Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Romance
Source: Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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?
In the interest of full disclosure, I had no intention of reading Grave Mercy. But then, everyone else was reading it and they had that 4 day promotion, and I thought, why not? What if I miss out on a great book? Some of the reviews I was seeing were glowing and raving and so I decided to go ahead and read it. I generally shy away from books which have religious undertones, which is why I had decided to not read it, but something about it was calling to me.
Well, I’m glad I decided to read it. It was a great book. It won’t be a favorite for me, mind you, but I did enjoy it. I thought it was written well (for the most part), had some great characters, and the story was one I ended up getting really involved in. As far as the religion goes, I did not find it to be offensive in the least and it did not turn me off or sour me on the story.
It is about assassin nuns, yes, but other than the fact that Ismae was loyal to St. Mortain (the saint of death and dying), I did not find religion to play a large part in the story. It was more about court intrigue, politics, a very tense romance, and a sort of revenge plot. The nuns are man-haters. That I wasn’t too sure about, but it ended up working out more than I thought it would. It could have been very offensive, but I didn’t think it was. It was all very strange to me.
This was what I would call fantasy light. There were some small elements of fantasy (a bit of magic), such as the marques Ismae would look for to determine if someone was to die, and the poisons she used (that was her specialty), but that was about it. If I had to categorize this one, I would say it was more historical romance than anything. Because of Duval.
Duval…sigh. What can I say about him? Well, like anyone I started out hating him. He was a dick. But the more you learn about him and his reasons for the way he is, the more it makes sense. I’d like to talk more about this, but I try to stick to spoiler-free reviews. Just know that I felt he changed as the story went on. He developed as all well-written characters should. I ended up loving him. He was perfect. Maybe my favorite male character so far this year. I have a huge crush on Duval.
As far as the man-hating goes, I can kind of understand why Ismae was that way. Her character develops as well, but part of the fun in reading is to see how a character changes. So I won’t ruin that either. To make a long story short (too late), I thought the characters were extremely well-developed. Maybe not all of them, but the ones that counted were.
The writing was gorgeous. It flowed well, and I really enjoyed the beauty in the prose. The pacing left a bit to be desired for me, and that’s to me where this book’s biggest flaw was. The book was simply too long. I found some of the political garbage a little too tedious. It bored me to a point. There was a small lull in the middle of the book that I could have done without. I feel this book could have had 100 pages knocked off of it and still been just as good.
Final note: Read this book. I usually hate historical romance, and even I enjoyed this one. I recommend this one to men and women. I think there is something here for everyone. The things I was annoyed with another reader may not be. I was seriously impressed.
To pre-order a copy of Grave Mercy from Amazon.com, click here: Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy).