Publishing Info: April 3, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 21, 2012
Related Posts: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2), Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3)
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 follows the story of Ismae who after escaping the terrible fate of an arranged marriage to an oaf of a man is delivered to the convent of St. Mortain, the patron saint of Death. There she learns how to fully embody her true calling as the daughter of Mortain and learn the ways of death from her fellow Sisters and nuns. Upon the abbess’s approval, Ismae is sent out on her first big mission to protect the duchess of Brittany and to assassinate any traitors to her beloved country. When Ismae gets tangled up in the people of the court of Brittany, she finds it more and more confusing on who to trust and how to best fulfill Mortain’s will with her own feelings mixed in, especially when that means possibly betrayal of a man she may be falling in love with.
Once again, this is a book I probably would not have picked up if it were not for the glowing reviews of my fellow bloggers. This is what makes me so glad that I started my blog and am able to find such great books out there that I never would have known about otherwise!
First off, I really loved that this story was about the handmaidens of Death, but somehow had a positive spin on it. It wasn’t sinister or cruel — Ismae and her fellow Sisters are trained to assassinate those who have been “marked” by Death himself and are only the vessels to carry out His will. These are the traitors, the brutes, the tyrants – All who are deserving to suffer Death’s revenge. And even still, the story takes on so much more than pure assassinations and executions.
I really enjoyed the character development. I was surprised to see more time spent developing the minor characters that were of questionable intent versus what we usually see of the minor characters as sidekicks to the heroes. But in a way, it was actually perfectly fitting to the story. We are dealing with royal politics here and there were many hidden motives and people not to be trusted!
My favorite thing, of course, was the development of Isame & Duval’s relationship. Duval seems like one of those guys who just gives you his crooked smile and has you instantly hooked! I love any love interest that is played off as sly, witty, and sarcastic, making our strong heroine question the “weakness” of falling in love and finally bringing down that wall. And we get all of that and so much more from Duval!
Ismae really reminded me a lot of Katsa from Graceling — They had very similar natural talents (killing, fighting, etc) and that sense of surprise when they find themselves falling for a guy! Silly girls. We all swoon – It’ll happen to you even if you’re a badass! I found myself making quite a few comparisons between these two awesome heroines.
I was really interested in the whole plot of the duchess Anne and how young she was (thirteen!), yet really stood her ground, knew her politics so well, and was the head authority of all of the court. Usually the side stories (or main stories I guess in this case…) about politics and warring strategies usually don’t interest me, but this was written extremely well and it really helped that we got to know Anne so well. If she wasn’t prominently featured in the book and we were hearing of her story from afar, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. She brought a nice aspect to the story and made a good friend for Ismae and softened her character a bit as well.
I thought it was great how deeply the story really took us, constantly turning our loyalties as to who we could really trust. It was just such an interesting concept and a really original story that it really had me hooked. I couldn’t guess as to how it would finish!
Wow, I was so impressed by this book. It started off just a teensy bit slow but totally swept me away!
- p 31: “Good intentions are only lies the weak tell themselves.”
- p 161: “I kick my right foot out of the stirrup, swing my leg over the saddle, and send both feet into the face of my attacker.”
- p 454: “Like the tumblers in a lock, my mind shifts and moves.”
- p 549, Last line of the book: “For while I am Death’s daughter and walk in His dark shadow, surely the darkness can give way to the light sometimes.”