Robin LaFevers has enchanted young readers with her Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist and Theodosia series, which earned starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly. In Grave Mercy, LaFevers crafts a fantastical tale sure to win her a new fan base among young adults.
Escaping an arranged marriage, 17-year-old Ismae finds sanctuary in the St. Mortain convent, where the sisters worship the gods of old. There, Ismae learns that the God of Death has special plans for her—a destiny that will one day compel her to betray the man she loves.
©2012 Robin LaFevers (P)2012 Recorded Books, LLC
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At first, I didn’t particularly like Grave Mercy. It rubbed me the wrong way for some reason that I can’t put my finger on exactly. Maybe it was because I didn’t like the main character, Ismae, in the beginning. She irritated me. However, just before I reached the half way point, I become enthralled in the story. There’s a little mystery mixed in that holds your attention and keeps you guessing. I began to care for the characters and longed, as they did, for a good resolution. When the book was over, there was a little pang in my heart and I realized that I really enjoyed Grave Mercy after all.
Ismae is an assassin trained by the sisters of the convent of St. Mortain, known also as the God of Death. She is skilled in poisons, fighting, and weapons but could use some improvement in courting. After proving herself a worthy and loyal assassin, she is sent on assignment to protect the Duchess of Brittany while pretending to be the girlfriend of Duval, the Duchess’ half-brother. The convent believes Duval is deceiving the Duchess and they have arranged for Ismae to monitor him while fulfilling her other mission. Her assignment is complicated by the etiquette and procedures of the high court not to mention the deceit and treachery that takes place within it’s walls. On top that, Ismae develops unexpected feelings for Duval that conflict with the convents orders. Who is she to follow, her trusted sisters of St. Mortain or her heart?
As I said earlier, the beginning of the book didn’t appeal to me so much. There was a lot of emphasis on death and at times felt like the characters worshiped it. I like assassin tales, but this was too much to me. Then the story picked up and I could see the author spinning in a moral that redeemed the earlier focus on death. Ismae began to second guess killing others and started wondering if forgiveness was an option instead of death. This scored points with me as I don’t like heartless killers. When Ismae reaches this revelation, she turns into a new character who is even more formidable than before.
Additionally, Grave Mercy is more than just an assassin novel. It is also an historical fiction novel with a touch of romance. The historal fiction part was truly interesting and is actually what made me perk up and start really paying attention to the story. Also, the author doesn’t hit you over the head with a lovey-dovey romance. Instead, the Ismae and Duval grow independently while working together to protect the Duchess. Slowly their romance unfolds and when it comes to fruition, it’s sweet and heart warming. It’s just right for the story too.
Despite being skeptical at first, I ended up really liking Grave Mercy. It’s a well crafted story and I have plans to read the next one as soon as it comes out. I recommend it and encourage others to push past the beginning even if gives them trouble.
I am an adult who loves a good YA read---but really I just love an engrossing story. If it pulls me in and I can't stop reading-I'm happy!
I’m going to leave this review short in order to not spoil.
This book has it all... A 14 year-old girl forced to marry by an abusive father is saved and sent to join assassin nuns who train her in poison, combat, history and “the womanly arts” to serve her father Mortmain the god of death--- while an illegitimate, fiercely loyal brother fights to save his country and his sister who would be ruler of Britain. It’s historical. It’s fantasy. It’s romance. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Ismae and Duval slow boil relationship---and the mystery behind who is betraying them at every turn made the book almost impossible not to listen to. I, like the book nerd I am, did my grocery shopping last night with my headphones on in an attempt to finish the book because I was so hooked.
This is worth the credit I used for it…and, while I think it could have stood on it’s own quite well, I am so glad that there are more to come!!
This story is well worth a listen. It really captured my attention and I couldn't stop listening until the mystery was solved. To be honest, I had my suspicions in the beginning (no spoilers here); but despite my predictions coming true, the twists were not blatantly obvious.
I respect the main character, Ismae, and was glad to see her grow into her own. There's no surprise that she forms a bond with Duvall (okay slight spoiler - though obvious), but it was nicely developed and not awkwardly thrust upon the reader.
I did wish the author elaborated on describing the scenes and the fashion a bit more. In period pieces, like this, unless you actually Google the time period, it's hard to imagine where the characters are and what they actually look like by simply naming the piece of clothing or the room and not actually describing it in detail. In checking in to the time period, however, it was fun to discover the true history woven into the story.
I also really liked the incorporation of mythology by the author.
As far as the title suggesting this story is going to merely be about a female assassin (yes, I got the La Femme Nakita sense at first) and full of action, it's actually far from it once the story really gets going. I would catagorize it more of a mystery/thriller with a touch of romance.
After getting hooked on the characters of this book, I was actually very excited to look into Book 2 to learn more about them. Unfortunately, I am dissappointed to report Book 2 is apparenty focused on another assassin (Sybella) which makes a few (though vital) appearances in Book 1. Despite my disappointment to not get to explore the life of Ismae in detail anymore, I did find Sybella's character quite intriguing however, and still look forward to experiencing her side of the story. FYI, I hear Book 2 won't be published until 2013.
PJV Quickie: I went to an all girls Catholic High School that was run by nuns. I can readily believe that they could have been assassins in hiding. This is why I have an innate fear of nuns and the nuns of ‘Grave Mercy’ were scary as Hell. And then of course, what a good story!
