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?”
Sometimes, you find yourself in the mood for a historical fantasy book, you know? And that’s how I came to pick up Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers off the shelves, after hearing nothing but great things about the book. To be honest, I also found out it was about nuns who were assassins and with that concept? I HAD to read the book! The brutality of the opening scenes drew me into the story immediately and ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey through Ismae’s eyes.
Ismae is a young girl and daughter of St. Mortain or death himself, as he is perhaps better known, but it’s not until she is taken in by the convent that she becomes an ‘angel of vengeance’, slaying anyone who has been marked for death. After completing her initiation, she is given an assignment to go to court and find out who is plotting against the Duchess with instruction to take out the culprit.
In some ways, Ismae sounds almost heartless but she believes in her purpose and has ultimate faith in St. Mortaine. She came from humble beginnings with an abusive childhood but she has a silent strength which makes her a little bit kick ass. She’s intelligent, eager to learn and eager to please the nuns, proving that she is worthy of being chosen. Ismae is not one dimensional however and can think for herself – in fact, when the nun’s teachings are brought into question; it is Ismae who must choose to do what she has been instructed to do or do what she thinks is right. Head or heart if you will. Speaking of matters of the heart, it wasn’t her intention to get involved with anyone, certainly she has been shunned her entire life because of her mark/scar and the implications of it but Duval quietly stole her heart and mine too. I adored the slow burn of the relationship between Ismae and Duval – at first they were non trusting strangers, then allies, friends and something much more. I truly thought Duval was a hero in every way and a swoonworthy one at that.
The interesting thing about Grave Mercy is that it is not until I finished reading and looked back, that I realised what a truly phenomenal book this is. It is exceptionally well written and beautifully executed. I enjoyed the fact that this book had a touch of the supernatural without going over the top and I loved the use of “olde” language and how, even if you’d never heard the word before, you could still easily figure out its meaning. The language used was a nice, constant reminder of the time period and added weight and authenticity to the voice.
This book is chock full of politics, power play, corruption, and betrayal and I enjoyed watching the mystery unravel before my eyes. Grave Mercy is not a rapid page turner, rather it is a book to be devoured slowly and deliciously like a fine wine. You’ll be pleased to know that there is no cliffhanger and the book could stand alone quite nicely but it is to be part of a series and the next book is entitled Dark Triumph with no release date as of yet. Grave Mercy was a truly excellent read and a book I continue to think about. I will DEFINITELY be reading more from this series and I’m going to have to order the hardback for my collection.
Grave Mercy was published in the US on 3rd April, 2012 and 7th June, 2012 in the UK. To find out more about Robin LaFevers and her books, please click here to visit her website.