Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Release Date – April 3, 2012
Publisher Website – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 549 pages
My Rating- 9/10
**obtained from Netgalley and publisher for review**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?Secrets, royal court intrigue, a steamy romance, and intricate and detailed mythology are just some of the things you have to look forward to in Grave Mercy.
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.
The writing is well paced. The novel, at almost 600 pages, reads much quicker than expected. Robin LeFevers spins a delectable historical tale that will leave you turning the pages late into the night. The historical element is truly fascinating, but the story will speak to anyone. It's a tale of believing in yourself, doing what feels true to yourself, and taking a chance to find your own happiness.
The mythology is very detailed and kept me interested. The convent of assassins, and Death in all his forms play a huge role in the story, and in shaping our heroine along with her future. I loved the mystery and history that came with the convent. It’s true purpose lingered shrouded in secrecy and rituals. I feel like we've just scratched the surface when it comes to this mysterious convent.
Ismae is a character you will enjoy getting to know. Her life starts out quite rough - her father marries her off to a much older man who treats her horrifically on their wedding night. Her father is glad to be rid of her as he never treated her kindly either. She is rescued and brought to the convent where she quickly embraces her training and new life. She wishes nothing more than to serve her saint, and the duchess she is to protect.
I love that Ismae questions things, and acts for herself. It showed her strength of character. She was thankful for the life given to her by the sister of the convent, but she wasn't blindly loyal. She was loyal to her saint and her own intuition. She grows and changes throughout the novel, and we see her become a much more confident and assured young woman.
Duval is the man with whom Ismae enters court with under the guise of being his mistress. Ismae is quickly thrown into a high stakes chess game of court politics and quickly realizes she might be in over her head. The delicate nature of court life, and how things can turn in an instant has always fascinated me. The crosses, double crosses, promises, secrets, lies of courtly life are all found within this story.
The romance in this novel is fully believable. It starts out as a reluctant alliance, and turns into a friendship built on trust and mutual respect. It grows into something more, and the chemistry between Ismae and Duval is swoon worthy. I love that Duval doesn’t look at her as some damaged damsel, and that he trusts her to take care of things. She has training and he knows she can handle it.
Death is such a large part of this story. Ismae's saint is Mortain, the saint of death. Death is looked at in many forms during the novel. We see it being sometimes merciful, sometimes vengeful. It can snatch away someone's chance at redemption, or leave enough time to be give forgiveness. Ismae realizes that perhaps there is more than one way to serve him. It is a huge part of character growth.
This wonderfully written novel has left me excited to read the companion novels that are expected next. With a touch of romance, a lot of action and courtly scandal Robin LeFevers has created a wonderful starting part for other novels. Her secondary characters that are capable of becoming larger parts to the story and I look forward to getting to experience their stories.