Review: Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
by: R.L. LaFevers
Publication Date: Apr. 3, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: Borrowed from Library
Page Count: 549 pages
Order Links: Amazon | B&N
My Rating: 4/5 stars
When I first read the summary I knew this book was a must-read. A young girl who escapes her brutal upbringing and an arranged marriage, trained to be an assassin at a nun convent? UM, YES! Oh, did I mention it's set in 15th century France?
I'm always nervous about historical fantasy fiction because some authors get so caught up in their describing and world-building that they lose me. This book didn't do that. I felt I understood enough and was able to still feel immersed in the book with no problem. The pacing went fine for me and I didn't think the political aspect was too irritating, but rather fascinating.
Ismae is our female protagonist and we are introduced to a girl who has been hardened by a rough childhood. Her future is not boding well either as her husband-to-be is a worthless scrap of a man. Lucky for her, fate intervenes in the form of priest, who takes her away to a convent. Ismae is special though. She is the daughter of St. Mortain, the patron saint of death. She is trained by the other nuns to be an assassin, killing those who bear the mark of death.
I loved Ismae's character. She does not let her past turn her into someone to be pitied. She is proud, but has also learned to rely on no one but herself. She truly believes in her work as an assassin and serving Mortain, therefore she does not question her duties.
She is sent to work with (and keep tabs on) the nobleman Duval, who is sarcastic, proud and quite irritated that he is forced to work with her. However, he is still quite the gentleman and is civil to her. Even though Duval has a proud exterior, I loved seeing the beginning glimpses of kindness and vulnerability that he shows to Ismae.
Even though you knew they would inevitably fall for each other, their romance is slow-building and believeable. Theirs is based on trust and I love that Ismae didn't hold back when he confronted on her certain issues. (I hate when females make it worse by not just admitting their issues)
Duval's loyalty to his half-sister Anne, the duchess of Brittany, is also wonderful to read about. Ismae also becomes close to her and is held in high esteem, despite her common upbringing.
Ismae does change throughout the story and it is fun to watch. She has been trained to follow orders without question. However, by being around Duval and her new surroundings, she begins to question that and starts to follow her heart. She realizes that she doesn't have to just kill without mercy, but she can also use her gift to bring peace as well. She realizes the convent is just an institution, and that she lives to serve St. Mortain.
I'm big into characterization and I really think LaFevers did a great job. Looking forward to the next book!