Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
by R.L. LaFevers;
Editions: ebook, hardcover, paperback;
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 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?~ Goodreads Blurb
I had an odd relationship with this book. For the first couple of pages I was tempted to actually drop reading it, and then I got to this point where I couldn’t stop reading it. Really odd chemistry, but all in all a fabulous experience. I could see however how this would lose readers along the way. Assassin ‘nuns’, worshiping St. Mortain… plus the whole court intrigue thing. I’m a fan of these things, but I can see how some other people wouldn’t be. When you say ‘historical’ to me, court intrigue and such is the first thing that comes to mind, I mean the history of European courts are an endless source of that. Those guys could plot and scheme like crazy, I tell you.
So while I loved this plot and story I can definitely see how it could lose some readers. If you’re not into that whole treason, plotting, lying and court scheming this will probably not work for you.
The writing was also another special aspect of the book. It’s a present tense narrative, somewhat rare and definitely a different feel to a story. I’m not a fan of it necessarily but I can roll with it for sure. The tone of writing was also quite special, somewhat peculiar perhaps since it was quite historical age atmosphere inducing. Part of the beauty and charm of the book is it reads historical, it feels historical and it tells historical, for me it’s pleasantly reminiscent of classics but with the charm and pace of nowadays writing. A great mix of old and new, and it’s rare I feel so strongly about a book. This was as much a journey down memory lane of my classics reading period as a walk among the fresh and new. Great, great reading experience.
Now, I would be remiss not to mention I liked this much because it’s not really a YA-feeling novel. This whole YA notion is a bit awkward for me. Especially since it’s only one on one action that seems to be not appropriate for that age, but violence is merrily fine. Meh, moving on. In historical ages, you were considered an adult at a substantially younger age then nowadays. It’s a modern desire to prolong the young spirit perhaps, I don’t know. This novel read like a great book because it didn’t touch that awkward area for me. Aside her age, Ismae was quite the adult. And her nun-like school of assassins was really…wow. Just wow.
The characters felt very solid and charismatic, all of them pretty much. I loved them all, maybe except the stiff Mother Superior of Doom and that schmuck Crunard. Ismae was really awesome, I mean you can’t get any cooler then a trained assassin can you? A handmaiden of St. Mortain to boot, come on! Seriously awesome. I loved her voice and she made sense to me through and through, a rarer occurrence in YA stories then I would like. Totally awesome.
And let me just tell you I completely and totally loved Duval as well. A complete gentleman, so devoted to his sister, so loyal and brave. Sigh. These are the kind of guys we need more of, I say. Give us more Duvals! He was a beautifully layered character and I felt he really made sense with Ismae.
I really, really loved this novel overall. I’m giving it a 4/5 because it took me some patience to get with the rhythm of it and feel its pull, but once I did I was completely hooked and I couldn’t keep my mind off of it while I was trying to read some other books as well. So it’s a total must read if you’re into historical court intrigues and plots, totally awesome reading material.
Did you enjoy court stories by large? Do you like those kinds of intricate intrigues or do you prefer other settings for your historical reads?