From the Back Cover:
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...
I love this series. Grave Mercy was great, and Dark Triumph was even better. So I had super high expectations for the third and final book, Mortal Heart. We first met Annith as the resident good girl of the convent of St. Mortain, where daughters born of Death are taken in and raised as assassins to do Death's bidding. Annith has been quietly waiting in the background while younger and less experienced girls than she have been granted the privilege of being sent out on assignment. The best trained of all of them, and the most fervent in her devotion to Mortain, Annith begins to suspect that the Abbess is manipulating the wishes of Death for her own purposes. Her suspicions are confirmed when the Abbess announces that Annith will begin training to replace the convent's aging seer. Why would Death wish for his most talented and faithful handmaiden to spend her life locked in the convent's tower, especially since she's never displayed any sign of having the gift of sight? When the Abbess is called by the Duchess Anne to attend an urgent meeting of those still loyal to Brittany, Annith seizes the opportunity to snoop. But she finds more questions than answers. Tired of wasting away waiting for others to give her life purpose, she sets out on her own to uncover the truth about the Abbess and the convent and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her birth.
But even though she's more than capable of taking care of herself, these are dangerous times to be on the road alone. The King of France is making one last play for possession of Brittany, the duchess is beset by enemies and traitors, and loyalties are divided, throwing the region into civil war. When Death's hellequin corner her, damned men who ride at night to track down errant souls and escort them to the underworld, she thinks they've come to take her back to the convent. Instead, their handsome leader, Balthazaar, offers her safe escort to her destination, the city of Rennes, where the duchess is holding court. Suspicious yet powerfully drawn to the enigmatic soldier, she hides her true identity from him and falls in with the hellequin. She gets more than she bargained for as she comes to know these men and their damned souls and witnesses their despair and longing for the afterlife that has been denied them. They become her unexpected allies as her destiny unfolds, and her growing feelings for Balthazaar conflict with her own desires and long-held beliefs until she can no longer be sure of what is real and what isn't.
Upon her arrival in Rennes, she reunites with Ismae and Sybella and is immediately drawn into the duchess's service, where she uses her new position to start seeking answers. In a great plot twist, Annith gets socked with a one-two punch that shakes her foundations and leaves her reeling. I saw the first blow coming, but the second caught me by surprise as well, and I really felt for her as the world she thought she knew crumbled around her. But she finds the strength and purpose to keep going, and finally receives the call to serve Death, though nothing about her mission is as she expected. And just as French troops lay siege to the city and it seems the duchess will have to surrender Brittany and her people to the French, Annith devises a bold and daring plan that could save them, though the cost may be the death of her and the man she loves, and she will have to determine if that's a price she's willing to pay.
In spite of how much I wanted to love this book, there were some things that kept me from fully embracing it. I don't want to say I was disappointed, but Annith's long-awaited story definitely didn't have the same effect on me as the previous books. The plot was slow to get going and got bogged down between the exciting parts with pages and pages of politics and introspection that bored me. But on the flip side of that, there was a lot more in this final book about the mythology surrounding the Nine gods and the history of the daughters of Mortain that really helped to underscore and bring full circle the heart of the series. Annith's romance with Balthazaar was fairly predictable and could have used more development. I didn't feel like the resolution was very solid there either. And while I appreciated the direction our characters were headed when I turned the last page, I really thought the story would have benefited from another chapter showing me what happened when they got there. So, unfortunately, this turned out to be my least favorite of the series. But I'm seeing plenty of other readers who thought it a more worthy ending than I did, and it still stands in pretty good company. This series is dark, dangerous, and sexy and rich in historical ambiance. If you're a YA lover or a historical fiction lover--or both, like myself--you've got to read this series, and then you can judge for yourself if the conclusion lives up to its promise.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
**Please Note: This review references an advance copy received from the publisher through the Amazon Vine program. These are my honest and unbiased opinions, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.