flowing, beautiful language. She tells Annith's story with grace. I must admit at first I was not a fan of "Saint Annith", but I grew to love her as I did Ismae and Sybella for her personal strengths and dedication to her personal beliefs. Perhaps my favorite thing about this series is how LaFevers pulled 15th Century French history and the religion of the time together to craft such a unique historical fiction trilogy. You can tell how much time and effort went into researching the events of the time. I have nothing my praise for this series, as well as for Mortal Heart. I hope to read more from LaFevers in the future, and I hope she will write another series to capture my heart just as His Fair Assassin has!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This one was the best. Found it difficult to put it down. This book makes me want to learn more about the nine saints
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
chapterxchapter More than 1 year ago
I absolutely adore the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers. Each book took me away to a different time and place, and craved to meet and be reunited with the many different characters found within their pages. But there was something about Mortal Heart, the last book in this series, that didn’t have me relishing each and every page and moment. That reason being the main character, Annith. Don’t get me wrong, as I progressed through the book, she slowly but surely captured my heart and attention, as did the other characters, but I will admit that it took a lot longer than I had hoped. The main reason being she annoyed me so much. I found her to be so annoying, so hard headed, so arrogant… But in the end, it was these flaws, as well as the ones that she has always carried with her since her childhood, that made me like her. That probably doesn’t make sense, but go with it. As with all the strong female leads in these books, they each have their own dark secrets and stories that come to light. And the story of Annith is right up there with them. The difference? The unbelievable twists and turns that stem from her childhood to present day. The various twists that author Robin LaFevers puts in Mortal Heart left my head (and heart) spinning. Once I thought that there was no possible way that she can add anything else that will make me gasp, she does it again! And again, and again, and again…and I loved every minute of it. As in the other books, our fearless female leads grab the attention of the undeniably sexy leading men…and Balthazar (the sexy hellequin that I could not get enough of) was just that guy. Dark, mysterious, fearless…omg so hot. I pictured Balthazar as Jason Momoa, who played Kahl Drogo from Game of Thrones…muscles… *drool* I feel like I can’t really say too, too much as it will definitely give so much away, but the connection between Annith and Balthazar definitely has something to do with Mortain, the god of Death. The main idea of Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers is this: Annith has trained all her life to be an assassin, and wants nothing more than to serve her god, Mortain, as one of his handmaidens of Death. But for reasons unbeknownst to her (until later), the Abbess keeps passing her up. The final straw is when the Abbess allows Matelaine, one of Annith’s sisters to go on her first mission…even though she is not fully trained, and has not passed all her tests, and is still pretty much a child! When the Abbess leaves the convent to go see the Duchess, Annith takes this opportunity to try and find out the reason why the Abbess is not letting her fulfil her destiny! Not only is she not being allowed to act as one of Death’s handmaidens, but the Abbess has informed her that her destiny is to be the next Seer! Ummm..hell to the no says Annith. And so she decides to travel afar (on her own) to find the Abbess and confront her with the answers to her many questions. What’s that saying though? Be careful what you wish for? During Annith’s travels, she happens upon a gang of hellequin who are on the hunt for souls, and the leader, Balthazar, seems to have taken a special interest in dear Annith. Can we say slight stalkerish? Not that I’m complaining because dang(!) Balthazar is foine. Both Annith and Balthazar have secrets that they are keeping from each other. Whether these secrets will bring them closer, or drive them apart is something you’ll have find out on your own. Apart from the fact that Annith really did annoy the bejesus out of me, I still came to adore this final installment in this series. Fans of strong female leads, unforgettable male interests, and a storyline that will keep your interests piqued right to the very end will really enjoy Mortal Heart along with the other books in the His Fair Assassin series. The writing is fantastic, the world so real that one could seriously get lost in it, and the characters are ones that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Do yourself a favor and check out these books! I highly doubt that you will regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just like the first two books, this addition didn't disappoint. LaFevers simply writes in a way that keeps you reading. Not only was it vastly entertaining, but it made me see elements of my past in a new light. I love this series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She nods to Endertail. She slams into Nettle with all her might and leaves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
book4children More than 1 year ago
I have loved this series from the beginning. I love how each girl and their experiences are so different from the others. No two stories are the same. In Mortal Heart, we get Annith's story. When she's told of her future as seeress for the convent, she can't imagine a more horrifying sentence. So she strikes out on her own to find her path and serve her god the way she was trained to. But Annith isn't like Ismae or Sybella. She doesn't enjoy taking life, and she has a softer heart than her sisters. Once again, Robin LaFevers pulled me into the rich tapestry of ancient Brittany and their struggle for independence. The characters are vibrant and fairly pulse with life of their own. I loved the way the author created such different heroines for each of these books. While they are all damaged in one way or another, their backgrounds and stories vary greatly, as do the men they fall in love with. Balthazar was a wonderful hero and I loved the new perspective we got of Mortain in this book. This series is definitely for older YA, although this book was the cleanest of the series. Content: Some violence, non-descriptive sex.