- Publisher: HOUGHTON MIFFLIN
- Format: Hardback | 549 pages
- Dimensions: 150mm x 213mm x 48mm | 658g
- Publication date: 3 April 2012
- Publication City/Country: Boston
- ISBN 10: 054762834X
- ISBN 13: 9780547628349
- Edition: 1
- Illustrations note: maps
- Sales rank: 43,254
"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?
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By Monaliz @ Mind Reading? 17 Apr 2012
My rating: 4/5 stars
May contain some spoilers
Ismae is a kick-ass heroine. That pretty much sums it up! She's been abused by men through her life, until suddenly she's saved. After that some kick-ass nuns will teach her how to become an assassin. You just have to love the sound of that. It's nearly poetic! Even my husband found that intriguing.
Not long after her first assignment Ismae is sent to high court with mysterious man (yes, there's always a mysterious man!), Duval. After a while, she manages to get over her hate for men (at least somewhat) and starts having romantic feelings about Duval.
First of all, I loved the romance. It wasn't instant love-at-first-sight, but you could sense there's some kind of attraction and I just loved how it was described step by step, slowly increasing into something real. It was just.. lovely. Beautiful.
Some may not like when every little detail was described, but I love details like that. It just makes it feel more real.
Wanna guess my least favorite part? Oh, the politics! I hate them in real life, and I hate to read about them. Yet it didn't bother me as much as I expected.
Though it might have something to do with the fact that the politicians were dropping dead left and right! Something I miss about those days ;)
I loved the ending, I love happily-ever-afters, as we all know. And I was so excited when the book ended and I just wanted to know how Ismae's story continues, since I expected the second book to be about her too.
Unfortunately, it was revealed that the second book won't be about Ismae! Damn! But about her loony friend. For some reason, I wasn't that thrilled anymore.
I presumed we would see more about Ismae and what her life will be like, but instead we'll get story about another nunchaku-nun (sort of), who will undoubtedly also find true love etc. Somehow, I just feel like it cheapens this book. Since this was such a great book and I want to see more Ismae! And I don't want this to be one of those stereotypical "ah-how-my-loins-ache!"- historical romance novel series. It's hard to explain this feeling. Guess I just want to only see Ismae, since she's one of a kind and that makes her important.
If I won't hear more about Ismae, my heart will break a little, because she's just lovely. And kick-ass. Which makes a great heroine!
Huge thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for this book, I just loved it! :)
Monaliz @ Mind Reading?
By Keren Kiesslinger 04 Apr 2012
I have to be honest, it was the cover that drew me in to this book. I got one of those lovely 'feed your reader' emails from Net Galley announcing this and I decided to download it even though I didn't really know what it was about. I know, I should have checked it out properly but I was basing it on having heard some good things about it.
Having gone into it blind, I found that I really was lucky with this book. It was AMAZING. One of my very favourite books, I kid you not. I have never read an historic book like this before but now I think that I might look into them in the future. I will certainly be waiting on the edge of my seat for the next in the His Fair Assassin series, DARK TRIUMPH, in Spring 2013.
If like me you know nothing of GRAVE MERCY, then let me give you the blurb:
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?"
When I first started this book and realised it was set in 1485, I was a little hesitant about reading it - this was based on the fact that when I read some books and they have the prologue set in the past, I find it hard to get into until the book gets to the present. But 1485 is Grave Mercy's 'present'. Once I got past my initial hesitancy, I was really enamoured by this book.
One of the things I loved the most was the fact that Ismae was one of 'Death's Handmaidens' - it probably wasn't meant as such, but I thought this was really cool. I mean Ismae got to concoct poisons and learn techniques with which to kill a man. This girl who started out as a victim, from being nearly aborted by her mother, to being abused by the men in her life, became an assassin and as such went from what you think of as weak to a badass heroine whom I came to feel a real empathy for.
The second thing I loved most about this book would have to be one of the characters, Gavriel Duval. *swoons* I absolutely adored him. The relationship between Ismae and Gavriel isn't 'girl meets boy, falls in love, lives happily ever after'. It's a slow building, gradual relationship. Ismae is doing the work of her convent and her God, St Mortain. Whilst Gavriel is a noble lord. When has there ever been such a pairing?
I enjoyed seeing the way in which Ismae and Gavriel built up a relationship between them. It wasn't all lovey dovey and doe eyed mushy moments. It was worked from a tentative friendship to [oops I can't tell you what became of them]. I certainly found myself captured in the moment and having to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next.
What was interesting was the basis for the story once Ismae and Gavriel were at the High Court. I won't go into the political ins and outs as I fear I will get it incorrect or spoil it in some other way for you. All I will say is that if you looked at the word 'political' and thought "I'm not sure I want to read on" - you really should do away with any misconception that it is dull and dreary. It truly isn't. There isn't a load of boring information dropped on you, nor does the author drone on about things as you might fear. Instead it is a story based around something political that arises and the characters trying to come up with a solution that suits everyone concerned.
There are many characters to love and indeed to loathe. I won't tell you who's who but you should look out for Beast and De Lornay. I like them nearly as much as I like Ismae and Gavriel.
Having never read anything by Robin LaFevers before, I was unsure what to expect from her style of writing. What I discovered is that she expertly crafts a world that I found I didn't want to leave. I was happily lost within the pages of this incredible story.
At one point I found myself thinking back to when I read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. I was reminded of the relationship between Yelena and Valek. It brought back fond memories for me as that was a series I loved.
I found I didn't mind the political aspect as much as I thought I would in the beginning. I felt it may detract from the story for me but it didn't. It was an integral part of the story and it would not have been the same without it.
