For What It's Worth

Monday, March 26, 2012

ARC Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

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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? (YA – Mature) ~goodreads

Review:
There are a few genres that I don't enjoy reading. Historical and fantasy would be at the top of that list. Usually when i read about high courts, doomed duchess', arranged marriages and political intrigue I'm bored to tears. Yet, when I read Grave Mercy, which contains all these elements and more at a whopping 564 pages, I was completely swept away. I connected with everyone. Whether they be good, bad or something in between; and there is a lot of moral ambiguity in Grave Mercy.

From the moment I met the young Ismae I was hooked. Rescued just in the nick of time from an abusive arranged marriage, she is whisked away to the convent of St. Mortain to serve as the handmaiden of death.

I may not be a fan of historical or fantasy but I am a huge fan of cold assassins! Ismae and the other girls brought to the convent are trained in the ways to kill a man using stealth, poison and seduction. The girls have all been abused by men in some way and readily embrace their new life and service to their God without question. Although this book is considered historical fantasy, I felt it had more of a darker medieval tone and that darkness is what won me over.

Ismae is definitely one of my favorite heroines. She's vulnerable but practical. She doesn't have super human strength but knows how to use the weapons and training afforded her in a ruthless and cunning way that will chill you. She believes the convent saved her life and has no problems carrying out vengeance on their behalf to anyone who receives the marque of Mortain. Her absolute faith in what she's doing and dedication to Mortain’s will wins you over even though you know that luring and killing men is wrong. And how could you not love a girl who's armed to the teeth with knives and poisons under her beautiful gown?

Once Ismae leaves the convent and is assigned to protect Duchess Anne of Brittany, she finds herself on her own to interpret the convent & Mortain's wishes. While posing as a mistress to Gavrial Duval, the Duke’s bastard son and brother to Anne, she finds that the convents direct orders don't always match with the facts before her very own eyes or with the strong sense of guidance she feels from her God in time of need. This leaves Ismae conflicted over whether she should carry out her assignments without question in vengeance or act with mercy against her convent's wishes. I love when characters begin to question their own belief system and are allowed to grow as a result of that.

The elements of fantasy, magic, and romance are used sparingly in this novel as character development takes center stage . The romance was slow and sweet making it believable. Because of the sheer length and scope of Grave Mercy, a number of richly layered relationships are able to be introduced and develop. All of them were just as fascinating to me as the romance.

This book reads as a stand alone but is the book #1 in the His Fair Assassin series. Each book will focus on a different girl from the convent and there are enough loose threads to leave you wanting for more while still wrapping up all the main plot points nicely.

Rating: 3.8 out of 4 A little slow to start but I had that rare reading experience of being completely engrossed in this world for 3 days and I never wanted to leave. I loved these people like friends and family. I honestly could have read another 100 or so pages about them. Ismae is a strong heroine worth emulating and Duval, with his strong convictions and loyalty, is hero worth loving.

R.L. LaFevers website | twitter | Facebook
Source: Netgalley & Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for my honest review
Buy the book!  Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy) Release date - April 3, 2012

21 comments:

  1. I'm a fan of historical fancy so hearing you're not really a fan but still really enjoyed this book makes me really want to dig into this! I've only read a few pages of it so far but I've heard such good things about it. Ismae sounds absolutely amazing and I'm glad she grows! Wonderful review!

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  2. This is on my list! I have heard more than one person commenting on Ismae using her beatuifukl gowns to hide countless weopons xD. I like high fantasy AND assassins and of course character centric stories so this book sounds like a win, win, win.

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    1. Gah I can't type. beautiful* weapons**

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  3. This sounds like it just about has it all, I'm away to add it to my wish list.

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  4. I haven't read any historical but I know I never will, not my kind of books. But I'm glad to know this book is worth reading it, I add to my list when you mentioned it on twitter and when I read on GR "His Fair Assassin series" LOL

    This made laugh out loud: "I may not be a fan of historical or fantasy but I am a huge fan of cold assassins!" hahaha geez, you are dangerous huh? lol
    I like the names of the characters. Very original. And it reads as a stand alone, but at the same time is a series, yay! <3 that.

    Good to know you enjoyed it that much :)

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  5. I have been hearing such good things about this book. adding to the pile.

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  6. I love your reviews. Whew... this is a big book. Not much on historical fic myself, but I trust your reads ;) *adds to TBR list*

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  7. The background of your blog is all weird o_O

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  8. Oh, man! When you started describing the book, I was scared to death. It sounded boring, and long! But I'm
    so happy that you loved it! I have an arc of this, but wasn't extremely hot at the thought of reading it. Now I can't wait!! Great review!

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    1. It is kind of slow an definitely long. I'm not sure if you'll like it.
      I just really fell in love with the characters and setting.

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  9. Hmmm.. I don't know what to make of this book. I'm still not sure it's for me, though I have been reading a lot of positive reviews for it all week. From the start of your review, I was nodding my head a long because I feel the same about historical and high fantasy books. Those genres usually just bore me to death, too. Still, I like the idea that each book in the series will focus on a different girl.

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  10. Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this. 564 pages is a little...intimidating. Lol! It sounds like this will be a book I'll really enjoy. :)

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  11. I really liked this one. I was surprised when it was so many pages, but well worth it! I feel the same way about historical reads, but I find when they are written this way - and I can keep the many characters straight and pronounce most of their names, it's much better!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

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  12. I love historical AND fantasy! :) It did have a medieval tone. I think the fantasy aspect of the story was kind of diluted...but still there of course. I loved that she questioned her beliefs as well! I'm so happy you ended up loving this one! I will say, for being over 500 pages I read this one rather fast.

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  13. Ooh, great review! Completely agree about Ismae. I loved her slow realization that maybe the convent isn't as infallible as she thought. And Ismae and Duval were great together! I am a little bummed that we won't be returning to Ismae and Duval's story though. But Sybella's story should be intriguing too!

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  14. "I may not be a fan of historical or fantasy but I am a huge fan of cold assassins!"

    This line made me LOL. :)

    This book sounds very interesting. Great review.

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  15. I think I saw this on NetGalley a few weeks ago, but I'm AWFUL at using it. I remember it intrigued me at the time though.

    I didn't realise it was that long! It does sound like a great story though - I love assassins too, and also convents. Slightly contradictory, but there you go :)

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    1. It's really long and kinda slow moving but I loved it and wanted it to be even longer lol

      Is there something contradictory about assassin nuns?? lol

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  16. Cool deal! I have it on my currently reading list. :) Haven't started it, but plan to start it tonight.

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  17. AHHH, so glad you loved it! Now I must read it!

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  18. I'm so excited to hear you loved it! I've seen this book everywhere, which either means it's great or terrible! And I trust your opinion totally! :)

    Amy

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