17 March 2012
Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) - Robin LaFevers
Number of pages: 564
Publisher: 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?
I have never been so surprised with a book before. I fell in love with the cover and the summary long before I received the ARC via NetGalley. Nevertheless when I started reading I had to struggle a bit to get past the first chapters. The beginning is rather slow and difficult to keep up with at first and I had to get used to the different writing that match the time period that the story takes place in (year 1488!). But by the time that Ismae arrived at court, the book became an addiction and I couldn't put it down. Result: I read 564 pages of it in two days. Even though I'm not much of a historical fiction type of girl, Grave Mercy exceeded my expectations and will certainly be found on my "best of 2012" list!
LaFevers writes one of the most intriguing and complex plots and characters I have ever read. All characters are caught in a web of intrigue and betrayal, not knowing whom to trust or if to trust at all. The characters were surely the best part of the novel for me with each character playing at least some important part in the story. Each character had its own personality and depth which resulted in making me grow attached to each and everyone of them. I truly enjoyed all characters in Grave Mercy but Ismae was by far my favorite. She is a strong, butt-kicking assassin (or heroine!) who can take care of herself. But the best part about Ismae is that she is a really complex character who doesn't fit in only one category. Ismae changes and grows a lot and by the end of the book, she is not the girl she used to be.
The romance feels natural and believable and doesn't develop till late in the book. First Duval and Ismae doesn't seem to get along all that well but probably because of the way they met. But by the time Ismae arrives at the court with him, their relationship starts slowly to shift from enmity to friendship and later to love. I don't really know the exact moment, in which Duval and Ismae's feelings turned to love but we do get to experience Ismae's doubts about their relationship. Is Death's daughter even allowed to have a relationship? Will the convent allow it? By the time she receives the task of killing Duval, Ismae must decide where her allegiances lie: with the convent or with the Duchess and her family?
The plot is complicated, so that sometimes I had to go a few pages back and reread to understand better but overall LaFevers did a good job of keeping this story easy to keep up with. The story is full of twists and turns, making it hard for you to predict the end of it. In the beginning I had most characters figured out but was surprised when my predictions turned out to be wrong. Each character has its own agenda and you certainly be caught by surprise when you find out the motivations behind each action. I don't know how Anne, the Duchess of Bretagne, could take so much deceiving and betrayal, everyone around her were only looking out for their own interests. I can't wait to read the next book and see how everything will play out.
I recommend this book to everyone! Even though you don't enjoy historical fiction, you must bear in mind that I don't like it that much either but I loved Grave Mercy. The plot is so enthralling and fascinating that you can't stop until you get to the end of it, and then you just can't wait for the next book to come out. The paranormal elements in Grave Mercy just contribute to this book's uniqueness.
You should totally read this book when it comes out, you won't regret it.
A thank you to NetGalley and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the chance to read and review this amazing book!