I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on April 3rd 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Also by this author: Dark Triumph, Mortal Heart, Courting Darkness
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?
This was an exceptionally written story that managed to suck me in with the very first line and I simply couldn’t read fast enough. For a book with over 550 pages this went extremely quick.
Ismae is seventeen years-old and just has been sold to the local pig farmer for three silver coins. As he inevitably forces her into his bedroom after the local priest has married them, he sees her body for the first time. And the scars that adorn it. After he locks her in a closet, she is assisted by the same local priest that married her and the local herbwitch responsible for the scars on her body and they ferry her out of town and into safety. Unable to fathom what she should be expecting, she arrives at the convent of St. Mortain, the god of Death. Ismae is told that she was sired by the god of Death himself and that he has bestowed gifts upon her of great value.
“If you choose to stay, you will be trained in His arts. You will learn more ways to kill a man than you imagined possible. We will train you in stealth and cunning and all manner of skills that will ensure no man is ever again a threat to you.”
Hmm.. become a bad-ass assasin or go back to the pig farmer. Decisions, decisions.
Duval is a mysterious man who is a favorite to the duchess, but his loyalties are in doubt. Ismae is ultimately sent back with him to court as his mistress. It was obviously inevitable that these two would end up been all lovey-dovey but I was okay with that. Duval was a good match for Ismae in my opinion. At first, I didn’t much care for the ‘little-girl’ mode she went into around him. The girl is an assassin who has killed men in cold blood and she went all weak-kneed everytime he touched her… but I suppose that could be attributed to the fact that she spent more in practicing on poison making than she did in her ‘womanly arts’ classes. 🙂 I think this ended up making the story work better in terms of realism because regardless of the fact that she is an assassin, she is only 17 and has yet to encounter a man that was decent to her and if she didn’t act the way she did I think her actions would have closely resembled that of a robot instead of a real person. Her vulnerabilities are intriguing.
‘I can dodge a blow or block a knife. I am impervious to poison and know a dozen ways to escape a chokehold or garrote wire. But kindness? I do not know how to defend against that.’
I really did love Ismae. She was charming, unintentionally funny, a natural bad-ass, she hides weapons under her skirts, and kills people with jewelry. Enough said. The initial pacing of this story was incredibly fast and it flashed forward 3 years later to when she is a trained assassin within the first 50 pages. At first I was disappointed that we didn’t receive more of a backstory on Ismae, but then again, she was raised the daughter of an abusive man who was a turnip farmer. How interesting could it have been?
I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, if it’s done right. I’ve read some pretty dreadful ones. This was a historical fiction with touches of fantasy that blended beautifully in my opinion. I was a bit timid going into this because I haven’t read too many YA historical fictions and the ones I have I wasn’t impressed. That’s the thing with this one though, it may be labeled YA but it’s very maturely written. All in all I’m pretty blown away at how much I enjoyed this. I was enthralled throughout the entirety and was pleasantly mystified as to what the outcome could possibly be… which is quite rare. So many books these days lack that ‘surprise’ factor. By the end though I was practically heartbroken once it was over as I had become so emotionally invested in what happened to these people… I’m so excited for the next book to come out. I think it will be interesting learning more about Sybella after the glimpses we had in this installment. I can’t wait!