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Showing 1-10 of 344 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 802 reviews
on May 8, 2014
This book was over 500 pages and yet after finishing it, I felt like not much happened. I've seen some great reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and also on Booktube and I guess I might be the outlier here, but I just didn't connect with the book. It's hard to really pinpoint why so I'll try my best to do so here.

Writing style - I think the writing style really got to me. The book opened up with a really exciting scene but it slowed soon after that and it never really picked up again. I think what really got to me was the first person present tense narrative as well as the linear writing style. Linear writing meaning, "I woke up and had breakfast. After breakfast we needed to leave. We were on the road for two days only to rest our horses...etc." I'm not really sure how to explain this further, but I like the books I read to have more inner dialogue and immersive detail. I want to understand the world, the characters, and why they do what they do...especially in a book categorized as fantasy.

Characters - No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't connect to Ismae. Again, this might go back to my complaints about the writing style, but I felt like her character was set up so well, but was executed poorly. She had a really interesting and harsh past. I mean her parents didn't want her! Although she mentions this in the book, but there's not enough inner dialogue for me to understand how she's feeling because of her past or how her past might have molded her into the person she is at present time. She has this weird connection and attraction to Gavriel but then we're not given enough reasons why that is. Gavriel also wasn't developed enough and we as readers don't understand him at all because we're seeing him through Ismae's eyes. So by the time the "love" happened, I didn't buy it. It's really sad because I felt like these characters had such great potential.

Plot - I understand where Robin Lafevers was going with the plot. And I saw the potential political intrigue but it didn't do it for me. Maybe this was an epic fantasy written for the YA genre, but I've read other fantasy novels written for teens, and I know teens are not dumb. However, this plot felt like it was dumbed down. I felt like the whole novel, I was reading about who the Duchess should marry. And the political reasons for why she should or should not marry someone was not well explained. If it was explained, it was at surface level, making it unbelievable.

I really wanted to like this book because it was intriguing just reading the cover flap. And I heard that the sequel is better, but because of the writing style, I sadly will not be continuing with this series.
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on July 10, 2015
This book has been on my TBR for years now and with my new love of audiobooks I finally got around to it and my gosh this book was so good. I also loved how different it was from a majority of books I’ve read. It was a nice change of pace.

Grave Mercy is the kind of read that builds slowly. It gets off to a slower pace and everything unfurls bit by bit. This holds true for the romance too. It is a very slow burn, but then as the story builds it combusts. It’s intense and the love grows over time, which I think made it sweeter. And while the romance is growing there are plot turns left and right. All the political scheming made my head spin and I never knew who to trust. When you think the story is going one way, it ends up going in a completely different direction. I loved that it kept me on my toes and kept me questioning.

Ismae is a great character. She is multilayered and complex and realistic. She thinks she knows exactly what she wants in life, but once she gets out on her own she begins to question and finally become her own person. I loved watching her discover herself and I also loved watching her be a badass assassin. She is a great blend… she is awesome but still realistic and relatable. I wish she had learned to trust her gut quicker because her gut was usually right, but it was all part of her journey.

I also loved Gavriel for more reasons than I probably have time to mention. Most importantly I loved his devotion to his sisters. Nobody came before them and he was clearly willing to do anything for them and I admired that so much. He was smart and stubborn and strong. Simply a great character.

All in all, Grave Mercy was a very good read and I can’t believe it took me this long to get to it. A great blend of historical and fantasy that is not to be missed.

Audiobook Comments: The narrator for Grave Mercy was very good. I felt like she read at a good pace and there was good distinction between the different characters. I would definitely listen to something she narrates again.
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on December 28, 2015
I am a little late beginning this trilogy, but I enjoyed the first book and it probably won’t take me too long to catch up.

What I liked: The characters. Ismae is strong of spirit and is very observant and clever. She really developed and changed throughout the book. True, her position as an assassin is ruthless, and often times I questioned her bloodthirst, but she became more merciful and discovered a different path for herself. This part of the book is perfect, in my opinion. I don’t want to give too much else away about this. I also really liked Duval. He had a couple of rough moments, but nothing truly worrisome, and I appreciate that he wasn’t a jerk like so many YA love interests. He was noble and angry and smart and he tried very hard to make things work out for the best of everyone. Plus, he is a good big brother, and who can resist one of those? Another thing I appreciated was the use of actual history and political conflicts. It did make some aspects of the book predictable, but it was cool to think “Hey, I’m reading the dialogue of someone who actually existed.” One of the strongest points, and one that should have been played on far more, in my opinion, was the mythology of the nine old saints. This world building played on existing Celtic and Greco-Roman mythologies, but it was unique at the same time. One more thing I liked: the ending. So squee!

