Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
His Fair Assassin #1
Published April 3rd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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 & 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?
After years of waiting, I finally did it guys - I finally dove in and read Grave Mercy! This is one of those books I always knew I'd enjoy and there's no excuse to explain why I waited so long to finally get to it.  It might not have been a fast read - mostly due to my current busy schedule rather than the actual size of the book, but Grave Mercy caught my interest quickly, and every moment I did have to devote to the story kept me glued to it's pages, eager to unravel its mysteries...

Grave Mercy starts off by introducing us to Ismae, a poor, abused girl, sold off to a monster in marriage by her own father, a monster in his own right.  Ismae barely escapes a fate worse than death *shudder* by being offered refuge in a convent where the sisters serve Saint Mortain; or Death Himself.  Yeah.  Here, Ismae learns that she is connected to Death in her own very special way and that, if she so chooses, the sisters will train her in St Mortain's arts, meaning she'll be trained as an assassin to deal out Death's will.  How do you not get hooked into a premise like that?!

As the main protagonist, I connected to  Ismae right from the word go.  Without being overtly aggressive, she manages to come off as deadly. She's calm, soft-spoken and kind, despite all the hardships she suffered, but she's also filled with a steely resolve.  She more than welcomes the opportunity to deal out death to vile, corrupt men, instead of being forced to serve them as the historical setting dictates.  And so Ismae begins her training with poisons, (which were seriously cool and one of my favorite aspects of the book! I wonder what that says about me...) self-defence, concealment and even seduction - ooh la la. All the skills she'll need to trick and scheme her way to striking down those the Convent deem worthy of death.

Despite it's slowish start and overall steady pacing, I found myself quickly wrapped-up in this world of assassins, court-drama, political intrigue, romance and suspense.  While I briefly wished that we would have been privy to the entirety of Ismae's training with the sisters, I was quickly swept away by her new (undercover) task within the high court of Brittany.  I enjoyed watching our heroine learn to navigate the court while staying true to herself.  Despite it's historical setting, I was pleasantly surprised by how Grave Mercy didn't relinquish women to being hopeless and subservient.  Even more surprising is the fact that a YA-novel managed to pull off a deliciously slow-burn romance without a hint of a love-triangle. Ismae never once lost her head to silly romantic notions. Instead, she relied on herself, her skill and her brains to figure out how to act - even when surprising revelations threatened to pull the rug out from under her.  My hat goes off to author Robin LaFevers for accomplishing such an admirable feat - one rarely seen in young adult fiction today

So we've got assassins, an awesome protagonist, Death incarnate, and a seriously swoon-worthy, realistic romance (that I'm trying very hard not to gush about...OMG Duval ♥).  What more could a girl ask for? Well, full disclosure: As much as I adore political/court intrigue in my adult fantasies, I wasn't completely swept away by those aspects in Grave Mercy.  Some of the finer details tended to blur together for me. I found wishing for those parts had more kick to them because they fell a bit flat compared to the rest of the book.  All things considered though, I really enjoyed this book a lot. I can't believe I waited so long to read it.  I certainly won't be holding off too long to read the next book in the series!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

23 comments:

  1. I was late to the game with this series too, but that just meant that I got to read all three books almost in a row. LOVED this series!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Glad it wasn't just me Nicole but yeah, I can totally see binging on this series haha! I can't wait to start the second one :D

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  2. So glad you enjoyed this, Micheline! :) I was just looking at my copy of Grave Mercy on the shelf last night and thinking, hmm...I really need to get this read. I totally LOVE the concept of a convent that trains its sisters to be assassins!

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    1. OMG you haven't read it yet either?! I wish I'd known, we could have done a buddy read! I'm really curious to see what you,ll make of this one when you do read it :)

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  3. This book was so extremely fun and it was very easy to fall into the story. I, too, waited forever to read it, and I wish I had picked it up sooner.

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    1. Agreed^^ and same here! I won't be waiting as long to read the sequels that's for sure.

