Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

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.  

Comments About the Cover: It’s perfect for Grave Mercy! The castle and brewing storm in the background captures Anne of Brittany’s tumultuous situation. I also love that the model is holding a crossbow and wearing a long dress that’s not only appropriate for the time period but can easily conceal a number of smaller weapons.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Thomas Allen & Son) for free.


  1. I skimmed your review, Z, because I have this one on my tbr pile right now. I'm thrilled that it got a 5 and it's one that I think I'll really enjoy. SO excited to start this one!

  2. I haven't read a negative review for this one yet, so glad to know you enjoyed it Zahida! I love the sound of the romance, I adore the ones that start out a bit rocky and antagonistic and then grow into something more. They're always chock full of tension and I'm a sucker for tension:) Fabulous review!

  3. Excuse me while I dance in my seat a little -- I'm so happy you loved this one, Z!! :D I have this one on my shelf too and you just made me super-glad that it's next on my Order of Reading (which may sound very official, but it never tends to stay as official as it should LOL)! Even with her awful-sounding father, Ismae sounds like my kind of kick-ass & awesome heroine! :)

    Amazing review, Z!! Guess what I'm starting tonight? x) I don't think there's going to be much sleep involved LOL! <3

  4. I've heard so many great things about this book! It sounds really amazing, and I can't wait to read it when it comes out. :) Ismae sounds totally amazing. I love a good, kick-ass heroine. And Graviel? Sa-wooooon. He sounds totally awesome. Love your review! I hope I love this book as much as you did. :)

  5. haha, I feel the same way! You can't go wrong with a book with assassins! I usually expect the assassins to be the bad guys though. I really loved this one too! Both Ismae and Duval were amazing characters and were thus amazing together as well!

  6. Yay! I'm so glad you loved it :D This is one of those books that I never wanted to end.

  7. Z!!! How could you not share that swoon worthy quote? Are you trying to keep this Duval fellow to yourself. Not cool. LOL

    I'm still not sure about this one for myself. I've been reading a mix bag of reviews for it all week. Mainly about how the romance doesn't really seem realistic because the heroine has been abused by men so why would she turn to one at the end, even if Duval is great. But then you mentioned that Rive of Time fans would enjoy this one and that definitely sways me...

    1. It is amazing, Missie! Sure maybe she would have had a little more hesitance, but Duval is so great that I can totally understand why she fell for him :)

  8. Sounds like it has everything that I love in a book.


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