What I disliked: Not enough mythology! This was one of the strongest parts of the story and it should have been more present. I was expecting this book to involve more of the supernatural and was disappointed that it didn’t. Also, the court stuff got a bit boring/confusing at times. It could have used some clearing up, and I think Lafevers could have done more to make us care about Brittany and not just the characters because the predicament, bad as it was, didn’t quite feel urgent enough. Also, although I ship Ismae and Duval, I think the love story was a bit too easy. Ismae was not trusting of men because they abused her, and then she spent three years in a convent away from any men. I don’t think she’d fall quite as easily as she did. The romance built slowly enough, but the attraction/stirrings were far too early. Last thing: a lot of telling and not enough showing. I grew a bit impatient/disinterested when Ismae simply stated what she was feeling. It distanced me from the story, I think.

Overall, a pretty fresh book. I don’t quite think it deserves all the hype, but it’s worth checking out.
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on March 28, 2013
This is an interesting YA novel as it is set in the 1400s so it is somewhat historical but at the same time fantasy. There is royal intrigue, plots, strange customs and dangerous women.
Ismae has been marked since birth. She is a daughter of death better known as Saint Mortain. Daughters of death it seems are beautiful and have some other worldly qualities to them. Ismae's special talent is with poison she is immune to it in all forms. She is saved from an arranged marriage and sent to a convent for daughters of Mortain. There she is educated and trained to be a deadly assassin for Mortain's bidding. After years in the convent the time had finally come be sent on her first assignment. She killed a man that might have repented his past transgressions and was trying to clear his name for Brittany (the country not the girl). To figure out who is plotting against Brittany she must set off to court with Gavriel Duval where she can use her gifts to assess who is plotting against Brittany and the Duchess Anne.
I liked that there were complex characters in this novel. No one was all good or all bad. Even our heroine is sorely misunderstood. She can tell when someone is about to die or sense them after they have died. Even she doesn't understand the scope of her gifts. But she is feared as death is feared. Gavriel too is complex dutiful to the core but sometimes he goes against the norm for what he thinks is right even if it brands him a traitor to his sworn saint. The romance that eventually grows between them is sweet and takes its time to blossom. He sees Ismae for who and what she truly is and never tries to change her. I felt so bad for Anne, she has to marry to make an alliance to keep her kingdom that is on the brink of war but some of her suitors are treacherous and if wed she will surely die soon after so they can control her kingdom.
The story was so interesting and watching Ismae grow into a bold woman was fascinating. I loved how she came to better understand Mortain and the two sides of him better throughout the book to realize possibly that being an assassin was not all he wanted for his daughters. There were some great nail biting moments and honestly after the first 100 pages I just couldn't put it down. Incredibly unique heroine.
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on April 9, 2012
Two words: assassin nuns!

I had no idea what to expect from Grave Mercy, as I'm not usually a big fan of historical fiction. But the constant shroud of mystery, the political backstabbing and constant plotting, light fantasy elements and a forbidden romance completely captivated me from start to finish!

The plot starts off deliciously slow as we begin to learn about the world Ismae lives in and the convent she has just sworn fealty to. Led by a group of strongly independent women, Saint Mortain's teaches Ismae everything she needs to know to be one of Death's handmaidens: stealth and knife combat so as to kill any man showing Death's marque; feminine artistry to lure her victims into a false sense of security; and the chemistry of poison making, so as to be able to kill a man with merely an aroma or a touch. Having always been strong-willed, the inclusion of these skills has made Ismae into a fiercely independent young woman. Her blood-lust is contagious, and experiencing her first kill was exhilarating. She is loyal to a fault, blinding following the nuns' teachings, until she meets Duval.

Being the first man Ismae has spent any length of time with since joining the convent, Ismae finds herself constantly on edge around Duval. He brings her to court, where she must learn the ways of the royals and how to best interact with the nobles in order to learn their secrets and hopefully find the traitor amongst the Duchess' party. As they spend more time together, Ismae begins to see a side to men that is completely foreign to her, having only ever experienced abuse by their hands, and is shocked when she realizes that while she still distrusts Duval, she also has feelings for him.

"I am well aware it could all be an act. An act designed to earn my trust. And just like some poor, dumb rabbit, I have stumbled into his snare."

Duval begins to question the convent, and their sources of information, as to why a man must be killed in order for her to have served her god. He plants tiny seeds of doubt in everything the nuns have taught her, and she begins to question their methods herself.

"I pray to Mortain for the insight and clarity to see my way through the thicket of loyalties and alliances that surround me. I pray for the wisdom to discern His will in this matter. And most of all, I pray that I am not falling in love with Duval."

Their romance is developed throughout the entire book, but it didn't overshadow the main plot. And while Ismae does fret about her growing feelings and what the convent will think of her, she also doesn't let her feelings get in the way of her purpose at being at court.

