COURTING DARKNESS Feature: Mandy and Sha, His Newest Fairest Assassins

COURTING DARKNESS by ROBIN LAFEVERS releases February 5th, 2019. 

Courting Darkness (Courting Darkness Duology, #1)

Title: Courting Darkness
Author: Robin LaFevers
Pages: 512

Released: February 5 2019
Publisher: HMH Teen
Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.18 (of 169 ratings)


At the convent of St. Mortain, nuns train the young women who were sired by the god of death Himself. These girls are educated in the abilities that will help them carry out His work: to kill those who threaten His will, to sacrifice, and to give unquestioning faith.

As devout fans of the His Fair Assassins trilogy, Sha and I knew the next step in our fandom was to test ourselves out as handmaidens to St. Mortain. Can we tackle the necessary classes to make it to our first mission, like Ismae? Do we already have a battle-hardened core that needs to be shed like Sybella? Or is there a greater destiny ahead for these princesses, like Annith?

Sister Serafina, Poisons Mistress

She shoves a bowl of round green pods in front of me. They are misshapen lumps covered in soft, flexible prickles. She takes up a small, pointed knife. “Cut them open and extract the seeds, thus.” With a deft flick of the blade, she guts one of the pods, and three fuzzy seeds spill out. She pinches one between her fingers and holds it up to me. “One of these will make a man so sick, he will wish to die. Three of these will kill him.” Grave Mercy, p. 37

MANDY: Well, I took in anatomy in high school, and I had a hard time trying to memorize all the bones in the body, so how will I be able to keep straight all the potions that will kill others and not kill me?? I probs give them the one that would instantly taste like poison when it was supposed to be tasteless and be outed in two seconds flat. Also, like, I wouldn’t doubt myself not to accidentally slip some on myself.

SHA: Knowing how to kill or subdue evil peeps with poisons sounds so deviously fun (in an imaginary magical world okay? May the cops never find this if I’m somehow suspected in a murder) but in reality my memory is so bad and I would confuse all the poisons and probably just toss some lethal plants into my salad and then goodbye assassin Sha on night one. There’s also the minor fact that a lot of these poisons kill by scent alone and I would be like, “Ooh smells good in h–” and we all know how this ends.

Sister Widona, Horse Mistress

The entire refectory falls silent when Sister Widona, the nun with the melodious voice and a talent for taming the convent’s horses, appears in the doorway with Sybella at her side. Grave Mercy, p. 40

MANDY: Horses are scary. They are rather large. And like, don’t thighs hurt? And you have to hurdle yourself over them to get on them? Like, okay, this a lot. A lot a lot. And like yes, I do imagine the wind in my hair as we are riding…but then all the time I spent on it would be for naught???

SHA: I love horses! I am a HORSE GIRL NO REGRETS. I used to take lessons so I think I could be on a horse without falling. In RL I fell like three times and each time guess what, this girl got back on the horse.

Sister Arnette, Weapons Mistress

We are trained in every weapon imaginable: knives and daggers, garrotes. We practice with throwing rondelles—small, razor-edged disks—until we can strike our targets accurately. We shoot short bows and longbows—if we can draw them. If we cannot, we are forced to strengthen our arms until we can. Grave Mercy, p. 42

MANDY: I just started using sharp knives a few years ago. I’M A DELICATE LITTLE FLOWER, OKAY? I would indeed love to know some epic killer self defense moves, but I would 200% injure myself fully.

SHA: I get stressed cutting fruits. But if you practice you succeed so I really want to try and own my fear of anything pointy. Also, actual arm muscles? Wow, wouldn’t that be a nice life. This would be a total underdog story.

Sister Thomine, Martial Arts Mistress

We become well versed in all manner of fighting, with our hands and feet, our elbows, even our teeth. Grave Mercy, p. 42

MANDY: GO FOR THE EYES, GO FOR THE EYES…or run? Run for sure. I’ve already failed.

