Series: His Fair Assassin, #1
Author: R.L. LaFevers
Pages: 560 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Houghlin Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 3, 2012
I received an ARC from NetGalley.
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?
Just like just about everyone else, I had to read this book because of the assassin nuns. Yes, ASSASSIN NUNS. The Sisters of Mortain take in young women and girls who are the daughters of Death, who have been feared and abused by society. They teach them everything they need to know to lure in a man and silently bring him to his death. Amazing concept, and wonderful execution. Ismae is a daughter of Mortain, and when we first meet her she's 14 and it's her wedding night. It's also the night the Sisters bring her to the convent to begin her training. Then only a handful of chapters in, Ismae is 17 and on her first assignment. I wish we could have gotten to see a bit more of the training process before the time jump, but we do get to see how the nuns get the girls ready for their kills as we watch Ismae prepare.
Ismae is a great protagonist! She's been ridiculed and abused, and that has inspired her to give her all when serving Mortain. She's determined, smart, compassionate, and does not take anything laying down! She is definitely not content to sit idly when she can be in the center of the action. Even though she tended to skip out on her "womanly arts" lessons, she manages to charm her way into Duval's heart. I love the way their relationship develops. They start off not trusting each other at all as they begin their assignment of protecting the duchess. Their charade at court of being lovers made it obvious that they would soon be lovers for real, but I still enjoyed that plot despite it's predictability.
There are some slow parts, which is to be expecting from a 550+ page book. It's mostly scenes involving the political situation, which were necessary for the story, but I still found them boring. They were also confusing from time to time with all of the information about who the duchess' hand has been promised to, who's faithful to the duchess and who's a traitor, etc. However, about half way through, when the plot is more established, things begin to become more clear, which I was glad for.
Things really get interesting when Ismae must choose between serving her convent, her god, or her heart. Over all, Grave Mercy was an engaging and exciting read. I absolutely loved the paranormal elements related to being a daughter of Death, as well as the historical setting. There's a nice tidy ending to Ismae's story, which makes it read like a standalone. This make sense since the following book is to focus on Sybella, and I'm excited to read it!
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