Monday, June 24, 2019

REVIEW: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)
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?

So, I first read this book in 2012 but I decided to reread this recently because I still hadn't picked up the next books in the series and wanted to refresh my memory (although I guess that wasn't necessary because it looks like they are companion books). Even though I reviewed it back in 2012, I scarcely call that cringe-worthy mess a "review", so here are my more up-to-date and coherent thoughts on this book.

When Ismae was in the womb, her mother ingested poison meant to kill Ismae. But Ismae survived and has since been known as the daughter of Death. When she needs to escape a violent arranged marriage, she is sent to the convent of St. Mortain. There she is trained to serve the God of Death and carry out his wishes. His wishes usually mean killing men that are betraying their country and carry the mark of Mortain. After a man, Duval, argues with the convent for ruining his plans and killing the betrayers he was planning on integrating, Ismae is sent to stay with him at court. Not only to catch betrayers, but the convent is suspicious of Duval. The longer she stays in court, the more confused Ismae gets because she is not sure who is the real betrayer.

I mostly listened to this on audiobook but I switched from physical format and audio multiple times. The audio was fine, but it was confusing at points because there is a very large cast of characters and I sometimes had a hard time keeping track of who was who. When switching formats I would get further confused because the pronunciation of a name would not always match what I expected the name to be spelled. Nevertheless, I did like this book. It has a very interesting concept, assassin nuns with a historical backdrop, hints of magic, and political betrayals. This is a pretty hefty book and while there are major moments, I will admit that there were multiple occasions where I lost interest. A lot of the book was more politics and less murder, which yeah, I don't want murder, but when you are already confused by the cast of characters, adding politics in the mix does not pique your interest.

Probably one of the strongest things in this book was the female characters. The female characters in this book are incredibly strong. There is, of course, the obvious strength, the ability to kill, but just the way the female characters in this book have to go about their life requires strength. These girls are forced to grow up early. Ismae is forced into an arranged marriage in her young teens and then almost raped. The Duchess is only twelve but is having to deal with a possible marriage to a creep that has been previously married six times. She's trying to help her country, but no one cares for her interests but Duval and (because of her age and sex) everyone thinks that they know better than her. These girls have to have strength because they are given very little power and it made me sad and frustrated throughout this book, but I still loved the fact that they remained strong.

Ismae herself is an interesting character. It is a struggle at times with her because she has a very different perspective than most. She is devout to her saint/god but is not hesitant when it comes to killing. She begins with thinking in black and white and in thinking of only her role, but she changes throughout the book. It is a slow change and it takes her a while to process it, but I do like how she ended up changing. I'm being vague, but I'm trying not to spoil things.

Overall, I did like this book. I don't think I liked this as much as the first go-round. The first time I read it I was blinded by the premise of "assassin nuns" and all of the glowing reviews, so I ignored any of the confusing bits. This is still a pretty great read and it makes for an intriguing book. I plan on reading the next two books pretty soon!

I hereby give this book
3.5 Stars
Meaning: I liked it, but it wasn't quite amazing.


  1. Haha I am in the exact same boat! I want to re-read the series before picking up the new book but I haven't gotten to it yet. I'm sorry you didn't like it as much this time :/ But hopefully you find Mortal Heart better (its my favorite of the original 3) And hopefully the new one is good!

    1. I have read the others and I definitely liked them better! Dark Triumph was fantastic and Mortal Heart was even better! I hope to get to Courting Darkness before I forget everyone!