Title: Grave Mercy
(His Fair Assassin #1)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Category/Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy Romance
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2012
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?
3 “Assassins and politics” Stars
The blurb promised me assassins, politics and a forbidden/love and hate romance. At one point or another, we got these elements, but they weren’t half as intense as they needed to be to make this memorable.
This is the story of Ismae, a daughter of St. Mortain and a girl designed to bring death upon those the saint points at. Ismae is taken from her abusive home to be trained at a convent where, instead of good nuns, we have assassin nuns. Super cool, right? Except the first part of the story really drags. I mean, I guess it had to be there so we could understand Ismae’s world a little better, but did it have to be that long? Probably not.
Things start getting more interesting when time passes and Ismae becomes the assassin promised to us in the blurb. She goes on and kills two people, and that’s when I go: “okay, this is what I signed up for.”
Then comes Duval, a man who claims to want the same thing Ismae and the convent do: the safety and protection of Brittany and the duchess. In order to achieve that, Ismae is sent on a mission that involves her pretending to be Duval’s mistress. All good, except Ismae and Duval have met before in not so pleasant circumstances and they kind of hate each other. In case you’re wondering, I’m already shipping them at that point.
I’m also shipping Ismae with all the ways she was trained to kill the enemy, so there’s that.
Unfortunately, my shipper excitement only lasts too long because things, once again, start moving at a snail’s pace. For the romance aspect, that’s not exactly a bad thing since there’s no chance of this being an insta-love scenario, but it still doesn’t make things exciting. Ismae is too busy trying to figure out who wants what and who’s trying to get what to do anything about it.
Don’t get me wrong. Ismae is smarter than a lot of characters in similar books, but she still doesn’t do much with all her knowledge until the very end.
Halfway through, the main thing keeping me going was the writing and the possibilities. I wanted to know what would happen with Ismae and the rest of the court, and when Duval and Ismae would finally give in and get together. Not that once they did it was that exciting either. The chemistry was there, but it was all too…light? I needed more.
The writing, though, as great as it was. I really loved the language and the descriptions. At first I thought I’d be bored with how formal the whole thing seemed, but it fit the book so well that I got into it pretty fast.
Guess what I’m trying to say is, with a premise like that and the author’s clear ability, I expected the book to be way more exciting than it was. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but a faster pacing and a little more intensity were probably what I missed the most about this book.
Guest review contributed by U.S. – Brazil Book Review. As a book review diplomat of sorts, this blogger reviews books in English and Portuguese. If there’s romance in the book, she’s probably loving it.