Assassin’s Gambit – Hearts and Thrones #1 – Amy Raby

Whoa! That was my first thought when I read the prologue. It started out in the middle of a sex scene where the protagonist kills the man she’s having sex with. I was debating on whether or not to continue reading but money is tight and books are expensive so I decided to keep reading.

I had just finished reading an excellent Young Adult Fantasy series and was looking for something similar so I looked into romantic fantasy and found several blogs with lists. This series was recommended on two lists so I tried it.

Vitala is an assassin who has trained since she was eight years old by the Obsidian Circle, an order of assassins and spies for the country of Riorca. She has been sent to kill the emperor of Kjall who has invited her to his palace because she is the world champion in Caturanga, a strategy game much like Chess but more difficult and complex.

The Obsidian Circle believes killing the emperor will throw Kjall into a civil war while nobles vie for the throne. But Vitala wonders if killing Lucien, the emperor, might put someone worse on the throne like Cassian, Lucien’s highest ranking military officer and a distant cousin. Heis middle-aged and has eyes for Lucien’s thirteen year old sister because it could put him on the throne if something happened to  Lucien. His goal is to obliterate Riorca but Lucien keeps him in check.

The story was okay but I think there should have been more background story building with secondary characters and political scheming to keep me interested in future books. As it stands, I didn’t connect with any of the background characters. I did with one but he was killed off early in the story. That left none.

I’m still debating on whether or not to buy the next book.

The Bitter Kingdom – Girl of Fire and Thorns #3 – Rae Carson

This book frustrated me. I felt there was too much detail or what I call “filler” in Elise’s travels–and she traveled a lot in this book. I think a lot of it could have been either cut out or shortened. Other than that, I enjoyed this final book of the trilogy.

Instead of just Elisa’s POV, we get Hector’s too while he is the prisoner of Franco, the Invierne assassin, and traveling through the freezing mountains. It was interesting to get his perspective.

Elisa and three of her friends are traveling not far behind, trying to rescue Hector before they reach Invierne, the enemy’s country. She’s tapped into her power now so she and Storm, an Invierno loyal to her, practice their new powers.

Elisa has to rescue Hector and has to figure out how to get her country of Joya d’Arena back from Conde Eduardo and General Luz-Manuel who have usurped it, risking civil war.

It is always hard to come to the end of a good series because I have the daunting task of finding a new series that will live up to it.

The Crown of Embers – Fire and Thorns #2 – Rae Carson

How unlucky in love can you be? Lucero-Elisa lost her husband and the man she loved in the last book.

She was the second born princess in her father’s kingdom so she was married off at the age of sixteen to King Alejandro of the not-so-near country of Joya d’Arena. He was handsome and kind but they never consummated the marriage because Alejandro had a mistress whom he was in love with. Oh, and he forgot to tell anyone in his country that he got married. Apparently, he married her because her father and sister needed to get her safely out of the country because she is the bearer of the Godstone and they agreed to send troops to Joya d’Arena to help Alejandro with his upcoming war with Invierne. One every hundred years someone is chosen by God to Bear the Godstone which is embedded into the stomach just below the skin. Each bearer has some kind of unknown destiny to fulfill. Some succeed and some don’t.

Her Godstone makes her a target of Invierne spies who seek to either kill her and take her stone or use her to win their war.

She was kidnapped by a maid named Cosmé who turned out to be a spy but not for Invierne but for the hill people of Basajuan, an ignored territory on the border of Invierne where it’s people are getting massacred by the fire-throwing magic wielders of Invierne called Animagi. Cosmé and her people believe Elisa’s destiny is to use her stone to somehow defeat the Animagi. Elisa decides to help them and fell in love with Cosmé’s brother Humberto who ended up getting killed in front of Elisa.

Fast forward to Elisa returning to Joya d’Arena only to have Invierne invade. Alejandro jumped in front of an Animagi when he flung his magic fire at Elisa. Elisa was finally able to tap into the power of her Godstone which turned all of the Animagi who invaded the city into dust but Alejandro died a few weeks later of his injuries. He signed a decree making her his heir which made her the queen.

In this book, Elisa is the queen over a broken kingdom. Her advisors are all working their own agendas and some are even working sneakily against her so she doesn’t know who to trust. She only has a few people she trusts: Ximena and Mara her two attendants, Father Nicandro, Father Alentin and the Captain of her royal guard, Hector.

She develops feeling for Hector who has been there for her since the first day she moved to Joya d’Arena. I just kept wondering when Hector was going to get the axe.

This book is another wild and scary adventure. A few interesting characters were introduced in this book but I don’t want to spoil too much for anyone who wants to read this trilogy so I won’t get into any of them here.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns – Fire and Thorns #1 – Rae Carson

It’s not often I fall in love with the heroine of a book but I couldn’t help but adore Elisa. A lot of times, author’s make the female protagonist too perfect or too confident which makes me instantly distance myself from them because I like flawed characters and perfect people bore me. Elisa is actually overweight and knows she’s not extremely beautiful like her older sister but she is smart and knows herself pretty well.

Elise is the chosen one. She’s the bearer of the Godstone, a stone that was put there by God underneath the skin of her belly. It is said that she is to fulfill a great destiny as did the ones before her have done but she has no idea what that destiny is.

