Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publish Date: April 3, 2012
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Genre: Fiction – Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound
Synopsis: 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?
Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy is an amazing read. Definitely one of my favorite books for 2012. I think since it’s been released, and up to the date of this post, I must have reread it a couple of times. Grave Mercy has everything that I could want in a book – a great story, fantastic characters, superb writing, and a world so detailed, that I could get lost in it with a blink of an eye. Oh, I mustn’t forget a few things like nuns who are assassins, murder, and a romance so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.
The story of Ismae is one that touched my heart. She is Death’s daughter, given a chance when no other would have done the same. Taken to St. Mortain convent, she was trained to become Death’s hand, an assassin carrying out his bidding. She learns how to yield weapons, create and use poisons, and use her feminine prowess in seduction, all to effectively become a “handmaiden of death.”
It was easy to get enchanted by LaFevers storytelling. Through Ismae and the other characters of Grave Mercy, I felt that I was a part of the convent, carrying on assignments right along side Ismae. I was right there, living through everything. Almost similar to how I feel when playing a RPG (role-playing game) on the computer. I mean, how could you not love the secrets, the betrayals, and all the cool tools to become a dangerous assassin? Epic fantasy, indeed.
Oh wait, I better not forget about the romance. People, the romance! I almost wish it wasn’t a young adult genre book, because the romance was pretty hot and steamy. LaFevers described Ismae as breathless in a few scenes, and I completely agree. The story was well told, and while I’ve read that it was predictable, I loved it. Ismae’s romance paced well with the rest of the story, especially given that she herself never felt love in that capacity.
Ismae’s voice reflected her emotions in a way that was easy to relate to. I found myself empathetic to everything that she went through. Ismae is a strong heroine, refreshing as a female with wit, intelligence, and gumption. Even with an unidealistic upbringing, Ismae is a heroine that I would have loved to look up to. Yes, even despite the handmaiden of death thing. She was honest and true to her beliefs. What person wouldn’t want to be like her? Her journey is unique, and seeing her grow up was my favorite part of the story. To see her come into her own, to be able to take her destiny into her own hands – well, that was something else.
But above all the romance and the mystery of Grave Mercy, I enjoyed the underlying messages throughout the story. LaFevers spoke about loyalty, deception, and perception. And while I first thought it was about politics, it also goes for love and affection. Can these not be interchangeable with either topic? I felt that the events of the plot mimicked the events going on with Ismae’s heart. It was nice to see that parallel, even if I only caught it after my second reading. But great authors are sneaky like that, aren’t they? And LaFevers is definitely a great author.
LaFevers is a great writer, showcasing a lyrical rhythm with a steady beat. And like every great story out there, LaFevers had the details down to a science. The world was fantastic. 1400 century Brittany was a perfect setting for Grave Mercy. Historical buffs would love the intricate details that LaFevers included.
If you haven’t read Grave Mercy already, I highly urge you to do so. I don’t think you will be disappointed.