Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Action & Adventure, General, Historical, Europe, Love & Romance, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Advanced Review Copy
Source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
I received this book for free from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Buy on Amazon
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 read the first few pages on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s website back in early February. And when the ARC arrived a few weeks later, I plunked myself down and dropped everything and read it.
Things that told me I knew I’d like Grave Mercy:
A very independent and kind of icy main character
A sisterhood (am I the only one that really likes books with a group of women/girls that all have each others backs?)
Poisons and covert methods of killing people.
Grave Mercy begins with our heroine, Ismae, being forced into a marriage with a, shall we say, piggish man. (It’s funny because he actually is a pig farmer). She bears a scar across her body from the herbs used as an attempt to abort her in the womb. Those who have seen it, call it the Mark of Death. Ismae is smuggled out of her village and into a convent where the sisters there serve Death as his handmaidens.
To begin, I really think that this book has significant crossover appeal. In fact, I would be more inclined to categorize it as adult fiction, even though Ismae is 17. However, for the time period, and the issues she’s dealing with, she’s like 30. That’s not to say that I don’t think teens will like it. Many will, but probably the older crowd more so than the younger.
There were so many things to love about Grave Mercy. I immediately liked Ismae. She’s a great example of a non-victim character. Even though she’s really dangerous, and you definitely wouldn’t want to be around if you bore “the mark,” she is loyal to those she trusts. She reminded me a lot of another character I loved; Yelena, from Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder.
I am such a sucker for politics and courtly drama. And most of this book is just that. There are several high-stakes assassinations and such, but much of it is kind of a whodunnit and figuring out who you can trust. And a lot of talking. I would have liked to see some more assassination, but as it was, I still really enjoyed the story.
And, there’s the romance. And I can say with absolute certainty that Grave Mercy contains my favorite romance so far this year. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I like romances that take it slow. I have a particular affinity for characters being thrown together and going through the process of disdain, respect, trust, and love. Because even though you know that it’s GOING to happen, it’s how it happens where the magic lies.
Grave Mercy and His Fair Assassins series is definitely one to watch. And, if you aren’t into cliffhangers, you’ll be happy to know that this one wraps up nicely, with plenty of suspense for the rest in the series. As I mentioned before, there is some adult content, particularly sexual content. But, personally, I thought it was tastefully handled. Everything else, (drinking, violence, etc) is just typical to the time period.
psst… I’m giving away my ARC along with 7 other titles in my Spring Cleaning Giveaway. Go enter!