The book starts off immediately with anxiety galore. Ismae has been forced into an arranged marriage that she knows will only end tragically. When her husband forces her to disrobe and views the scars that are an obvious sign of her heritage, he is both scared an enraged that he has been tricked into this marriage. Ismae just manages to escape by the assistance of an unknown force, which leads her to the convent of St. Mortain, the sisters that serve the old god, now known as St. Mortain, formerly the god of Death.
Ismae is taught the ways of an assassin and is given her first assignment that will lead her into the high courts of Brittany. Yet, the deeper she becomes embroiled in court politics and the lives of the aristocracy, the more she is confused as to each persons intentions, especially the person that was thought to be a suspect from the beginning.
‘Grave Mercy’ was a very rich novel, full of a fantastical world, court intrigue and tragic romance. I was instantly drawn in, especially with the voice of the narrator Erin Moon. I was highly pleased with this audiobook, with the characters, with the plot. The mystery and the politics of the world, while not over-the-top and drawn out, was well done and deep. Another great novel that you should sink your teeth into!
Fans of young adult fantasy should really enjoy.
While the character is shown first as a 17 year old, I didn’t really view this as a young adult novel. It is labeled young adult fantasy, yet I found the elements have a more adult theme. Yet there is hardly anything inappropriate in the novel, so it is acceptable for teens. I think I’m just over thinking the classifications.
Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder
The Queen’s Bastard (Inheritors’ Cycle #1) by C.E. Murphy
Just a book fool.
The heroine is someone you can really root for. She does not whine and constantly make awful decisions and that in and of itself is a breath of fresh air. The romance and sexual tension is thick but its doesn't cloud the story and feels true to someone who has spent their entire life fearing (and killing) men. All in all it was predictable (at least for me) but I really enjoyed every minute of it.
I love reading! Love listening to book! I do photography and book trailers for YA authors and publishers.
The book's got a great romance that develops over time and it's not the typical YA insta-love. The setting is brilliantly brought to life and the hero and heroine ones you can truly root for! the concept itself is magnificent and it got me hook from the very first sentence. It never let go!
Kristin Cashore's Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue.
There's a scene towards the end where I though all was lost... It had me gasping and clawing and hoping for a happy ending.
Any of the moments involving poison. I was fascinated with how poison was used in the story, and some of the heartbreaking moments that came with it!
I enjoyed the scenes early in the novel where Isame is at the convent, training for her service. And I can't deny that I was a fan of the kissing that happens later in the story.
I found the book to be difficult to take in all at once, so I listened over several weeks. This is my general approach to historical fiction, especially when you toss in all those French names!
I found this story very enjoyable and the narrator was terrific. It was a fun story with some very interesting twists and I would definitely recommend it. There were a few holes (of course they'd teach an assassin to fight in dress clothes), but they were minor and not too distracting. I will definitely be reading the sequels.
Adult who is in love with YA books.
The book flows beautifully, no long pauses to distract you.
When she shot the arrow into the guy's head with a mini bow
the moment when someone new looked at her scars.
This book has so much potential to be totally awesome: a convent of assassin nuns, political intrigue, some romance for those who enjoy that sort of thing, and a badass protagonist. Let's tackle these claims point-by-point, shall we?
- First, the education in assassination is skipped over completely by a three-year time jump from when Ismae arrives at the convent to when she is sent out on her first mission. It would have been really cool to get a glimpse of the education in the convent, Harry Potter style: worked in between chunks of character and plot development. And for a book about assassin nuns, there weren't enough assassinations in this book.
- For all the hype about political intrigue, it wasn't all that intriguing. Maybe I'm just blessed with the powers of 'whodunnit,' but the traitor was painfully obvious from the get-go so there wasn't much in the way of surprise there, either.
- The romance was so cliche that it hurt to read about it. Since I listened to this on audio, I found myself turning to the radio when the romance cliches came in. What is it about a guy radiating heat that makes him sexy? We're told multiple times that Ismae feels the heat of Duvall's body when she's not touching him. Also, the whole 'girl meets boy and they detest each other until they realize they're in love' thing has been done to death. And, there really wasn't anything about Duvall that was particularly sexy or interesting; he's just the main guy in her life so he has to be the love interest.
- Ismae is no badass. Sure, she's trained in weapons and poisons (or so we're told; see above), but she's more of a sit-around-and-wait kind of girl. Other than one time that she takes the initiative to follow Duvall to the castle, she doesn't really make any of her own decisions or do her own investigating. For the most part, she just waits around and life and this supposed intrigue just happen to her. In fact, for two major events in the book, she is only on hand because she was warned by Sibella, another assassin on assignment. Now, maybe Ismae's lack of action is because there is a lot of focus in this book on the will of the gods and her passivity is intended to throw light on this and illustrate the few choices that are open to her, but I don't really like protagonists that aren't agents of their own destiny. To be fair, Ismae takes much more of an active role at the end of the book so I haven't completely ruled out reading the second book in this series when it's out, but I think I'd enjoy it more if it were from Sibella's point of view.
I don't want to leave the impression that the book was all bad. It wasn't. After all I did give it 3 stars. The semi-accurate history was a plus, Beast was a pretty fun character for the scenes when he was around. Learning a bit about the old Breton gods was cool. I'm sure I can come up with more...
All in all, I might read the second one, but it's nowhere near the top of my to-read pile
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