18 April 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

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?

Straight up: probably one of the best books I've read in a while.  Robin LaFevers has constructed a story chockfull of political intrigue, breathtaking romance and exciting adventure.  Coupled with her incredible writing ability, this is a book I will put time aside for to reread.  It was that good.

The main character, Ismae, was fantastic.  She started out with a rough life and was given a second chance.  She didn't let the chance go to waste.  I cheered for her from page one.  She wasn't a perfect character.  She made mistakes and misjudgments and let her mouth get away from her.  She had a wicked sense of humor.  She was flawed.  She was awesome.  Her emotions were raw; Robin LaFevers didn't sugarcoat anything.

The romance was awesome!  I liked how Robin LaFevers held out just long enough to put me on the edge of my seat.  It's one of those romances that you know they have to get together--they just have to!--but it takes a ridiculously long amount of time.  It was satisfying though.  So kudos to Ms. LaFevers.

The eerie setting was the perfect backdrop for the compelling plot.  The story was brilliantly told and artfully crafted.  It's so rare I see such depth to political intrigue.  (MCs are generally on the outskirts or indirectly affected by political dealings, so it was nice to have a MC in the thick of it, actively changing the course of the fate of the world around her.)  

Robin LaFevers has an enviable writing skill.  She transitioned smoothly, almost seamlessly, between the stages of Ismae's character development.  She created a story of a strong, scarred young woman called to the life of an assassin.  I loved the uniqueness.

Grave Mercy was a thrilling, very satisfying read.  I resolve myself to the life of nagging Robin on twitter until the sequel, Dark Triumph, comes out.

There is an impatient whisper of velvet as he leans forward.  "We must call a truce, you and I.  If we are constantly at each other's throats, it will serve only our enemies, not our duchess.  I would ask that you set aside your abbess's suspicions and listen to your own heart, for even though you pretend you don't have one, I know that you do..." (p. 253)
I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left 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.  That I survived, according to the herbwitch, is no miracle but a sign I have been sired by the god of death himself. (p. 1)
Book Info:

  • pages - hardcover, 549
  • published - April 2012
  • publisher - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - Amazon :)
  • rating - 5/5