Title: Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
Published: April 3rd, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Hartcourt
Source: ARC from Netgalley
Grade rate: B+
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?
I have been dying to read this book for a while, but had to carve some time to do so as it is a long book (549 pages). I really enjoy Grave Mercy, although I have to warn that it might not be for everyone.
Grave Mercy is a historical ‘romance’ with a bit of the paranormal thrown in for good measure, targeted to young adults. The setting of the story is the duchy of Brittany (now part of France) in the 1400s and it’s a period in history that I haven’t read much about. I found the backdrop of the story fascinating, even if complicated to follow.
The story starts by introducing us to Ismae which had a very cruel upbringing and also the power that religion and superstition had on that time. I can see how the promise of a safe haven to live in, without fear and of a way to defend themselves from the brutality of the world can be very alluring, and even appear to be a blessing. The elements of the old religion made a lot of sense and were easy to understand and were the very important to the story along with all the political machinations.
Ismae is very brave, loyal, is a great judge of character, and is a no-nonsense type of person. She is only 17, but has learned a lot about how bad things could be, which makes her appreciate and recognize a good thing when she sees it. Another redeeming quality is that she uses her brain, instead of following instructions blindly. Gavriel Duval and Ismae’s are unwilling partners in the political game, and quickly learn to trust each other. Their romance grows very slowly, which I can appreciate and makes it more enjoyable and believable. I am also glad that there wasn’t a love triangle, and that Ismae didn’t stray from her beliefs and her feelings. I really love Duval!
The overall characterization was really well done. We get to see Anne of Brittany, a sweet girl that is put in a very difficult position that I’m not sure that I could have ever understood at that age. She is constantly betrayed by the people that are supposed to be her allies. Other characters were really well crafted and made the story believable. I’m sure we will see more of all of them in the following books. All the ins and outs of the life at court can be confusing and seemed like a big theater performance at times.
The plot, as I’ve mentioned before, was a bit complicated, but not impossible to follow, keep in mind that this is based on past history! The writing was one of the best parts of the story. LaFevers has a way to making you feel like you know these characters, and I learned to care for them. The use of old words and sayings was also essential to the story.
Overall Grave Mercy is a great story, full of history, superstitions, religion, politics and romance. I will definitely read Dark Triumph, book # 2 due for publication sometime next year.
A very true fact that is repeated throughout the story: “People hear and see what they expect to hear and see”
Another favorite: “Ah” Duval says. “So this is what you didn’t want me to see. Poor Ismae”…”There is no shame is scar, Ismae”
About the cover: It’s a beautiful cover! We see Ismae in a beautiful red gown with a crossbow and in the background a castle.
Have you read Grave Mercy? Do you like historical books? Which is your favorite?