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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published: April 3, 2012
Pages: 549
Source: For Review from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Netgalley
Rating: 4.5 Stars


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 short: With an intriguing premise and a strong heroine, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is sure to enchant readers.
You know that when a book features nun assassins, it has got to be a good one. Seriously, how cool is the premise for Grave Mercy? Girl, trained to be an assassin by a group of nuns and to serve Death Himself - it's creative, it's intriguing, and it's incredibly strange, but also obviously awesome. To add to that, Grave Mercy is one of those books whose first few pages are made up of a map and an index of characters to keep track of things. Automatic win. All these factors indicated that Grave Mercy would have a complex and attractive plot, and as it turns out, it most definitely did.

Ismae was the strength of Grave Mercy for me. Even coming from such a dismal upbringing, abused first by her father and then by her husband, she maintains a remarkable and admirable strength of character. Once she is taken in by the convent of Mortain, she is trained in the art of combat, poison making, and seduction, all in the aim of making her an effective killing machine. She serves as a loyal handmaiden of Death, sometimes blindly following the orders of the convent, taking people's lives without question.

It is only when she meets Duval, a Breton noble who is a lot like Ismae in his practicality and strength, that she begins to doubt what the convent has taught her. Maybe her purpose as Death's handmaiden isn't to be a killing machine after all, but instead as something much more important and meaningful. I loved seeing Ismae come to this realization and develop as a character throughout Grave Mercy. And I adored Ismae and Duval's slow-burn relationship as it developed, starting out in a place of distrust and then slowly moving to a place of mutual respect and gradual affection.

At 549 pages, Grave Mercy really flew by, except perhaps in a few sections in which discussion of the politics behind who the Duchess of Brittany should marry dragged a bit. Other than that, Grave Mercy maintains a fast pace filled with action and intrigue that will captivate the reader. Grave Mercy is my first Robin LaFevers book and I don't plan on it being my last. I'm a bit disappointed that the next two books in the His Fair Assassin series, Dark Triumph and Dark Hope, will not feature a return to Ismae and Duval's story but instead will showcase the lives of two other girls from the convent, but I am hopeful that they will make an appearance at some point.

Other Reviews:
Cozy Up With A Good Read
For What It's Worth
Musings of a YA Reader
Radiant Shadows

Author Links:
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24 comments :

  1. I've heard mixed reviews for this book in the past but lately I've read nothing but good things. I have to admit, I am attracted to the MC (not in *that* way) - she sounds like a kick butt kind of girl :) I love it when the femaile heroine has a backbone! Great review, I enjoy reading your thoughts! I'll have to keep this one in mind...

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    1. Oh really? I haven't heard anything negative yet. And honestly, I kind of love Ismae *that* way (...What? She's awesome!). Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I love this book! It's so full of awesome. I am disappointed that Ismae and Gavriel aren't the main characters in the next book as well. I hope they make an appearance, too! But I'm excited to learn more about the other characters. Assassin nuns who kick butt...who would have thought! Great review :)

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    1. Yeah, I'm excited to read Sybella's point of view too - it would just be so neat if Ismae and Gavriel could show up at some point! It's a pretty crazy premise, so why does it work so well?

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  3. Yeahhh another awesome review on this book :) !! I definitely have to buy a copy very soon !! Thanks for the fabulous review Aylee ;)

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    1. Awesome, I hope you love it too!

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  4. I really need to read this Aylee! The words "assassin nuns" are enough for me, but the slow-burn relationship between Ismae and Duval sounds absolutely perfect as well. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this, thanks for the review!

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    1. It really is an awesome combination, the assassin nuns and the slow-burn romance... can't wait to hear what you think of it!

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  5. Am I the only person left on the planet that has not read this book? Feels like it.

    I think the fast pace is something I would appreciate because I usually struggle to get through historical fiction stories. And Duval sounds like he could be my next book boyfriend.

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    1. Heh, yeah a lot of people picked it up for that limited time it was made available on NetGalley.

      I was relieved that for the most part, I wasn't too bothered by the amount of politics and diplomatics. It did get a bit slow there for a bit, but I was mostly entertained.

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  6. Great review. I loved it so much. I was just totally lost in this world even though it's not my typical kind of read. I even loved the historical/political debates. Stuff that puts me right to sleep most of the time lol

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    1. I know! Though I found it to be a little slow at some points, most of the political stuff didn't cause me boredom! It was surprising and impressive.

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  7. This sounds like something I would like! Too bad that the series consists of different POV's since the main reason I continue with a series is because I love the characters. Still, I'm interested in giving this one a try.

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean. I will say though that the next book will feature a very intriguing girl - I'm very curious to hear her part of the story!

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  8. Yay, I'm glad you loved this one too, Aylee! I'm bummed that we won't get to read more about Ismae in the sequel either, but the next one is from Sybella's POV so I'm excited for it. We didn't get to see much of her in this one but she still managed to fascinate me. Plus, I'm hoping her romantic other is a certain someone whose name begins with a B. *fingers crossed*

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    1. Ooh yes! That would work out quite well. Or at least, they could help each other out. Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited to seeing what Sybella is all about too... she's so mysterious.

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  9. I'm so happy you loved the book.
    I got the galley of it but I'm quite scared of it's size!

    Your review makes me very curious, though! So I'm going to have to take the plunge soon, I guess!

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    1. I recommend it! I'm not entirely convinced that it will be the book for you, but you'll have to read it to find out!

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  10. This book is on my list for a while and I just can't wait to read it. It sounds fantastic! Thanks for the review :)

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    1. You're welcome! Hope you enjoy :)

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  11. I just barely finished this book and it was so awesome! I really loved the love story and the strong character of Ismae. The ending had me going "awww." :) I'm actually really excited to read about a different girl in the same setting for book 2. I loved that idea. It makes book 1 feel very finished and satisfying but I still get to roam in the great world that Robin LaFevers built. I adored this book. Thanks for the review!

    Jessica @ Books: A true story

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    1. Yeah, don't get me wrong - I think it's a really great idea as well and I can't wait to learn more about Sybella. She seems like a very interesting character! I just hope Ismae and Duval show up for some kind of cameo :)

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  12. I like how there were deeper layers to Ismae. I loved the parts about the marriage—I think historical political intrigue like that is one of the few times I can tolerate slower pacing. I love all those little details.

    Have you read Poison Study? Grave Mercy has a similar feel, I think.

    "To add to that, Grave Mercy is one of those books whose first few pages are made up of a map and an index of characters to keep track of things. Automatic win."

    YES! Total automatic win! A map and/or an index of characters is a sure sign of good times ahead. I don't think my copy had either of them. :(

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    1. Yeah, I was surprised that for the most part, I wasn't all that bored with a subject that I would normally find quite boring. But I could have done with a bit less of it.

      I NEED to read Poison Study!! I've been saying that for years now...

      Aww, too bad. My copy on my little iPod Touch was pretty bungled, the formatting way off. So that's why I need to get a finished copy!

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