Monday, November 10, 2014

REVIEW: "Grave Mercy" by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
For Ages 15+ (Language, Violence, Sensuality)
Young Adult -- Historical Fantasy

Houghton Mifflin -- Published in April 2012
Ebook, 576 pages
Read in October 2014
Received from Netgalley

First Person Narrative, Medieval Setting, Kick Ass Heroine

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

"I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch's poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb."

Grave Mercy is one of those YA books that I had heard so much about two years ago.  The term "assassin nuns" were everywhere in the blogging world and I found myself intrigued by the mix of historical fiction and fantasy.  So I was excited when Houghton Mifflin put it and the sequel, Dark Triumph, up on Netgalley in preparation for the release of Mortal Heart.  And I am very glad that I chose to try this book with its fascinating characters and unique world that effortless mixed history and fantasy.

This book focuses on and is narrated by a young lady named Ismae Rienne who escapes from an arranged marriage and ends up at a convent devoted to St. Mortain, the ancient god of Death.  At the convent, Ismae learns that she is considered one of Mortain's daughters and she has special powers to help do his will which consists of killing people who betray the country of Brittany.  Things get complicated when Ismae is assigned to the high court of Brittany to find traitors and learns there is much more to doing Mortain's work than she was told.

The highlight of Grave Mercy is Ismae, as it should be.  It is her story and she really shines as a character.  I loved getting to see her grow from the scared newbie to a confident assassin that is determined to do anything to help the young Duchess of Brittany.  While Ismae didn't always make the best decisions, she had good intentions and learned from her mistakes.  She really became a heroine that I admired and was invested in from beginning to end.

There is a very large cast in this book.  Besides Ismae, readers are introduced to her friends at the convent, mysterious Sybella (Dark Triumph) and sweet Annith (Mortal Heart) who I really liked.  Ismae also meets members of the high court of Brittany as she acts as the mistress of courtier, Gavriel Duval, who is either the duchess's most loyal supporter or the ultimate traitor.  There are too many others to mention, but I came away impressed with the development that Robin LaFevers did for each of them.  We may not agree with their actions, but we understand their motivations.

The plot of Grave Mercy was fascinating to me.  The author states that this book is based on the real plight of Anne of Brittany and the danger she faced from the French.  While many of the side characters are historical figures and the events are based on fact, there is also a subtle fantasy element especially when the old gods are brought up.  I thought this was an interesting approach and really got into it.  The only issue I had with the plot was the pacing of the middle which felt bogged down by all the political intrigue that Ismae faced.  But, things quickly picked back up and I was hooked to the end.

All in all, I found Grave Mercy to be interesting and highly entertaining.  I have not read a book like it and that always grabs my attention.  I look forward to seeing more of Robin LaFevers's work in the future.

I received a free copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Glow -- Implied or subtle descriptions of lovemaking.

I stare at him coldly. "I do not care for needlework." I pause. "Unless it involves the base of the skull."

1. Grave Mercy
2. Dark Triumph
3. Mortal Heart

Dear Author (C)
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (A)

1 comment:

  1. I sooo need to read this! I actually think I'm going to listen to the audiobook, but I do find Grave Mercy a bit intimidating. I'm glad that you really liked this, and I'm excited to meet Ismae.


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