I enjoyed reading this book. It took me awhile because it was so long but it was entertaining.
I love historical fiction book and books that take place way back in time from the B.C. era to the 1700's, so this book was right up my alley.
I loved the fact that this book had not just one but many kick ass heroines who were assassins. I love reading about heroines who do not need a guy to save or who can actually kick a guys ass. I really liked Ismae. She came from such a horrible background and was given a chance to do better things with her life through Mortain and his convent. She was trained in all sorts of weapons, poisons and womanly manners. She throws herself into these trainings and becomes an expert on them. She easily learns hundreds of ways to kill a man through various methods. Since her background focuses on abuse by men, she hates men and she vows never to fall in love or to marry. She doesn't trust men at all and is all to eager to become an assassin. The book talks of Ismaes's first two kills which I found a little disappointing and boring. I was expecting some fighting skills and a close fight but it wasn't like that at all.
So the bulk of this book is about Ismae infiltrating the Duchess of Brittany's court and keeping the convent informed of the goings on. At this time, Brittany is an independent country abut it very heavily threatened by France who wishes to overtake the country. The Duchess's whole problem is that she doesn't have many troops to defend her country and she has an very annoying count who is insisting the duchess keep her father's vow for them to wed. The french regent has a hold over her and has many spies watching the duchess' every move. She had some people in her privy council betray her and its all just a huge mess with a lot of politics. Duval is the duchess' bastard brother who has her best interests at heart and is trying to find a way out for her, to get her a good marriage and to get her crowned duchess. Ismae's convent is suspicious of Duval and part of Ismae's job is to watch him as well. So she is put in Duval's house household playing as his mistress, so she has access to him and the court. Of course she doesn't plan to fall in love with him which of course is what happens.
I really like Duval. The book does not really describes his looks but its his personality who wins you over. He is fiercely loyal to the duchess, giving no thought to his own safety and he does everything in his power to help her. He is very cautious when dealing with people because there are spies everywhere. He works hard and tirelessly for his sister and his country. He is brave and he is kind, especially to Ismae even though he knows she is watching him too and may have to kill him at some point. He is very honorable and doesn't try anything funny with Ismae. When you realize he loves Ismae you can see how loving, caring and gentle he is. I really wanted them to be together. In the end he promises her his heart, which was sweet.
The romance is slowly built in this book which is the kind of romance I like. None of hthis insta love crap. In the beginning Ismae does not trust men at all she is wary of Duval when she first goes to his household. She feels attracted to him immediately BUT she pushes it away and still guards herself against him. She does not like it when he touches her at all even to help her. Both Ismae and Duval are no pleased with the current situation (Ismae playing his mistress) and they do not like or trust each other. Its sweet to see over the course of the book how their feelings change over time and how they fall in love. Their first kiss does not happen until wayyyy later on in the book. Only near the last 1/4 of the book do you see how they change in their manner towards each other and how they care for each other. You can tell that they love each other but each one doesn't want to admit it until something drastic happens. But once they admit/show their feelings toward each other, they kiss more often and have many tender moments together.
I also like the character of the Beast who is an ugly friend of Duval who doesn't hide the fact that he knows he's ugly. He is huge and is known as the Beast because of his fierceness in battle. I like Anne, the Duchess because she handles herself with grace and manner when dealing with all the different situations thrown at her.
Another aspect of this book that I like is that you can see how Ismae changes in the book. She goes from being a hardcore vengeance assassin who doesn't question what her convent tells her to do to a mercy assassin who questions things before she strikes the death blow. She used to follow the convents orders blindly but slowly she begins to disobey their orders and form her own plots and plans in order to gain the truth. In the beginning of coming to court Ismae was eager to kill, but later on when she finally gets orders to kill she hesitates and finds reasons not to carry out the orders. As you get further in the book, you can see Ismae come into her own and figure out things that the convent failed to inform her about. From her own discoveries SHE gets to decide her future, decide what she wants and what she wants to become and no one else.
I am really excited for the next book of the series. While I enjoyed this one and loved the story and Ismae, I am really interested in Sybella and her story. I can't wait to read the next book because its Sybella's story.
This review is also posted on Spantalian's Book Reviews