Robin Lafevers’ His Fair Assassin series is a young adult historical fantasy series set in sixteenth century Brittany. It tells the stories of three young women who are affiliates of a convent dedicated to Mortain, god of Death. Yup, we’re talking teenage nun assassins. In old Brittany. With supernatural powers. LaFevers has blended historical fact into her fictional world, most notably the struggles of Anne, Duchess of Brittany, and her attempt to keep Brittany free of French rule. Each of the three novels focuses on and is told from the viewpoint of one of the young nuns and each of books progresses the overall plot.
I picked up the first book, Grave Mercy, while I was in the midst of a reading slump and had already picked up and rejected several good books. Within a chapter I was hooked. LaFevers’ narrative style, world building and characters drew me in right from the start. I ended up marathoning all three books in the series one after another – I just couldn’t put them down.
What I liked
The historical setting. I really enjoyed LaFevers’ basing her world on real historical facts and people. I felt this gave a very strong, solid base for her more creative world building. I found the mythology of the old Gods and the convent gripping. Within a very short time I was completely sucked into the world of His Fair Assassin.
The characters. Our three main protagonists are all very different in character; each has her own emotional baggage and journey. They were all very well written and I loved getting to know all three. All of them were a lot more self aware than many more modern teen protagonists. Each is also very kickass in her own particular way. I really liked that each of them ended the series feeling much more comfortable in her own skin than when she started – they all underwent a real journey.
The romances. In a young adult book, boy meets girl romance is almost inevitable. This series is no exception and each of our three girls meets her man. The romance was very nicely handled though. The romantic tension didn’t overshadow the political and magical tension in the books and I appreciated that all three had a rather sensible attitude to their romances. There was little of the willful miscommunication that seems to plague some teenage novels and no love triangles, thank goodness.
Aspects of death. Each of our protagonists highlighted one particular aspect of Death. One shows the mercy in death in relief from suffering, another death’s justice another his humanity. Nicely done
What I didn’t like
Although I loved the series I did have a few minor gripes
Not enough time in the convent. Fairly early on in all three books the protagonists leave the convent of Mortain and set off on a journey. I found the brief snippet of day-to-day life we see in the convent exceptionally interesting and there wasn’t enough of that for my taste.
Dropped plotlines. There were times when I felt that some plotlines were leading somewhere and they didn’t.
The audiobook narrators. I picked up both the Kindle books and Audible books for each of the three books and HATED the narration. For me in all three audiobooks there was a serious mismatch of narrator and character. Please don’t misunderstand me; the narrators did a good job, but for me personally the voices chosen were completely wrong for the characters portrayed. The characters are from sixteenth century Brittany and LaFevers has gone to some trouble to describe their worldview as being very different from that of a modern teen. So why, for the love of Mortain, choose narrators with American accents sounding more like Divergent’s Tris or Hunger Games’ Katniss than our nun assassins?
Despite these issues I adored the series. Each book easily gets five stars. Did I mention teenage nun assassins? Go check them out.