by Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2014. 444 pages.
Wow! The third book of the trilogy that began with Grave Mercy is everything I hoped it would be! I had preordered the book before I found out I was going to be a Cybils judge. So the book came in while I was very busy with Cybils reading – and was the first thing I pulled out when we had finished making our list of Finalists.
The trilogy is summed up in three words: Medieval Assassin Nuns.
One thing I love about the three books is that each one is a complete story on its own – the complete story of one of the initiates into the order of St. Mortain – the god of Death. I also love that each girl’s story is totally different from the next. Each book has romance – and I thought I had it all figured out how it would go. Then this volume was completely different.
Because each book tells a complete story, with even a little bit of overlap in the timelines, you could read the books in any order. But I still highly recommend beginning with Grave Mercy. You will want to read all three books, so you might as well start at the beginning. The first book also goes into a little more depth about the political situation facing the Duchess of Britany. (The duchess in the 1490s really was engaged to multiple suitors when her father died.)
It’s all based on actual historical events – even the ancient gods of Brittany, whom the church absorbed as saints. I’m guessing that in real life, the god of Death didn’t have actual physical daughters who had special gifts as assassins, but it definitely makes a good story!
This third volume goes into more detail about some of the paranormal elements, as Annith meets the Hunt, with hellequins sent out from Death himself. Like Ismae and Sybella in the books that went before, she is struggling with her role and whether the Abbess is actually representing Mortain’s guidance, or following her own purposes.
There is an overall plot arc to the series, too, which is resolved in this book. I didn’t know anything about Brittany and its history with France, so the resolution was a surprise to me. I’m guessing things didn’t happen the way they did for the same reason portrayed in this book, but they *could* have, and I love that in a historical novel.
Parents of young teens, just to warn you: All the girls “take lovers.” No details are given, so they are not sexy reads, but that might influence whether or not you think it’s good reading for your own daughters.
They are wonderfully romantic tales, with each book having its own conflict and dangers, and each girl having a different – but beautiful – relationship with the god of Death. And I do like the way no one can push around these trained assassins!
Yes, on finishing this trilogy, I’m all the more impressed with each book individually, and the series as a whole. Each book demonstrates outstanding writing. I have no doubt I will be coming back to these books over the years. In fact, I’ll be looking for an opportunity to reread the whole series soon.
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Source: This review is based on my own copy, preordered via Amazon.com.
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