From Inside Jacket: Escaping from the brutality of an arranged marriage, seventeen-year-old Ismae finds sanctuary at 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 must pose as mistress to the darkly mysterious Gavriel Duval, who has fallen under a cloud of suspicion. Once there, she finds herself woefully under prepared - not only for the deadly games of love and intrigue, 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?
My Rating: 5 hearts
Thoughts on the Novel: One of the books I’d been eagerly waiting for to be released this year was Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy. Regardless of the genre, in my opinion, any novel which involves an assassin is worth at least checking out. Having read Grave Mercy, I can now say that the wait was totally worthwhile because this historical fantasy not only has a protagonist who’s an assassin, but also contains political intrigue, mystery, Death as a character (which you just can’t go wrong with), a sexy romantic lead and a great romance.
I loved that Ismae was such a kick-ass heroine. She’s smart, strong, and knows how to inflict pain and kill people using all kinds of weapons and poisons. LaFevers also makes you care for Ismae right away because we’re told within the first five pages that Ismae bears a scar left by the poison her mother used to try to get rid of her from her womb, and that her father is physically abusive as is her new husband. When given the chance to either become one of Death's handmaidens or be married to another man, it’s not surprising that Ismae chooses to learn how to kill men.
The secondary characters in Grave Mercy were also well-characterized; and LaFevers does a good job of showing the complexity of her characters. People’s actions are motivated by different things and when circumstances change, who the reader defines as “good” and who they define as “bad” changes as well.
Of course my love for Duval was unwavering. I mean, the guy is a handsome noble who’s loyal (although that’s in question), persistent, and always plotting something! Come on, admit he’s irresistible! Oh, and that last quote of his … *swoon*
What I really loved about Duval however was that he was good for Ismae’s character development. Although their relationship starts off rocky since neither of them is thrilled to have to work together on their separate missions, it blossoms gradually; and in the process, causes Ismae to open herself up to the possibility of love and the idea that people can redeem themselves. By spending time with Duval, Ismae learns to follow her own instincts rather than just blindly obeying the orders of the abbess of St. Mortain.
A novel sure to appeal to fantasy lovers and those who enjoyed Lisa T. Bergren’s River of Time series; Grave Mercy will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 3, 2012.
In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Thomas Allen & Son) for free.