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  4. I really need to get around to reading this book. I started the Audiobook once when I wasn't feeling well, but I didn't get very far and I never picked it back up again. I love what you said about the romance, that more than anything else is what makes me want to read it. There isn't enough realistic and slow burn romance in YA.
    Great review!

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    1. I couldn't agree more with your comment on there not being enough realistic romances in YA! This one really was a breath of fresh air to me and I hope you feel the same way when you try it again :) Thanks for stopping by

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  5. Good news: Dark Triumph is even darker and has much less court intrigue :D. I'm with you that it got to be a bit too much for me in Grave Mercy, but Dark Triumph was perfection! But gaaaaaaaah that ending destroyed me in the best way!!!!

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    1. YES! That^^ is awesome news :D I usually love political/court intrigue in my fantasy but I don't know if it's because this was YA but I just couldn't get into it...Gah! I must start Dark Triumph a.s.a.p.

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  6. I love this series! Ismae was great, but Sybella...I loved book 2 to pieces! It's a lot darker, and the romance is even more of a slow burn, but the whole book is just so beautiful. I can't wait to hear what you think about Dark Triumph!

    - Kritika @ Snowflakes & Spider silk

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    1. I have a feeling I'll feel the same way about Sybella, she already really has my attention, her character seems really intriguing! You're making me wish I didn't already have 3 books on the go so I could start DT right meow!

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  7. Yes yyessss. Yes. This really brings me back to my love for Grave Mercy and Ismae and Duval. Not that you don't get to see them again in Dark Triumph, but I really just LOVED this introduction to the world of assassin nuns. And yes, Robin LaFevers - what a talent! I never thought anyone could write something so historically accurate and yet also have such strong independent women and respectful swoony men for the 1400s. Total WIN! Dark Triumph is quite a bit darker, but I think you will like it just as much. Really fantastic review, Micheline!!

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    1. A historical romance with strong, independent, and truly feminist women is definitely not what I was expecting going it but it made me happy in ways I can't even describe. Not to mention the bit about respectful male leads, as you said ♥ I can NOT wait to dive into Dark Triumph now :D

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  8. Ok realistic romance is something that definitely is lacking in. YA so I will most certainly give this series a try!

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    1. AGREED^^ I hope you have as much luck with this one as I did!!

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  9. The only thing I so-so liked about this book was Duval (sorry!!!) but otherwise I loved loved it :D So glad you did too!

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    1. Awww that's ok Lola, he wasn't my all-time favorite boy or anything...I just like how respectful and mysterious he was hehe But yeah, I loved the book altogether, thanks :)

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  10. I'm glad you liked this one. I loved it. I think you'd like book 2 as well. It seems to have less of the things you don't like. And, I wasn't expecting to like the other characters as much, but I so did. I want more from this author already. Seriously, what good romance! I'm with you. I was really impressed by that aspect.

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    1. From what I've heard I think I'll love book 2 even more :D And I don't tend to seek out romantic books so it's a pretty big deal when I feel SO impressed with the romantic aspect in a book hehe Thanks for stopping by Nori!

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  11. I'm so happy you enjoyed Grave Mercy, Micheline! It's so good, and I agree about Ismae being able to take care of herself, and relying on herself for everything. It really was well done in that aspect.
    I actually loved the political aspects, and the fact that the story is set in Brittany. Some of the historical facts are quite accurate, and that made Grave Mercy even better IMO.
    Great review! I hope you're having a terrific Thursday.

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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  12. I'm really glad you enjoyed this one, this trilogy is one of my favorites and the books just kept getting better :) I thought the political aspects would be tedious but I really ended up enjoying them. They aren't really the main focus of the book but it makes an interesting backbone for the plot. Great review!

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  13. YAAAS I'm a Duvan fan as well! Grave Mercy was definitely a unique start and I've heard that Dark Triumph is even better! Now I need some time to start it (that's always the hard part hehe) Lovely review, Micheline! x

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