Friday, 30 March 2012

Early Review: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin 1)
-          Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin – Published on 3rd April 2012
E-Arc courtesy of netgalley and Houghton Mifflin
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?
Ismae is the daughter of the pre-Christian  god of death, Mortain. This means she has been trained in the art of death and knows how to shoot, choke, poison and many other methods of disposing of those who bear Mortain’s mark. When Brittany’s independence is threatened by the French, she is sent into the young Duchess’s court in order to protect and preserve her country. Unfortunately she is unsure who she can trust...and who she trusts might mean the difference between life and death...
This novel set in medieval France and treads a fine line between supernatural and realism. As the daughter of a God, Ismae and her sisters are trained to use certain gifts and as the novel continues Ismae realises that her training might not be as extensive as she first thought as she discovers new abilities. Some of these gifts are the result of intense training but some may in fact have their roots in magic. However, this is never overt and just adds a nice flavour of spice to the story. In the same way there is a romance, but both Ismae and her suitor firmly place the Duchy’s needs ahead of their own throughout – which I liked as it adds pathos and emotion to their actions. The romance is sweet and feels natural  extension of both characters personality.
There are plenty of secondary characters which make the world feel populated and realistic. The writing was elegant and the story exciting and tense. While there are some deaths, most of the action in the story is political. Personally, I love the politics of court life, but it may not be to everyone’s taste – you are forwarned! I loved the mystery of trying to figure out who Ismae could trust and how they could get out of the difficult situation the country had found itself in. It was a tense situation and by no means were all the threads tied up by the end. The mystery of Sybella remains and luckily the second book in the trilogy, Dark Triumph looks like it will tell her story – and I can’t wait!
Recommended for fans of Maria V Snyder and Jennifer Fallon. 8 out of 10.


  1. I thought this book was rollicking good fun. The moment I actually started thinking about certain plot and historical elements it began to fall apart for me, so I stopped thinking about them to enjoy the ride instead. Is that so wrong?

  2. Thanks for the warning. Yeah, I'm not much into the politics, but Ismae sounds like an awesome character. Plus, everyone has read and reviewed this book this week. I don't want to be left out. LOL

  3. I just do not know. I read a few things that really annoyed me about this book (the romance)

  4. It seems to read more toward high fantasy then. I'm curious about that since not many YAs do that kind of fantasy. I'm curious. It's coming up on the review pile. Thanks for the warnings. :D

  5. This book was absolutely gorgeous and brilliant! Just... WOW! I was completely hooked once I started reading this! R.L LaFevers did a great job building Ismae's historical, fantasy world. Everything seemed believable and real, and I felt that I'm also there myself, watching the characters come to life. I love the characters, even the minor ones. I can't help but sympathize with them, especially the young duchess, Anne. At the young age of twelve, she carried the responsibility of protecting Brittany from the clutches of France. Ismae is a strong heroine and I adore her for listening to her own heart for following the path she must choose. She's an awesome assassin and her gadgets are so cool! I want her bracelet! The way Ismae and Duval's relationship grew was also sweet. I love how their understanding with each other grew and they really make a good team.