Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Release Date:
April 3, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Library

Summary

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? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Grave Mercy is a must for any lover of historical romance! Like many readers I picked up Grave Mercy on the basis of two words: "assassin nuns." I just love that phrase. I excitedly told my husband that I was reading a book about "assassin nuns." The silly guy rolled his eyes. I told my parents I was reading a book about "assassin nuns." They thought that was pleasantly nice. I wanted to shout "assassin nuns" from the rooftop simply for the coolness factor.

"Assassin nuns" is enough of a reason to read Grave Mercy, but it gets even better. Grave Mercy is a story full of girl power, romance, political intrigue, and killing people. Poison and crossbows.

Ismae is a fabulous leading lady who goes through enormous changes during the novel. She starts out full of self hatred. Left with a huge scar from a poison that her mother used to try to miscarry, she lives with the physical evidence that she was unwanted. The old wives tale that she was sired by Death makes her even weirder. Her father hates her. Her soon to be husband is the type who will hate her too. Rescued at the last moment by the sisters of St. Mortain, Ismae learns that she really is a daughter of Death (Mortain) and is to serve him by killing those men that Mortain has marked. Fast forward three years and Ismae is strong, confident in her abilities as an assassin, and determined to never again let a man trod upon her. She lives to serve Mortain and bring men to justice.

My favorite Ismae quote: "The sharp metallic tang of my weapons is more welcome than the finest perfume." (p. 239) Perhaps Ismae would feel differently if my favorite Chanel Chance perfume existed in 15th century Brittany.

Enter Duval. He and Ismae are similar in personality. Duval is supremely confident, as loyal to his Duchess as Ismae is to the convent, as skilled as politics and fighting as Ismae is at assassination, as mistrusting of Ismae and she is of him. As you would expect from two people whose good and bad qualities coincide so strongly, clashes between them occur immediately. Few things are more fun than romantic tension. The banter between them was at first fraught with anger, but slowly grow into trust, respect, and eventually love. There were definitely a few squeal moments. My favorite scenes were when he spent the night in Isame's room - but not in the way you'd expect.

Politics and history were a big part of Grave Mercy. I had forgotten that Brittany was once independent of France and fiercely fought for its continued liberty. Duval and Ismae are helping to protect Brittany by ensuring a profitable marriage to its ruling Duchess. Some reviewers complained that the book was too slow. You may feel that way if you're not a big fan of historical fiction or high fantasy, two genres where details and world building are as important as the plot and characters. But I thought the book proceeded at a steady pace and was richer because of the time spent on background. I also love that the relationship between Duval and Ismae developed very slowly. It allowed enough time for each character to respect the other as an equal. I particularly loved seeing Duval's trust in Isame's intelligence and abilities, something you don't see often enough in YA (or any genre).

As you'd expect from a book featuring assassin nuns, there's lots of action. People die. In all sorts of ways. I loved how the fight scenes were written. First of all, they weren't the same. Too often in action novels, it feels like the same characters fight in exactly the same way at different parts of the book. Here the instruments of fighting, the characters involved, the motivation, and the outcomes were different every time. It kept the book fresh. Plus, the scenes were perfectly described. I could see the fighting as though it was right in front of me. Best of all, they were equally spread throughout the book. I didn't have to wait until the end of the story to see some action. But neither was the book one giant fight scene. Everything flowed smoothly.

I highly recommend Grave Mercy. It has something for everyone: romance, humor, girl power, action, politics, history and more. It's definitely one of the best reads of 2012 thus far!

Rating: 5 / 5

29 comments:

  1. Your post made me giggle so, so much. That's always the first thing I say when I recommend this book: "It's about assassin nuns!" LOL

    Great review, Alison. It was a lot of fun to read. :-)

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  2. I'm so excited for this one - going to admit, it was assassin nuns that did it... but the historical romance thing helps too!

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  3. I have a copy of this book waiting to be read, so I can't wait to get stuck into it. Fab review!

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  4. I gave this book the same rating! It really is good, but historical and political, so people who can't deal with books like that usually don't like it so much. But, I do like books like this when done well. This one is done well. ;)

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  5. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this book...I love historical fiction, but for me there was too much "historical" and not enough "fiction"!

    After I posted my review of the book today, I found out that three other bloggers had posted it too around the same time (in my Google Reader), including you! So I put a link to your review in my post. :)

    Happy blogging!

