Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, Book One)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, Book One)
Robin LaFevers, 2012

New Release! Copy provided for review by Netgalley.

Premise: Ismae has been a pariah all her young life, marked from birth with a scar proclaiming her a daughter of Death. But being a daughter of Saint Mortain is not mere poetry, as she finds out when the Abbey takes her in and proposes to teach her to kill for the god. On her first major assignment, though, she'll have to balance the orders of the convent against her trust in her own heart and her loyalty to her young Duchess.

What a delightful blend this was! A nicely grounded historical fantasy with a well rounded, kick-ass heroine, and just a dollop of romance when the time is right. Ismae is totally compelling because her problems are both personal and political. She owes her happiness and life to the convent of Saint Mortain, she believes in her work, but she has to suspect everyone's motives before too long, and whether the duchess of Britanny survives to claim her crown may depend on who Ismae chooses to trust.

Did I mention she's totally kick-ass, too? The details about her training with weaponry and poison are pretty awesome. I wish she had been a bit more adept at politics at times, but she has very little to go on. I liked that she doesn't blindly trust her instincts, that she tries to judge her opinions with evidence and eventually second-guesses many of her initial assumptions.

Her death-related powers are fascinating, and all of those parts are written with gorgeous poetic prose.

Ismae's ability to deal death as an assassin is heavily contrasted with the powerlessness of all women in fifteenth-century society, and even her skills cannot help Ismae deal true justice. The theme of women trapped by circumstance and society starts on page one and runs throughout, but I never found it preachy.

I really wanted to know more about the other novitiates; there was some about them, but not as much as I would have liked. It looks like later books in the series will focus on different characters, though.

I really liked this book. It's not quite an instant all time favorite, but it was a great read.

4 Stars - A Great Book (Add a star if YA is your favorite genre)

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