The fact that you take many a YA story, strip it back to it's bare bones and it's basically a love story, meant that I was expecting more of the same here. But that is not what I got and I was pleasantly surprised by that. I love a good love story as much as the next person but it's the way in which they are weaved in with other things that make me really route for the characters.
I honestly felt like I could have been Ismae. Towards the end even more so. I won't tell you what caused it but I found myself crying on 3 occasions. I very nearly had my heart broken beyond any hope of repair, but my heart held on and so did my love for Gavriel and Ismae. They aren't your conventional couple and that's what makes me route for them even more.
I cried so hard on one occasion that my glasses were actually sliding down my nose with the force of my tears. I had to stop reading and wipe my make-up off as it was making my eyes itch as I had mascara everywhere.
Once I got to about 73% I found I couldn't go to bed without finishing the book. I knew it would be a late night but I was so enthralled that I could not bring myself to wait until the next day to find out what happened. So it was 2am before I finally crawled into bed, exhausted from lack of sleep but also because of crying my heart out.
I am truly pleased I decided to take a chance on this book and am very grateful to the publisher for approving my request via Net Galley.
I can't wait for Dark Triumph next Spring. Though I know it is set to follow Sybella [I won't tell you who she is, read the book & find out] - I do hope that Ismae and Gavriel feature even in a small part, just so that I know what became of them.
Thank you Robin for writing a truly touching story that stays with you long after the final word is read.
By Sarah 03 Apr 2012
While it looked like a long book at first with 500+ pages, after I started reading it, it went fast.
Ismae has had a hard life.
After living seventeen miserable years with her abusive father, he sells her to Guillo the pig farmer for a few coins, Ismae hopes that the arranged marriage will be her salvation, but Guillo is not her knight in shining armor. Marriage life is not kind to Ismae, she still endures beatings and even being locked away. She is soon rescued and is sent to the convent of St. Mortain, the god of death. Once there she learns of she was sired by death himself and gets the chance to study the art assassination and serve as a handmaiden to death.
I liked how Ismae grew within the book. Ismae was a strong heroine.
Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for an early ARC eBook.
By Danielle Smiley 16 Mar 2012
Genre: YA* Historical/Paranormal
Rating: * * * * *
I can hardly explain how much I loved this book!!! The book opens with:
"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."
If that doesn't give you chill bumps, I'm not sure we can continue to be friends. After this we are subject to a very scary and dark moment that had me concerned about where this book was going and did I want to go there with it. Luckily, it was worth the too-scary-for-Danielle moment and we are off on a whirlwind ride.
Ismae is a likable, well-developed protagonist and the book's central theme is her character growth and acceptance of who she is and what that really means. From oppression to molding to self-discovery, Ismae blooms into an independent, strong individual. Her transformation is beautiful and is threaded through action, mystery and conspiracy.
What more could a gal such as myself ask for??? How about an amazing setting? Being a historical novel, I feared the inevitable information dump as the author tries to teach me European history. Instead I got immersed in gowns of rich fabrics, tricky political intrigue, castles filled with secret passages and countries at the brink of war. The author has a rich vocabulary and does a perfect job of drawing us into the story.
I loved all the characters (Duval is much like Austen's Mr. Darcy -- yummy!!!), I worried over who Ismae could and couldn't trust, the plot is solid and kept me glued to my Kindle and the romance is warm-tingles worthy.
My very favorite quote of the book was:
"I comfort myself with the knowledge that if Duval ever feels smothered by me, it will be because I am holding a pillow over his face."
The only thing I question about this book is if it should be marketed as a young adult book. In 15th century Europe, a seventeen-year-old would certainly be an adult and Ismae acts accordingly. It's certainly appropriate for the older YA reader (there's a few dark places) and there's no graphic violence or sex. It just didn't "feel" like a YA book. Nonetheless, I recommend this for anyone who loves magic, action, mystery, intrigue and romance!!!
And... the next in the series has 2 of the fabulous characters from book 1 and I CANNOT wait!!!! Yay!!! I love a good book!
Isn't this cover amazing! It presents the perfect tone for what you will find inside!!! I wanted to read this based on the cover alone!
See more of my reviews at:http://knowntoread.blogspot.com/
Cynthia Leitich Smith, New York Times best-selling author of the Tantalize series: "A delectable simmer of intrigue and ferocity, passion and compassion. Grave Mercy sates and fascinates, even as it leaves you craving more." Elizabeth Bunce, author of Starcrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold "Chilling, deftly plotted, and with a thread of subtly crafted romance. Readers will be seduced by LaFevers's deadly snare of haunting magic and courtly intrigue." Laura Whitcomb, author of A Certain Slant of Light "Atmospheric, romantic, and gripping." Ten Teen Reads You Can't Miss, Entertainment Weekly.com, October 2012: "Prepare to enjoy LaFevers' tasty court intrigue and one badass heroine." Starred review, Booklist * "With characters that will inspire the imagination, a plot that nods to history while defying accuracy, and a love story that promises more in the second book, this is sure to attract feminist readers and romantics alike." Starred review, Kirkus Reviews * "LaFevers' ambitious tapestry includes poison and treason and murder, valor and honor and slow love, suspense and sexuality and mercy. A page-turner-with grace." Starred review, Publishers Weekly * "Rich in historical detail, well-realized characters, political machinations, and enticingly prickly scenes between Ismae and Duval, LaFevers's complex tale incorporates magic both sparingly and subtly. This powerful first volume of the His Fair Assassin series should attract many readers." Starred review, School Library Journal * "The book is well written and filled with fascinating, complex characters who function realistically in this invented medieval world." Starred review, Shelf Awareness *"Riveting." #3 on Kids' Indie Next List, spring 2012 An Amazon Best Teen Book of 2012