SHA: If teeth are allowed, okay, I’m in. This girl fights the dirty fight.

Annith reaches up and pinches a spot at the base of my wrist. My hand goes numb and she slides out of my grasp. I try to hold on to her with one hand, but she is slippery as an eel and evades my hold. Grave Mercy, p. 56

Sister Eonette, History and Politics Mistress

There are long, boring stretches spent studying history and politics and memorizing the noble families of Brittany. We also study the royal houses of France, for according to the nuns, France is the biggest threat to our country’s independence […]. Grave Mercy, p. 43

MANDY: I would be down for this one. I always enjoyed me some history lessons, and I feel like I would be alllllllllllllllll ready to learn about the intrigue and tea and dramatics. I AM READY. I’m surprisingly good with names and details, so I got this.

SHA: Oh no. Oh nooooo. I am NOT travelling to a historical time period to train as a badass assassin nun just to learn history omigosh. *runs* I would probably skip this class as much as Ismae did.

Sister Beatriz, Manners Mistress

I turn to stare at [Annith] in surprise. “Womanly arts? Why do we need instruction in that?” I hope the small flicker of panic I feel does not come through in my voice.

She shrugs. “So we may get close to our victims. How else are we to see if they have a marque?” Grave Mercy, p. 39

MANDY: I am definitely all for this. I would learn how to be proper royalty! I would know my correct salad fork, and then I would move my way up to true princess status, and IT WOULD BE GLORIOUS.

SHA: Sister Beatriz also covers clothes and fashion so I think I would probably live for these classes. I have no skill in fashion design (wow, surprise, after me listing all the other skills I had here, huh?) but another chance to learn cool stuff!! All the gorgeous medieval gowns from my own hand (with secret pockets for knives I will actually be able to wield ahhhhh).  

We practice smiling mysteriously and become masters of the seductive glance, peering out from beneath our lashes, our eyes full of promise. These particular lessons make me feel so ridiculous make me feel so ridiculous that I often dissolve into fits of laughter and am sent from the room in disgrace. Grave Mercy, p. 43

Sister Vereda, Seeress

“Sister Vereda is not only old but blind as well. She never eats with us and keeps to her rooms. She is our seeress and speaks with us only when she has had a vision.”

MANDY: I’m torn. I would be like YAYYYYYYYYYYY FUTURE. But then I would probs also seem some horrible stuff so I would be like NAYYYYYYYYY FUTURE. But it would be pretty cool to be like y’all, I’m seeress. I CAN SEE THE FUTURE.

SHA: I mean, yes I want to see the future, but also every single representation of someone seeing the future is “OMG THE PAIN IT’S HORRIBLE THE SUFFERRINGGG” so also maybe not I’mma avoid.


Of course, this post is not complete without me dropping some thoughts on how I think our Courting Darkness star did in these classes! If you’ve read Grave Mercy (and I really hope you have!) you’ll know Sybella was in and very out for many of these lessons. She definitely succeeded in weapons and horses, but others? Ehhhh, but she’s certainly a well versed assassin.

When we are introduced to Genevieve in Courting Darkness, she is already in her assignment and past convent life. She does have some brushes up with her skills in weapons, but she still totally handles her skills quite well. She definitely fares far better than these book princesses.

What class would be your favorite? What would you succeed in? What would you fail? Let’s discuss in the comments below!


6 thoughts on “COURTING DARKNESS Feature: Mandy and Sha, His Newest Fairest Assassins

  1. This was such a cool and creative post! I did karate for a few years as a kid, so I would maybe do okay in martial arts, and I would probably do okay with history and politics, but I’m not sure about the others.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First of all, I would like to say that as much as I like to think I am a badass and could kick some serious butt, I cannot. Tis proven fact. I like to avoid confrontation on many fronts…..but I would be 10/10 down for horse riding and I can like throw knives…I had bad aim…but I could learn. Poisons interest me too, I won’t lie.

    Liked by 1 person

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