Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 3, 2012
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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?
My initial thoughts of Ismae were heartbreaking. She was never wanted or loved by either parent. Marked by Death she went through life thinking she was hideous and unlovable. Her mother visited a herbwitch and took poison to attempt to expel her from her mother’s womb. Her father sold her to a cruel local man, Guillo. Luckily, she is able to escape with the herbwitch’s aide. She fears her scars are so hideous that another novitiate would not want to befriend her because she is too repulsive to look at.
In the sanctuary of the covenant Ismae is safe and surrounded by others with scars both internal and external, and this is where she will finally come to terms with her past. On her first eve at the covenant Ismae meets Sybella who was gripping. Sybella was distraught and out of her mind. With Ismae’s help the sisters are able to calm Sybella, so she can come to the realization that they are able to teach her ways so no man will ever hurt her again.
Unfortunately, the teachings to become an assassin were only a short part of the book. It was the most interesting part of the book to me and I wish it entailed more. Shortly after (or four years) of Ismae coming to the covenant she is sent away to live with Lord Duval and spy on the palace to see who is attempting to bring down the duchess from the inside. She is warned that it may even be Duval and not to trust anyone.
Thrillers and espionage are really not my cup of tea and I think this is where the book lost me. I really only picked up this novel as I heard so many rave reviews about it. It wasn’t that it was badly written or the characters were dull or didn’t connect, but the problem was with me. It truly was one of those “It’s not you, it’s me” situations. It was my favourite genre. It was slow developing and a long book. But I am glad I read it because it was nice to explore outside my normal reading boundaries.
As much of a problem I had getting through the book I do want to read the sequel. I want to learn more about Sybella and Beast. As they were only minor characters, but their short storylines intrigued me to the point of wanting more.
Ismae realizes not everything is black and white when it comes to Death’s marque, and she starts to doubt her commitment to the covenant and what her future will hold. Ismae and Duval’s romance was soft and slowly built. It didn’t take away from her reconnaissance, but added a layer of who can she really trust. Is her heart telling the truth or will it betray her? The romance was a nice background it didn’t give me any heart clenching moments, more of a soft glow.
I’ll be honest. Monarchies confuse me. I have little knowledge about them as I prefer my historical fiction more on a peasant or mythological side. Thank goodness for Wikipedia. I was able to research about Anne and dukes, barons, lords, which made it so much easier for me to understand the book.
I really did love the ending. It didn’t end in a shocking cliffhanger or wrapped up to perfectly. Things were still going on and the book had a wonderful cast of characters. I wasn’t sure who the real spy was until close to the end was as it had so many possible characters.