By Robin LaFevers
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Won from Giselle (thanks!)
"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?" - Goodreads
Grave Mercy will have you begging for more and will linger in your thoughts for days - at least it did for me. It has made it to one of my favourite reads of the year. With rich history, a heroine to root for, and a unique plot, Grave Mercy leaves readers enthralled.
Ismae, you know the girl with the crossbow, is strong willed, stubborn, and determined. A total kick-butt, power-to-women type. She's went through some terrible things and her past is what fueled her in her new place in life - an assassin. Lets just linger on this topic here. An assassin. Trained in poisons, weapons, and deadly tactics. Now add another word. Nuns. Oh yeah. Yet, Ismae, who has a deadly gift, knows many poisons and ways to kill a man with bare hands is a total flop in 'womanly skills'. I loved that she isn't made out as this perfect heroine. No. She has imperfections, she makes mistakes, and -gasp- is sometimes embarrassed! Totally relatible material. It was awesome reading her story! Now don't go thinking just because she is an *assassin* that she has no heart. As much as she would like to deny it, Ismae does. That's what creates conflict. It was nice to see that she did have a conscious and it was especially amazing to see her viewpoint transform by the end of the book.
Set as a backdrop, we have the historical value of the politics of Brittany. The plot is based on real events, Anne was real and Brittany did go through tough times fighting for independence from France. I appreciated the authenticity of the topic. This book is crafted in a way that as the reader we peel back layer by layer of deceit and truth. I adore a good high court scene - with plots, blackmails, and intrigues. It felt like nothing was missing and the ball just kept on rolling at a steady pace. Personally, the politics did not bog down the book for me, I found I could easily follow on everything. Which is a lot coming from a girl who hates politics. It helped to have an index, stating all the characters and their position, plus a map!
The romance part. Yesss. Just YES. This is what I love. It didn't take up the main focus of the book yet it was there enough that I was satisfied. And ah! Slow burn romance - love that is built on... get this, a trusting relationship. At the beginning, Ismae and Duval despise each other because of the situation their put in. Yet, as time goes on the have to learn to trust each other because ultimately they have the same goal. This trust builds and builds until both realize, wow, their in love. Going from their banter to mutual respect to trust and then to maybe something more, was squeal worthy. Duval is so classy, smart, brave, and is a total 14th century man!
I'd highly recommend this to those who love historical romances (sa-woon), political intrigue and so much more! Grave Mercy is definitely worth the time to read!
"Except," Duval points out, "I am not known to favor mistresses. Not to mention that if I did, it would certainly not be one who was greener than a winter apple."
I set my teeth at his words. I am not that unpolished.
Reverend Mother leans back in her chair and tsks. "You exaggerate, milord. Ismae has been well trained in all things, including how to act as a man's mistress."
Clearly now it'll not be a good time to confess to playing trudant during most of Sister Beatriz's lessons.
"But more important," Duval continued,"with the way things are at court, I cannot assure her protection."
"I do not need protection," I say, offended at such a suggestion.
"No, she does not," the abbess agrees. "She merely needs an opportunity to act."