November 24, 2014

Review of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Release Date: April 12, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Page Count: 549
Format: Hardcover
Genre: YA/Fantasy

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?
Grave Mercy sat on the shelves of one of my bookcases for months before I decided to finally pick it up and read it. Now that I've read it along with it's sequel I have somewhat mixed feelings, aspects such as the setting and some characters were great while things like the romance and  plot were lackluster.

One unique part of this book was that it was the first that I've read that was set in Brittany, which was a small kingdom near France. I feel like this setting greatly helped Grave Mercy, it was definitely more interesting than if it were set in France and I found myself constantly rooting for Brittany and hoping it wouldn't get taken over/destroyed. Like I've mentioned in other reviews, settings in fantasy books are usually my favorites: nature and wilderness, medieval towns, castles, and the like. Grave Mercy had a nice helping of all of those and Robin LaFevers managed to write the settings deftly and incorporate them successfully into the plot. While I wouldn't say that any of the scenes or settings were Heir of Fire level (I'm yet to find more than a couple that are) it won't disappoint you.

The characters were the shining point of Grave Mercy unlike the plot that while was good, left a lot asking for. Ismae (the main character) has suffered from birth, her mother trying to abort her once finding out her father was death. She survived but was left with a large scar from the herbs used against her. At the age of 14 she is sold into a forced marriage by her father and continues to be abused. However it is finally then that she is freed and goes to a convent where she might finally be safe. This isn't a normal convent though, the nuns are assassin's who serve the God of death, Mortain. She suffers through so much throughout the book and then finally gets the power and abilities to fight back and defend herself which she very much so does. I was sort of indifferent on what happened to her "assassin-mates" as they weren't nearly as interesting as Ismae and not given much of a back story. The romance earned Grave Mercy some points as well since it wasn't rushed like in a good number of books and was much more realistic. She originally doesn't like Duval (the brother of the duchess) but over time their relationship improves and develops. Along with Ismae and Duval the duchess was another one of my favorite characters in this book. The rest of the characters were OK/good BUT some of the nuns I just hated and you'll see why later on in the book. There's not much to add about the plot, it was interesting enough but I found it similar to other fantasy books or books involving assassins that I've read before. It wasn't too bad but it wasn't anything to write home about either although it does get better in the sequel. Some slight changes to the plot and the character's roles could have really boosted Grave Mercy up to 5 stars.

If you don't really like Grave Mercy too much I advise you to trudge through it as the sequel is much better and improves upon a lot of areas. While Grave Mercy didn't have everything I was looking for I'm glad I read it because its sequel more than makes up for its faults. If you like fantasy, historic settings, assassin nuns, and action then you should check out Grave Mercy.

4/5 - Good book

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