First in a duology, this darkly thrilling page-turner set in the world of the best-selling His Fair Assassin series is perfect for fans of THRONE OF GLASS, RED QUEEN, and GAME OF THRONES. Told in alternating perspectives, when Sybella discovers there is another trained assassin from St. Mortain’s convent deep undercover in the French court, she must use every skill in her arsenal to navigate the deadly royal politics and find her sister in arms before her time—and that of the newly crowned queen—runs out. When Sybella accompanies the Duchess to France, she expects trouble, but she isn’t expecting a deadly trap. Surrounded by enemies both known and unknown, Sybella searches for the undercover assassins from the convent of St. Mortain who were placed in the French court years ago. Genevieve has been undercover for so many years, she no longer knows who she is or what she’s supposed to be fighting for. When she discovers a hidden prisoner who may be of importance, she takes matters into her own hands. As these two worlds collide, the fate of the Duchess, Brittany, and everything Sybella and Genevieve have come to love hangs in the balance.
About the Author
Robin LaFevers, author of the New York Times best-selling His Fair Assassin books, was raised on fairy tales and nineteenth-century poetry. It is not surprising that she grew up to be a hopeless romantic. She was lucky enough to find her one true love and is living happily ever after with him in California. www.robinlafevers.com, @RLLaFevers
Read an Excerpt
Rennes, BrittanyNovember 1489
As I stand on the battlements of the besieged city, looking out at the disarray before me, it is clear the god of Death has taken to the field. While this could be said of any battle—death and war are old friends, after all—today He rides a black horse, a pale-haired rider hunkered down in front of Him. Annith. The most skilled of all of Death’s handmaidens and the sister of my heart. She has done her part to avert this war—taken her shot using the last of the arrows forged by the gods, which flew as straight and true as if guided by their own hand. But now the French have seen her. Understand that it was she who shot at their king. And even though he is unharmed—harming him was never the intent—they are on her like jackals on a rotting carcass. “Reload!” calls out Aeva, one of the dozen followers of Saint Arduinna who stand beside me along the ramparts. Death and Annith ride hard for the gate, Mortain covering her with His body—a body from which four arrows protrude—protecting her life with His own. No, not His own, for He is the god of Death, I remind myself. But Father Effram’s warning has taken root in my heart. “My lord, you do know what will happen if you choose to involve yourself in mortal affairs, do you not?” The French archers release a second volley of arrows. As one, the Arduinnites and I return fire. But our arrows are too late. Mortain is hit yet again, taking two more to His side. Annith twists in the saddle, trying to hold onto Him. It does not work, and they plummet to the ground. Annith begins crawling toward Mortain under yet another shower of French arrows. By Fate or chance, one of them buries itself in Death’s chest, and I feel the pain of it as if it comes from my own. Ice-cold fingers of dread trail down my back before wrapping themselves around my heart. As a lone hound brays in the distance, I shove away from the battlements and race down the stairway to the gate. More hounds join the first, raising their voices in an unholy lamentation. For a moment, the world hangs suspended, like a drop of sap oozing from a tree, and in that moment I know. The god of Death—my father—is gone. He has passed from this world. By the time I reach the gate, the French have fallen back, as if even they sense the magnitude of this moment. Nuns from the convent of Saint Brigantia swarm toward the fallen Mortain as Annith throws herself on his body, weeping. As much as I am hurting, she will be even more so. Before I can reach them, a laugh rings out—an incongruous, joyful sound in the solemn stillness. Puzzled, Death reaches for his chest, his hand coming away red with blood. Although I am half a bowshot away, I hear him say, “I am alive.” It feels as if the earth I am standing on gives a dizzying spin. He is alive. But even as far away as I am, I can see that he is no longer Death. A great chasm opens inside me, a dark yawning maw that threatens to swallow me whole. If Death no longer walks amongst us, then what purpose am I to serve? What use will there be for my dark talents and skills? I fear the answer was writ long ago, when I was born into the family that raised me. The family that nearly killed me and drove my mother into Death’s arms. And that answer terrifies me far more than death ever has.
