Monday, March 26, 2012
ARC Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
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
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