I didn’t hate it: The Fate of the Tearling and His Fair Assassin

Like a preschooler exposed to the Great Big World of Germs for the first time, I managed to pick up a horrendous cold during my first two weeks at my new job. This was not so great for making a good first impression at work (“Can I please take the next three days off to hack up a lung?” and “I’m back and still hacking—you’re welcome!”), but was awesome for jamming through several books in my TBR pile.

Because writing a review for each of them would require another three days off work, I will share some highlights from my month of reading-while-sniffling in one post.

The Fate of the Tearling book coverThe Fate of the Tearling (Book #3)
by Erika Johansen
Fantasy Young Adult

Johansen’s trilogy is set in a medieval-like world where the once-thriving Tearling country has deteriorated after several ineffective monarchs. After growing up in hiding in a secluded wood, Tearling heir Kelsey must ascend to the throne with threats lurking every which way she looks—and sometimes from foes she doesn’t see coming.

I really loved The Queen of the Tearling (2014) and mostly loved the second book in the series, The Invasion of the Tearling (2015). Kelsey’s character arc is well done and it is easy to root for her as she comes to recognize her strengths and where her power lies. Each villain she faces is powerful, sometimes magical, and pure evil, and if she loses, innocent children will be sold off into slavery by the thousands. High stakes, anyone?

Like any great series, the finale is sometimes hard to pull off (ahem, Lost). Johansen gives Kelsey the ability to mind-travel in time so she can see where her ancestors went off course, and while this wasn’t my favorite element in the first two books, it created significantly more drag in The Fate of the Tearling (2016). It also becomes quite clear that Johansen thinks religion is really just a tool of oppression (and worse), which soured the experience for me.

So, read the trilogy for the page-turning first two books, and muddle through the third book if you must to tie everything together.

[Note:  Emma Watson may appear as Kelsey in a movie version, but it seems to be lingering in development…]

2 ½ Stars (I almost liked it)

 

Other books in the series (4 Stars and 3 ¾ Stars, respectively):

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Grave Mercy (Book #1)
Dark Triumph (Book #2)
Mortal Heart (Book #3)
by Robin LaFevers
Fantasy/Historical Fiction Young Adult

LaFevers’s His Fair Assassin trilogy takes place in fifteenth-century Brittany, the northwesternmost region of modern day France, when many still worshipped pagan gods and goddesses amidst the growth of Christianity. The protagonists in each book are young women who are devoted to Mortain, the god of Death, and are trained at the convent established in his name to be assassins. All three play important roles in the eventual marriage of Brittany’s Duchess Anne to King Charles of France.

The books have a good bit of intrigue and political machinations, and of course there are romantic plot threads to keep things interesting. Notably, with forced incest and infanticide, Dark Triumph is true to its title. According to Booklist, when Grave Mercy was published in 2012, it received a $100,000 marketing campaign, including national print, online, and social-media outreach; a video trailer; and a vintage T-shirt promotion. Hoopla aside, I found the series entertaining but not overly moving.

2 Stars (They were okay)

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