Saturday, March 31, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Title:   Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 

Expected Publication: April 3, 2012

My Rating:


From Goodreads:

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?

My Review:
While it’s wonderful for a book to captivate me from its first page, I revel in a book that works hard to win me over. This was the case with Grave Mercy, and win me over it did! I struggled a bit in the first couple of chapters, which is no reflection on the story, nor the author’s beautiful writing. This is my own personal struggle I have with the era in which it is written. I was burned out on historical fiction/romance many years ago and have been reluctant to revisit a book placed in this time period. However, many of my best bookish friends, whose opinions I hold in high regard, were giving this story such positive ratings that I had to see what all the fuss was about. I couldn’t be happier that I eventually gave it a chance. This book sunk its teeth into me and, even as I write this review, has yet to let go.

Let’s begin with the plot, which involves a young, Nikita-esque character, impossible not to admire. Throw in assassin nuns - uh huh... you read that correctly - poisons, weaponry, combat training, and then, a most swoon-worthy character (the kind that will no doubt appear in dreams from here on out), one Gavriel Duval, and I was putty in Robin LaFevers’ hands. This author knows how to tell a story and is an enchantress, as well as a master at keeping you on the edge of your seat. I feel as though I’ve been visited by the herbwitch herself, as I cannot stop thinking about this book and its characters - mind you, not just the lead characters, but the supporting characters, as well. I fancied ‘Beast’ from the first introduction of his character, and he quickly became one of my favorites. Then, there are De Lornay, Anne, Isabeau, Louyse, Annith, and Sybella, just to name a few, that were so much fun to read about.

I relish a strong female lead, and Ismae is one of the strongest. I love that she overcame so many tribulations in her young life, and I adore the fierce, determined person she grew to be. 

“He does not start guiltily, as he should, but frowns in annoyance. ‘Who are you?’
I slip my hand through the slit of my overskirt, and my fingers close around the hard wood of the crossbow tiller. ‘Vengeance,’ I say softly.”

It’s true that I am a romantic at heart, but I enjoyed that there were no immediate, amorous feelings or a lovestruck, spontaneous infatuation between the two lead characters. I confess, I have a soft spot for characters who abhor each other on sight, intent on being the other’s downfall, only to slowly fall for one another, deeply and madly. Sigh. The relationship between Ismae and Duval was so intense and so wonderfully written that I actually shouted, “Merde!!” at my poor husband when he unknowingly interrupted my reading of a particular scene between the two.

“When one consorts with assassins, one must expect to dance along the edge of a knife once or twice.”

Now, I want more. More of this story and (*gasp*) more of this era. What have you done to me, Ms. LaFevers? Fortunately, this is not the end, as there is a second book due out in 2013. It appears to be from one of the supporting characters’ POV, but I am hoping there will be plenty of Ismae and Duval within its pages.

“Whenever you are ready, or if you never are, my heart is yours....”

I feel inclined to mention that, while this book is marketed as YA, there is mature content that I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my young teen read yet. I think she needs a few more years before she can read about some of the situations Ismae finds herself in. Other than that, I would highly recommend it to anyone yearning for a unique, action-packed, romance-laden story. I know I want to read more by this talented author, and soon!

Now, if I could just go back to speaking like the 2012 southern belle that I am, and not a daughter of St. Mortain trying to survive the 1400's. Sweet Jesu!

Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for graciously providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.