Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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?
Whilst I love my current office job, it has seriously impinged on my reading levels in the last 18 months. Previously, I would get through a book in around 3 days. Now? Only one every 6 days. This means that I am not as much help to Mel when it comes to doing reviews as I used to be, although it does mean that I try my very best to only read books I think I’m really going to enjoy, rather than a lot of ‘oh, I’ll give it a go’ books. I thought that Grave Mercy looked a book right up my street – thankfully, I was right.
The premise is not a vastly original one – one character has a horrid childhood, is saved by a seemingly well-meaning group who train them in their field of expertise (in this case, assassination), said character is sent out to dispatch a mark, and instead sparks fly. However, when the horrid childhood is brought about by a failed attempt at abortion, the well-meaning group is a convent for the training of assassin nuns, and the intended mark is the bastard half-brother to the ruling Duchess it all becomes rather more than un-original!
Our heroine is Ismae, our hero Duval, and, unlike in many fantasy novel romances, both are strong-willed, untrusting and capable of playing the game whilst notching a crossbow. It was also a very pleasant change to read about two people falling in love with the other’s personality, not their physical appearance. At no point is either character described as beautiful/handsome/striking/lovely etc etc, instead they both appear to be, well, normal! On a good day, they scrub up well, on a bad day, they don’t. A very satisfying novel for us average-lookers!
Despite doing History A-Level, my knowledge of French history is extremely limited, so I have to admit to having no idea whether or not the events portrayed in Grave Mercy are accurate. This does mean, however, that I could enjoy the political machinations as they were described, and without bias. Add to this an alternative take on the subject of Gods that leaves many a question unanswered and many an avenue to be explored, and I am gagging to get my hands on book two in the series.
In short, if you like your romances realistic, your fantasy historical, and your nuns to be assassins, then I defy you to not enjoy Grave Mercy. One for fans of Naomi Novik and Maria Snyder, 8.5 out of 10.