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  6. Okay, I HAVE to read this book. I'm contemplating a story line about a girl trained as an assassin. Unlike this it wouldn't comprise the entire story--more of a side plot--but I've been toying with it so I have to read this and see how it's handled. Plus, I love historical fiction and this story, romance, character, everything, seems awesome! Thanks so much for sharing it! :D

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  7. I read and enjoyed this book. I didn't review it on the blog but wanted to enjoy a slow romance and loved that they were equal partners.

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  8. I can't wait to read this one! And yes, I would like to scream the words "assassin nuns" from the rooftops as well, if for no other reason than to see peoples' faces when I do it:) Love how you described the fight scenes, a lot of times I zone out when reading them because they start to blur together and feel the same as you said, so it's nice she keeps things so engaging and different:)

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  9. Excellent review! I really can't wait to get started on reading this one, it sounds like it's going to be great. Thank you for sharing! :)

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  10. This book was awesome! Killer nuns rock!
    Www.mostlyyabookobsessed.com

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  11. I agree I live the idea of the Assassin nuns. I haven't read this one but heard great things about it so I'm glad you enjoyed it as well. thanks for the review!

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  12. I really haven't had a lot of luck with historical fiction novels so far, but your review made me think I'll like it. I love strong characters and Ismae sounds like one. Great review!

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  13. Nothing but great reviews for this one everywhere I look...I may need to pick it up!

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  14. Loved this book! Totally agree. We need more books that give the reader time to see the character grow in their abilities. I can't wait for the next book.

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  15. I read it for the "assassin nuns" too!lol I'm glad you liked it, sadly I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped but I absolutely LOVE Duval! I would love to see a book with him as the POV!

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  16. Loved this review. You said it so well. And, I wish someone had asked me what my book was about when I was reading this so I could say "assassin nuns!"

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  17. Great review! Grave Mercy was such a great book -- I loved it so much and can't wait for the next one to come out. I'm intrigued to see where the next book is going to go, since the ending (which I don't want to spoil) is quite different from a series book ending that I'm used to ...

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  18. Assassin nuns was what drew me in to this book too! I loved though that we got a lot more beyond the action with great historical detail and a slow romance. I can't wait for the next book with Sybella though!

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  19. Oh I loved this too! I agree the romantic tension was pretty awesome and well - pretty much everything was awesome in this one!

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  20. I remember reading some really mixed review for this one that kind of turned me off. But your review definitely gets me excited to try this one. I'm so curious about the "spend the night" scene, and you're right, assassin nuns is a great phrase.

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  21. Great review, I completely agree! LOVED this book and can't wait to see what happens next for Ismae! I might even read some of her MG books I have at our middle school LMC. There are 2 adorable looking series.

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  22. When I first started hearing about this book I wasn't too sure I'd want to read it. But the more I learn about it, the more I think I'd really love it if I sat down to read it.

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  23. "Assassin Nuns" sounds hilarious for some reason...
    Historical romance, yes please! Will definitely add this to my wishlist (: Great review!

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  24. Completely agree! Loved how the relationship between the two of them grew. It was fabulous (though, for some reason, he read so much older to me...*shrugs* whatever). Can't wait for the next in this series!

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  25. Hahaha Now I've gotta get this book just to tell my friends I'm reading about "assassin nuns." But, this book sounds amazing! Ismae sounds like the kind of girl I love reading about! I have to get this book soon! By the way, I loved this review!

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  26. I couldn't agree more with you. I loved Grace Mercy so much for all the reasons you've mentioned, and I am looking forward to the other two His Fair Assassin installments. You're right about the fact that Duval actually trusts Ismae's abilities and intelligence, ang that this doesn't happen very often, it had totally slipped my mind. And I really loved the quote you picked. =)

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  27. Heh, I got the same reaction from my mum when I tried to sell the assassin nuns idea to her. She really didn't get how cool it sounds. But hopefully she will once she's read it. Perhaps I should point her to your review because you summed up how awesome this book was exactly! Ismae, Duval, the tension and banter, the intrigue and fighting. So good! I'm a bit bummed that the sequel won't be following Ismae and Duval's story again because I fell so in love with them, but I'm also super excited for Sybella's side of the story!

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  28. Beautiful review, Alison! You hit on all the right points I would want to know about if I hadn't read this already, but since I have read it, I loved nodding along with all your points. LOVE this review!!

    "My favorite scenes were when he spent the night in Isame's room - but not in the way you'd expect."

    YES! Me too :)

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  29. I have to admit that at times this book is slow. But it is well worth the reading. Somehow this beautiful world is weaved and you can't help but fall in love with Ismae and her discovery of herself and her world. I am enthralled with this author's ability to make me care about such characters and can't wait to read more.
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