Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)

R.L. LaFevers

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Source: Publisher

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?

Goodreads Summary

Ismae was plucked right out of her wedding night (which wasn’t going well, as her hubs was a total dirtbag), and shuffled through R.L. LaFevers version of the Underground Railroad. Ismae is taken to a convent specifically set aside to train young girls to be Handmaidens of Death. Or in layman’s terms: assassins. Ismae spends the next few years training herself in all manner of weapons, poisons and the art of womanly wiles. Ismae is finally deemed worthy to be sent on her first mission, which she successfully completes. However, just after she offed her mark, she runs into Gabriel Duval who is a bit livid that she’s killed his informant. It’s this very first mission where Ismae starts to doubt the Abbey, the Abbess and how to decide who needs to be killed. Ismae is dismayed that she quite possibly killed a man who was trying to redeem himself.

Brittany is in political turmoil, and as the bastard brother of the Duchess, he is embroiled right in the middle of it. Ismae’s next mission requires her to pair up with Duval, where he thinks she is being sent to protect the Duchess and find out who wants her dead. Her real mission is so spy on Duval, as the Abbess and the Abbey’s benefactor Chancellor Crunard are convinced that Duval is a traitor. As Ismae adjusts to court life and intrigue, she soon realizes that there is more to being a Handmaiden of Death than blankly following orders, and that those marked for death can redeem themselves. She also realizes that Duval is simply a man who wants to protect his sister and the future of his country. Ismae and Duval begin to rely on and trust each other, and Ismae is suddenly faced with the prospect of having to choose between the man she loves and the ideals instilled in her by the Abbey, the institution that saved her life. When the political turmoil comes to a head, Ismae and Duval have only each other to turn to in order to save their beloved country from war.

I posted this on a WoW awhile ago, and I was ecstatic when I heard we received a copy from the publisher for review. I LOVED Grave Mercy. I thoroughly enjoyed the history and rich descriptions of the character’s surroundings and way of life. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a historical novel that was non-Regency, and I missed the genre. I jumped right into the world of Grave Mercy easily, and I had no problem with keeping the characters and their names straight. It also helped that there was a map of Britanny, plus a character glossery telling me who everyone was. Gotta love those helpful authors.

Ismae is such a wonderful character. I loved her progression and growth from a young girl beat down by life, to one who knows her strength and isn’t afraid to follow her heart. Duval was fiercely loyal, and the kind of man every woman dreams they could find in real life. I loved watching their relationship unfold. It was slow and meandering as they overcame inital distrust to finally realizing they make the perfect team. They both loved the young Duchess (she was 12, can you believe it?!), and only wanted her happiness and safety. I quickly figured out who the real enemy was, but it didn’t detract from the story at all. In fact, even though I knew the essentials of what would happen, I was still shocked and surprised at how two-faced the traitor really was.

My Summary: Grave Mercy is utterly beautiful and can’t be missed. Powerfully written characters, a fascinating storyline and a sweet and poignant love story all come together to make what I consider a masterpiece. This book is the first in a series, and from what I understand, the other two books are going to be about Ismae’s two friends from the convent, Sybella and Annith with Sybella’s book next. I hope we see more of Ismae and Duval in the following books, but I was satisfied enough with the ending that I’ll be okay if they don’t make an appearance.

My Rating: A+

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Comments

  1. Matthew R. Merrick says:

    This book sounds awesome. A little out of the ordinary for my usual reading tastes; I don’t generally read historicals, but this has piqued my interest in a big way. I love the cover, and the blurb had me pretty much sold, but your review definitely moves it up on the TBR list! Thank you!

  2. Oooh, I love historical fiction! I’ve been waiting to see what you thought of this, you’ve been awfully quiet about it. *smack*

    I may have to sigh dramatically and throw myself on the couch because you got another book that was really good that I wanted. 😉

  3. So glad to hear you loved this one, Cait! I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as you did, but I still really liked it and I’m looking forward to reading more by LaFevers in the future. I DO love the genre of historical fiction, and I thought the world of Grave Mercy was fascinating!

  4. I have yet to see anything negative for this book. My expectations are through the roof, but I am going to keep myself in check. I am pretty sure I’ll absolutely love it, though. It sounds SO refreshing from what’s out there in YA right now. I can’t wait to get to it!

  5. Thamks for the review! II can’t wait to read this!
    =D

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