Cognac, FranceNovember 1489
I was born in the upstairs room of an ancient roadside tavern, a group of common whores acting as midwives. My mother, too, was a whore, although perhaps not so very common. Would an ordinary woman invite Death to her bed on a dare? I emerged covered in slime and blood, my face—indeed, my entire body—as blue as a wild hyacinth. Hushed whispers and murmurs of sympathy followed the horrified silence my arrival caused, until Solange, the oldest among them, grabbed me from my mother’s slippery hands and swatted my backside. Nothing. I did not cry or whimper or even draw breath. But old whores are as wise as old cats, and Solange did not give up. She bent down to place her wrinkled lips on mine, and blew. According to my mother, my chin quivered, a fist curled. Solange blew again, her determined breath somehow shoving away the cold hands of my father as He reached for me. I drew a deep breath of my own after that, followed by a lusty cry. The women thought me a miracle, moved that one had been visited upon them just as if they were the Magdalena herself. All except my mother, who knew precisely who she’d invited into her bed nine months earlier. It wasn’t until I was four years old and clutched at her hand as she headed up the stairs with her night’s customer that my parentage was confirmed. “His heart,” I whispered into her lowered ear as I rubbed my small chest. “It’s beating strangely.” Less than an hour later, he was dead. It is that same panicked beating that has brought me to the lowest levels of the castle today—a heartbeat as close and intimate as if it is beating against my own ribs. I follow the deep ba-bump through the narrow, twisting corridors of the dungeons, stopping when a gaping black hole appears at my feet. The darkness that oozes up through the metal grate is as thick and solid as a coiled snake. At first, I think it a hatch to the river that runs nearby. Or perhaps—wrinkling my nose—the sewer. Until the next heartbeat reverberates through me, one long, deep ba-bump. I never feel the heartbeats of others unless they are close to dying. That is when I finally understand the nature of this pit. It is an oubliette. A dungeon designed specifically for those who do not even warrant the mercy of a clean death. Nameless dread that cannot be explained by the presence of death thrums through me. My hand clenches. I should turn and walk away. Return to the sumptuous, brightly lit rooms of the castle proper. I am getting ready to do just that when the heartbeat stops. The pressure in my chest grows, stretching against my ribs, seeping into the very marrow of my bones. Trepidation and despair sweep through me, as if the world itself has just been torn in two. And then the pressure stops. Is simply gone, like the passing of the wind. “Who’s there?”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Robin LaFevers has crafted a spell-binding tale that hooks you in from the very first page and never quite releases you---even after you read the last page. This duology is perfect for you if you are a fan of nun assassins, court politics/intrigue, indescribable powers, love, and fierce heroines. If that’s not enough to convince you to read this book, allow me to explain further. Courting Darkness is the first book in a new duology by Robin LaFevers. This book follows two young women, Sybella and Genevieve. If you read her previous My Fair Assassin trilogy, then you have already met Sybella. However, you do not need to have read the trilogy in order to understand and enjoy Courting Darkness. It’s been years since I read the trilogy and I was able to follow the story rather easily. Also, if you have read the trilogy then you’ll enjoy the cameos from some of your favorite characters. Sybella and Genevieve have never met, but both are daughters of Saint Mortain, the saint of death. Both girls were sent to a convent dedicated to Mortain when they were young, however, Genevieve was sent on assignment at the young age of 12. Genevieve was sent to infiltrate the French court and serve as a spy. But, it’s been 5 years and she hasn’t received any assignments or word from the convent. Meanwhile, Sybella is a handmaiden to the Duchess of Brittany who is also soon to be the Queen of France. Both girls are surrounded by the intricate and dangerous politics of the French court. It's just a matter of Sybella finding Genevieve and recruiting her to help serve the Duchess. But, this proves difficult when Sybella finds out that no one knows what Genevieve looks like or how to contact her. Meanwhile, Genevieve is starting to take it upon herself to serve the convent without receiving any direct orders. She's tired of waiting; she's ready to put her training to good use. Honestly, I cannot recommend or praise this book enough. The writing is incredible, the characters are fully fleshed out, the setting is authentic and realistic for the time period, and I couldn’t ever put the book down. I devoured this book in one sitting. Beware, Courting Darkness ends on a cliffhanger. You will need and want the next book as soon as you finish reading this book. Somehow, we will have to find a way to survive the wait for the next book. Now, excuse me while I go reread the trilogy as a means of satisfying my hunger for the next installment in this duology.
I read the original His Fair Assassin trilogy during my senior year of college and absolutely loved them. I’ve since reread them all and loved them just as much. Returning to this world in Courting Darkness was like coming home. I loved that we got glimpses of the characters from the original trilogy and that Sybella was one of the main characters in this duology! Genevieve was an excellent addition, I can’t wait to see what happens next in her storyline. I love how LaFevers creates characters that are so beautifully, realistically flawed. They make mistakes and have to figure out how to move forward afterward. I also love that each of the female characters is strong in a different way and that those differences are celebrated. Plus the plot for this one was so engrossing and engaging, I just flew through it. I would like to note that you really need to read the original trilogy before delving into this one because there are MAJOR spoilers. Anyway, I highly recommend all four of these books! They have court intrigue, found family, some excellent world-building, and incredible characters. Plus Assassin nuns (which really should be all that I need to say). *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This was a book that everyone at the library was asking about because we are huge fans of the His Fair Assassin series and I've been told by our readers themselves that it was the best young adult series they have ever read. The means we has high anticipation and expectations for Courting Darkness. Courting Darkness reflects on Sybella and her family and the obstacles and adventures she has endured and with her life taking a huge 180 she is in for quite the twists and turns up ahead. Then the book shifts and talks about the role of Genevieve and how she is an undercover assassin and she ends up befriending Sybella and their lives will never be the same. I must say this was a good start to a highly anticipated second series from Robin LaFevers. This book kept us wanting more and keeping us on the edge of our seats with our hearts racing. It's similar to how we felt when we read twilight and House of Night for the first time and picking sides. Are we on team Sy or team Gen and that we are rooting for them to succeed. This will definitely find its way on our YFantasy shelf and our young adult readers will go crazy for this. That is why we are giving it 5 stars!
Delving back into the world of the assassins of Saint Mortain was something I'd been looking forward to ever since I heard about this book. I was worried I'd be unsure of who was who, but it wasn't hard to join with the characters at the stage they were in. Truly, Sybella had been my favorite, even if her book wasn't my favorite. The other main character in this book, Genevieve, took me a little bit to come around to. But once I did, I was rooting for her, and hoping that she could have a romance herself, with Maraud, the prisoner she'd rescued from the dungeon, even if the rescue was only to serve her own purposes. Now when something happened in the book, I kind of assumed it was going to be the prisoner, I won't say what happened, so maybe you won't expect what I did. So when we did find out who he was, well, all the little puzzle pieces started to fall into place. The author is great about keeping certain details from coming out until moments that will have the reader gasping in surprise! The other thing I love is all the history that is interwoven throughout the plot. The author has a note at the end that does clear up what is actually true and what she had to adjust and tweak to fit her story. Not only is there an afterward talking about the history of the story, but there is a letter at the beginning to the readers, talking about what motivated her to write further in this world. It was a touching note, with some deep topics and worth reading. The ending of the book left me on the edge of my seat, satisfied with this reunion of some of my favorite characters, but sad that I'll be waiting until 2020 to see what will happen with where we left off.