Because she is the second daughter of the king, her older sister will become the queen once her father, the king dies so Elise is married off to the king of another country when she is sixteen years old. She travels with him to his country through dangerous jungles.

She learns that she has some serious enemies because of her Godstone so her new husband wants to keep that a secret. Not only does he want to keep her Godstone a secret, but he also wants to keep their marriage a secret. She wonders about this so she writes to her sister who responds by telling her that her life was in danger so they needed to get her far away and King Alejandro agreed to marry her if her father sent him troops for the upcoming war with Invierne. So much for romance!

A little rant.

I wondered how Alejandro thought he could keep a royal marriage secret since Elise’s entire country witnessed it. Even though the road they took was dangerous, there were other routes. The author wrote that there was post between the two countries too. I think it’s the one flaw in this author’s story.

Elise discovers a lot that was kept from her in her kingdom. She is in grave danger but she can either be a hero and fulfill her destiny or do nothing and let evil take over the kingdom and world.

Mortal Heart – His Fair Assassin #3 – Robin LaFevers

Whoa! This book veered off in a entirely different direction than the first two books of this trilogy. The first two books were about the convent of Saint Mortain in the late 1400s in Brittany. The convent worships one of the Nine old gods before the time of the Catholic Church. They worship Mortain, the god of death and the nuns are called the daughters of Mortain. They are taught to be assassins for their country and for Anne of Brittany who is fighting to keep Brittany independent from France.

The first two books were about two separate assassin’s who were sent out to aid the duchess by the Reverend Mother/Abbess. Each assassin has special gifts like being immune to poison or being able to see and speak to spirits which help them with their jobs. They are actually sired by Mortain himself but other than their gifts, there wasn’t any magic or otherworldy stuff going on.

This book, Annith runs away from the convent to find out the truth about what the Abbess is up to. Annith is the best trained assassin in the convent. She doesn’t have any special gifts but she is better at everything than any of the other girls and even than some of the teachers yet the Abbess keeps sending others out on assignments. And now she wants Annith to become the new seer which will mean she will always be stuck in the convent on the island and never be able to use her skills. It makes no sense.

Here’s where the story took a strange turn. Annith had camped for the night when she heard thundering hooves and hounds. It was hellequins and hellhounds led by a man named Balthazaar. Hellequin are men who have died but are given a chance to redeem themselves by serving Mortain AKA Death by hunting down lost and damned souls to usher them to the Underworld. Balthazaar insists that Annith join them as they are headed in the same direction.

Annith fears that the hellequin are really hunting her because she ran away from the convent so she goes along with them. Balthazaar is very protective of her but also distant.

It all made sense later in the book but the introduction of the hellequin threw me for a bit.

This was my favorite book of the series and I absolutely fell in love with Balthazaar. I wish there were more books or a spin-off series.

Dark Triumph – His Fair Assasin #2 – Robin LaFevers

There is some really dark subject matter in this book for being for Young Adult. There’s incest and pedophilia but in the middle ages that must have been acceptable.

I’m not sure who I hated more in this story, d’Albret or the Reverend Mother. d’Albret is a disgusting human being who kills people for looking wrong at him and who wants to marry the duchess who is twelve years old. Barf! The Reverend Mother is cruel and cold and I just get the feeling that she’s not trustworthy.

Sybella is d’Albret’s daughter and has had to suffer his cruelty to herself and others. She was sent to the convent of Saint Mortain when she was around twelve after a horrible event which made her half mad.

The convent worships Mortain, one of the nine old God’s before the Catholic Church took over. All of the girls who go there are said to be daughters of Mortain mostly because of the manner of their births where they should have died. Most of their mothers died during childbirth. The girls are taught to be assassin’s for Mortain and the country of Brittany.

The Reverend Mother sends Sybella on assignment right back to d’Albret to spy on him since he is a threat to the duchess. Then the Reverend Mother sends a crow with a message for Sybella to help a prisoner escape from the dungeon.

Baron de Waroch aka Beast was taken prisoner by d’Albret who plans to draw and quarter him and then send his dead body parts to the duchess. He is chained and out of his mind from fever from a wound in his leg when Sybella comes to rescue him. How does she plan to get his huge form out of the dungeon.

The author did a fantastic job at recreating history and mixing real characters along with fictional characters with assassin nuns. You would think it would be corny but it is anything but.

Grave Mercy – His Fair Assassin #1 – Robin LaFevers

I’m not really sure what genre this book would fit into with some of its supernatural content but I’m thinking it would be more historical fiction than anything else.

Ismae was never meant to be born. Her mother drank a concoction made by a herbwitch to abort her but instead of killing her, it just scarred her back and she was born anyway. The herbwitch said she was the daughter of Mortain, one of the nine old God’s who are now considered saints under the Christian faith. Mortain is the good of death. Her mother died and she was raised under the abusive hand of her father who tried to marry her off to a pig farmer but when he saw the scars on her back, he panicked.

She was saved by the herbwitch and a priest who still worshipped the old ways. They sent her to a convent where they taught her all the ways of Mortain AKA Death like teaching her to fight and use poisons to become an assassin to serve her country of Brittany.

I love history but had no clue about Brittany or Anne of Brittany until I read this book. It was captivating!