The first in a new epic fantasy trilogy, Robin LaFevers has everything that makes a story un-put-downable. A heroine who is strong and determined, tested by an unhappy childhood and given a chance to make right. Political intrigue – hard to make fresh, but LaFevers gives readers the will to know more, and to understand the perspectives of all the players. Murder, Suspense, a hero and a Villain, all set in a world that comes alive as the pages whip past.
Ismae is sixteen, a child of a turnip farmer who can’t wait to rid himself of the burden of her. He marries her off to gain coin, and Ismae’s adventures begin. Her husband is not very nice, nor is he impressed with his bride: when he sees her scar he petitions for an annulment. Alone and unprotected, Ismae takes refuge in the convent of St. Mortain, and she learns that she does have a purpose: to serve as a Handmaiden to the God of Death as an assassin, and she begins her studies and training. Here we see Ismae grow and develop – she starts to realize her own potential, and with her friends Sybella and Annitha we learn more of everyone’s back stories as well as see their interactions develop and change as their friendship deepens.
On her second mission, Ismae meets Duval, the brother of the Duchess of Brittany and a bastard son of the King. Duval is only interested in protecting his sister and determining where the threats to her life, and who is in league with the French, causing all manner of political unrest and danger. There is a villain, and while their identity is not hard to determine, the twists and turns were fresh and unique, adding an element of suspense and drama to an already action and intrigue packed story.
While not historically accurate, LaFevers has added some real elements to ground this fantasy in reality, and her solid world-building combined with near-poetic language use and brilliant imagery give this story a touch of the ‘otherworldly’. Of course there is a dash of magic, an interesting religious themed (although not overbearing) element and secondary characters that are as complete and fully built as compatriots should be and this story just flies past. Yes, it is long at just under 550 pages, but it reads quickly and smoothly, and is the perfect lead in to a fantasy realm.
Appropriate for teens to adults, the plotting and story arc are carefully tended and mix the multiple elements that are important to the story without bogging readers down with information or so quickly introduced that readers are confused. I’m not a huge fantasy fan, but this one combining fact and fiction and deftly written certainly gets my vote.
Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Teen Reads
Published by: Books for Young Readers, Houghton Miffllin/Harcourt
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 14 Hours: 14 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦Audible
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?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.