I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 3, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy
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?
We first meet Ismae as she is married off by her cruel father to an equally cruel (and disgusting) man. She is completely powerless, but soon finds that she does have power. Quite a lot of it, actually. I heard many people talk about how wonderful Grave Mercy was and I have to say that I agree. This was a very meaty historical set in the court of Brittany, which is a time and place in history that I haven’t seen a lot of in Young Adult novels. As she learns the art of death, she also gains something that she has never had in her life – friendship. The convent empowers and heals her. I also noticed that while the women at the convent are trained in physical combat, they are also taught to use their femininity as a weapon, as they must take classes in the “feminine arts”. The expectation that you must be willing to do anything for Mortain brought up an interesting examination of Ismae’s loyalty to the convent that further plays out as the story progresses.
There was a very artful blend of history, court intrigue and the paranormal that made this book extremely enjoyable. The romantic aspect of the book was very enjoyable, but I never felt that the romance took the story away from Ismae. It really only served to round out her character and I really liked it. Ismae is given many gifts, but she is also very innocent in a lot of ways which made her an excellent blend of steel and vulnerability. That is a hard combination because I often find myself not able to relate to the characters that are all toughness, but neither can I relate to someone that is too vulnerable. Robin LaFevers got it just right, in my opinion, and by the end of the book, I was willing myself to read faster because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.