Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Love of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy features the adventures of assassin nuns. Enough said.


Series: His Fair Assassin, Book 1

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Intrigue & Politics

Format: Hardcover, Paperback, and Audiobook, narrated by Erin Moon

Rating: 5 stars!

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?

Grave Mercy features the adventures of assassin nuns. Enough said.

Actually, this book is so much more than that. It is also a historical fiction story about Brittany’s war with France in the late 1400s. It is a sweet romance, features a fantastic cast of characters, and has a perfect amount of fantasy to balance it all out. In addition, Grave Mercy is a Green Mountain Book Award nominee for 2014-2015, and the book I will be voting for!

This book has taken me far too long to review. This is already my third reading, and I love it just as much every time I lose myself in it. The first time I read this book, I read all of its 550 pages in one sitting (taking me nearly 6 hours). Although it is clearly very long, Grave Mercy is written in very large print, and the plot is faced-paced and engaging. It has never taken me longer than three days to read.

Grave Mercy is one of my favorite historical fiction books, but it is also a fantasy novel. Assassin nuns might be a difficult thing to wrap your mind around, but in this case it makes sense: the nuns serve at the convent of Saint Mortain, the god/saint of death. They are also called “handmaidens of death,” and carry out Mortain’s will, dispatching any people who deserve to die but have not passed on yet. However, it turns out to be a little more complicated… (no spoilers!).

It also takes place in Brittany in 1485, and much of the book is about court intrigue and war politics involving the young duchess Anne’s marriage and the war with France. While this may sound boring, it is explained in a very clear way, making it easy to follow and very interesting to ponder.

If you liked Grave Mercy and enjoy the historical themes it revolved around, I would also recommend Gilt by Katherine Longshore, Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, and The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats. While Grave Mercy is my favorite out of this list, the others take place in a similar time period, and also discuss historical intrigue and strategy.

The next book in this series is Dark Triumph, which switches perspectives to Ismae’s friend Sybella, and the final book in the series, Mortal Heart (released earlier this month), is about her friend Annith. Reviews to come!

Any thoughts on this book? Or for fellow Vermonters: do you read Green Mountain Book Award books? What are your favorites out of this year’s list?


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This entry was posted on November 30, 2014 by in Author: Gwen, Favorites, Review, Young Adult and tagged , , , .
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