TITLE: Grave Mercy
AUTHOR: R.L. LaFevers
SERIES: His Fair Assassin #1
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin
Note: An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher in an exchange for an honest review.
I’m pretty sure the reason everyone wants to read this books is because of the premise. Nun. Assassins. Do I need to say anymore? Thankfully, the books seems to live up to its enticing synopsis, and I certainly did not come away disappointed.
It’s impossible not to root for Ismae right from the get go. Mistreated from birth due to her survival of an ‘abortion’ of sorts, at the beginning of this book our heroine is a small and fragile bud, only a hairs breadth away from being crushed underfoot. Whisked away to the abbess of St. Mortain, Ismae is inducted into the teachings of the handmaidens of Death, and they gradually build her into a strong young woman who has a clear sense of self. Pair that with her frightening skill at garrotting and poisonous pearls, and she becomes a kick ass heroine who you can’t help but love.
However, at certain moments she would shed her poised exterior and become….well, a wimp. And, unfortunately, most of those moments occurred due to a certain love interest, Gavriel Duval. Now, I liked Duval – he was sensible, loyal, caring (when the occasion arose) and undoubtedly enamoured of our Ismae. I wasn’t expecting to like the romance, but the way it seemed to grow from prominent dislike to shaky alliance to heart-warming love did stir my inner hopeless romantic.
One thing that did annoy me, however, was even when Ismae didn’t like Duval she was maddeningly desperate around him, reduced to a quivering mess whenever he so much as touched her. And then she would wonder ‘oh, what is this I’m feeling?’ (insert swoon here) and remind us of how she skipped all her ‘womanly skills’ classes at the abbey. She was almost too ignorant, and I don’t believe that assassins would really be let loose without some knowledge of these things.
Moving onto the heart of this story – the plot. It’s packed with everything a historical nut could ever want; oodles of political and court intrigue, scandals, murder, monarchs, war…all so interesting, if you’re not me. I loved the aspects of the abbey and Mortain, how he played a part in Ismae’s life and his influence upon Brittany. But, at the court everything seemed to be in such a tangle that a happy ending looked impossible. I got so confused with everybody’s roles that big reveals became inconsequential, and I couldn’t even remember who was who, and what they were doing. The solution to all of this seemed also seemed to convenient, mentioned only in passing when basically 500+ pages had been devoted to stressing about it. Although, I’m not complaining, the rest of the plot and the characters certainly made up for all of it.
A wonderful new read, Grave Mercy is delightful in its uniqueness and the world it encompasses. At 3 ½ stars, this is certainly one series that I am keeping an eye on.