Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published on April 3rd 2012
Genres: Action & Adventure, Europe, Fantasy & Magic, General, Historical, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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?
Grave Mercy is a novel about a nun/assassin who serves the god of Death. Interesting premise, I love assassins in novels, the badder the better, but I hesitated to read this book because it’s YA. I’ve tried to stay away from novels that have a teen assassin as the heroine, because I’ve had the unfortunate experience of reading one that I just found so utterly unconvincing and annoying, mixing teen drama and assassination plots in a style that just did not work at all. I was afraid this one would be like that, I found out about this book from this list (25 YA books for Game of Thrones fans) , there’s 10 books on that list that I completely adore, if it’s anything like any of those then it might be worth a shot, but then again the aforementioned unconvincing assassin book was also on the list, so it’s still a gamble. In the end I just decided to give it a shot and check it for myself — and I’m very glad I did. It reminded be so much of the The Queen’s Thief series (one of my favorite YA series) , with a lot of court intrigues, threats of war and patron gods. This one though have more elements of a romance in it than that one.
Ismae is the main character, when she was younger she was sold by her father who hated her, to be the wife to a brute of a man, who likes hurting women. She had a rough life, she was saved from a life of misery when she was whisked away to a convent, where the nuns turned out to be the servants of the god of death. They train young girls in the varied ways to kill to a person. But they only kill the ones who are marked with death. Ismae learns the art of assassinations together with mixing poisons, martial arts, dancing, history, politics and anything else that would help them get closer to their marks. As interesting as that is though, it’s not the meat of the the story or the most riveting part to read either. The exciting part is when she was dispatched for an assignment outside the convent, where she is challenged to finally use her training.
While in one of her assignments, Ismae unknowingly subverts plans connected to gaining intelligence from enemies of the duchess. There are political maneuverings that are happening in the duchy and Gavriel Duval, the duchess’ most trusted adviser is going to great lengths to protect her interest, even going so far as going to the convent and reporting Ismae’s part in the subverted plan in an attempt to prevent it from happening again. This is where Ismae get’s involved and is ordered to go with Duval ( to his great distaste and annoyance) to go to court, and be of help when she can. She eventually gets involved in the political intrigues, meets the duchess and other players in the game.
I like Ismae’s character, she’s not arrogant,spoiled or whinny. She’s acts pretty maturely through out the book, she thinks over her actions and she likes nothing more than to be of help to keep the duchess safe. I also like Duval’s character too, because he’s the ultimate protector of the duchess, fully committed with his work and an overall decent and kind human being. The tension build-up between the two was amazing, the romance is subtle and just slow building. It’s not the main focus of the story but it’s a big part of it, the thread of their romance was as good to read as the conclusion of the political intrigues that was happening. I also liked the other supporting characters, from Isame’s sisters to Duval’s friends and family. They are endearing and made me really care enough to want them to just make it to the end whole, alive and happy.
Strangely this book doesn’t feel like YA at all. All the characters even the young duchess acted mature for their age. I didn’t really feel the youth of some of the characters. If Ismae’s age wasn’t mentioned I would have thought she was older. But that doesn’t really take anything away from the story for me, if anything it made it all the more enjoyable, it turned out to be a refreshing change.
It’s really a great read, I recommend it if you are looking for some light fantasy with some romance in it.
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