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Goodreads Book Description: 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?
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
My Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is about Ismae, a young girl who has been marked by Mortain, her father, otherwise known as Death, and she is sent to live in a convent to work his Will. She is taught all the different ways to be an assassin, and to guard, Anne, the Duchess from the incoming French. During one of her tasks, she is sent with Duval, a darkly handsome guardian of Anne, to figure out the web of lies and deceit surrounding her. Can she trust Duval? Can she trust her own heart?
The first half of this book is slow, and smoulders, building on itself. I loved the teaching of Ismae and her convent sisters, but it takes a bit for LaFevers to get to the meat of the story, which is when Ismae leaves with Duval. Her strength lies in how she interweaves all the disparate aspect of the plot and brings them together in the end to a beautiful finish. I really enjoyed the world building of Mortain and the assassin's life.
The downsides of this book include the slow start, and the fact that it is so dark without humor, that it takes a while to get accustomed to. Furthermore, Ismae and Duval are not the most likeable characters in the beginning and I'm not sure I completely bought their interaction. That said, I couldn't put the book down after the halfway point and eventually, by the end, the characters won me over.
Overall, a dark and sinister tale that has fascinating world building and characters. I am excited there is a companion novel about Sybella, a sister assassin who flits on the edges of this novel. I can only hope that a third book will be about Annith, the final sister that we learn about in this book.
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