Monday, 8 December 2014

Grave Mercy

Author: Robin Lafevers
Series: #1 in His Fair Assassins series
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Supernatural
Type: Kindle e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First Published: December 4, 2014
First Lines: "Brittany, 1405 - I bear a deep red stain that runs from myleft shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch's poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb."

Book Description from GoodReads:  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?

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  If I were to say that this book was a historical fiction read about young assassin nuns your first response would be 'Say wha?'.  Am I right?  The main premise of this book is different and it's a veritable melee of different genres -- historical fiction, supernatural, romance and mystery/suspense -- it kind of works.  

I liked Ismae.  She's resilient, strong and courageous. She's a handmaiden of Death, for goodness sake.  How cool is that?  She's a tough girl who has been handed a really crappy lot in life.  I liked reading about her life in the convent and wished there was more time exploring that time in her life because I found it all quite fascinating.  I actually wish more time was spent on the supernatural element and the connection these women have with Mortain.

I have to be honest that the idea of killer nuns was what made this book stand out for me. wanted to read about Death's handmaidens and all that that entails but for a book about assassins there wasn't a whole lot of bloodshed.  Ismae and her fellow assassins have been training for years in the various arts of killing.  These are strong, capable women but Ismae, in several parts of the book, seems to wander around the castle halls more than she tries to take anyone out with her bare hands and her signature poison.  There's even a point in the book where she has to save someone and the way she saved him was, let's just say, rather 'eye-rollingly' silly. 

The era in which this book takes place is interesting but there was a point in the book (around 40%)  where the description of the political issues became rather heavy and tedious ... and I started to lose interest.  Luckily, the author ramps up the pace for the last part of the book and I got back on board.

To give this book a higher rating there were a few things that I wish would have occurred. First, I was hoping for a few more twists and turns.  There were a couple but they were rather mild and unfortunately the big 'who-dunnit' was rather obvious.  I also felt that I didn't quite believe the romance aspect.  It suddenly advanced where I didn't feel the connection between them nor was I given enough reason as to why they're suddenly enamoured of each other.  

This was a good start to a new series and while there are a few things that I wasn't fond of I think that this premise of intrigue within the court with a healthy dose of the supernatural is a very interesting idea.  I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Dark Triumph, which focuses on Ismae's fellow handmaiden, Sybella.  

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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