His Fair Assassin #1
Pages: 564 (eARC)
Release Date: April 3, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Netgalley for review, thanks!
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?Review
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
It's books like Grave Mercy that have me asking myself why don't I like historical fiction novels. I'm still not sure why I'm so wary about reading them but coming across a book like this one and being totally enraptured definitely makes me want to try reading more of the genre!
Grave Mercy takes place in 15th century England, a time of royalty and courtly intrigue. Ismae has been inducted into the convent of St. Mortain, nuns who follow the orders of death himself. She's intrigued and eager to learn how to defend herself and prove her worth after the horrible childhood she had and the people who teased her constantly. Her first real mission has her sent to the high courts of Brittany to protect the duchess Ann and find the traitor in their midst. Problem is she's been assigned a babysitter of sorts, and he's proving to be a bothersome, but exciting, distraction.
First off, this book was completely awesome. The summary alone piqued my interest, what with a girl assassin and this "target who's stolen her heart". It's gold! Then I go and fall in love with everything about the book. Ismae was amazing. She's had a crappy childhood to say the least, so to become an assassin and possibly take vengeance on the men that have hurt her sends her spirit soaring. But even though she does kill people, she isn't by any means cold or spiteful. She's still a young woman trying to find her place in the world. She was tough yet still vulnerable, and it was a joy to read about her.
Then there's Duval, the aforementioned babysitter of sorts. Oh Duval, you *giggle* He is the epitome of a man of the times, brave, strong and incredibly loyal. Clothed in armor, riding a horse, brandishing a SWORD *cough*. He admires Ismae's fondness for battle and they go from annoying each other to a mutual respect to something more. I loved that the romance wasn't the forefront of the novel but it was steady and in the background just waiting to show itself. And they were pretty darn perfect for each other, though I wished they had come to that conclusion sooner ;D Their bantering was super amusing though. Pent up sexual tension makes for great scenes.
As an aside, even though Ismae is seventeen, and Duval nineteen (I thiiink), they definitely seem older, perhaps as a result of the times they're in and that they were forced to grow up quickly. It sort of reminded me of the Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder--another series I love! They are similar in some ways but the strong characters definitely stand out. And I especially love strong heroines!
This isn't by any means a short book but for the most part I flew through the pages. Learning about Ismae's inductance into the convent and what she learned there was fascinating, and all the sneaking around the courts and murder mystery that was going on kept the drama and anticipation high. The only parts I tended to lose myself were when court politics came up. I sort of floated through those scenes but everything else was fantastic!
Apparently I need to give more historical novels a chance! Ismae is a handmaiden of Death, sent to the courts of Brittany to protect the young duchess long enough to get her in the throne. Things aren't as easy as they seem and Ismae isn't the only assassin in the castle. Throw in the determined and handsome Duval and things get even more interesting. Grave Mercy is a must read for sure!