I loved all of the drama and intrigue at court, and watching the various political manoeuvres in the hopes of finding the duchess a suitor that would both benefit her country and give her a chance for happiness in her marriage. Whenever the book turned its attentions back to which suitor she should choose, I grew a little more sympathetic for the duchesses situation as the suitor with the most troops (and thus the best choice to help defend Brittany from the invading armies of the French) was definitely not someone I would ever want to marry.

"She sits, rigid and tense, looking pointedly away from him, her face pale. She looks like a young child trying to pretend a monster from a hearth tale has not just sprung to life beside her."

Like all of the somewhat minor characters, he was written extremely well; I'm cringing just thinking about him. LaFevers did a wonderful job of adding enough personality to each character to make them all interesting in their own way, and combined they truly added a lot of enjoyment to my reading experience.

From start to finish I was completely captivated by Grave Mercy. I was excited for Ismae to begin taking on assassination missions and I was hungry to solve the mysteries at court. A little forbidden romance, some unique abilities added in a fantasy element that I liked, and a great cast of characters makes me eager for the sequel!
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on April 5, 2012
R.L. Lafever's takes a leap into YA fiction with a novel filled with rich historical detail, political machinations, action, romance, and the fantasy of poison making to rival Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study. Grave Mercy is sure to attract readers from all genres!

It all starts in Brittany, 1485. After a life of mistreatment at the hands of her father and an arranged marriage to the worst possible man at her village, Ismae finds solace among the nun's of the convent of St. Mortain. She is, after all, said to have been sired by the god of death himself. In that place she trains as a handmaiden of Death, an assassin to carry out her god's wishes. Soon enough Ismae finds herself right in the middle of court, where treason and deceit are making it hard for Anne to be crowned Duchess. Ismae is about to face the hardest decisions she'll ever make, and they all balance on the question of who can she really trust?

Ismae is one tough lady. She's thrown into this situation where she is clearly out of her depth, yet she deals and slowly learns to tread carefully the ways of the court. Of course, she has help in this, even if unwanted. The only man who could be any kind of match to Ismae had to be someone who could match her in strength, wit, and deadly intent. He is Gavriel Duval, intense, angry or annoyed half the time, and with impeccable manners that only serve to unbalance Ismae. Oh, and he suspect number one on her list! The chemistry between these two flowers beautifully into love amid deceit, and Ismae's own personal demons.

R.L. Lafevers weaves mythology, history, and fantasy into the incredible world of Grave Mercy in a way that left me completely enthralled. I mean, assassin nuns, the old Britton gods, and courtly intrigue! What more can I ask for? Definitely book two, because reading that last snipped had me jumping up and down and cheering!
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on April 29, 2016
Gripping and tightly-crafted, like the finest French brocade, it's a delightfully different spin on the lady assassin story, more historical fiction and romance than fantasy, grounded in a earthy sense of realism, boiling with plenty of court and political intrigue and of course, the suspense of anyone keeling over at any moment.

Well balanced in whatever Robin LaFevers was seeking to achieve in the moment, whether building tension or draping Brittany in a cool mist, dabbling in well-conceived fantasy lore or throwing chess pieces and power players upon a parquet floor for a star-studded pavane, Grave Mercy was an absolute page-turner, but it was the initial characterization of Ismae Rienne that took me by the hand and pulled me along into her life, to join her story. She is by far the most sympathetic lady assassin I've come across (though I have so many of them on my shelves, I don't know why) and I feel, of all the things LaFevers did well, she really convinced me of Ismae's voice in the wise use of first-person present tense narrative.

As such is the case, most of the other characters fell into a form of wanness, which I actually didn't mind. There's so many faces that come and go throughout the blender of court intrigue that I found myself not caring about anyone but Ismae and the Duchess, Anne. And while you can see the romantic element coming from a league away, there's plenty of tension to season moments of information-based conversations in darkened rooms by the light of the hearth and the embers dying therein. Grave Mercy, the gobbly-up sort of book that it is, bodes a good omen for the rest of the trilogy.
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on May 13, 2017
Ismae was a strong and clear minded maiden of death. I enjoyed this story very much. The beginning is slow enough but with world building such as this one it's well worth it to continue the story. The mystery and intrigue was well written and woven through. Duval was an honorable man that was a master in strategy. I am so glad I finished the story. I would definitely recommend.
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This is a light and very enjoyable opening salvo to a trilogy. The basic include Breton independence, court intrigue and an order of killer nuns, accountable to their dark saint, Mortain. There is a lot of exposition that serves the following books well. In this volume, he protagonist is Ismae, a low born and badly treated young girl taken in by the convent.

This is a very fast paced, rollicking tale that takes actual history and infuses it with a fantasy backstory. I very much enjoyed Ismae's tale and proceeded direction to book #2 (Sybella, Dark Triumph) and #3 (Annith, Mortal Heart). There is no foul language or overt sexuality, just a lot of Middle Ages daring do.
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on August 5, 2015
This story follows Ismae who is sold by her father at the age of fourteen to marry a disgusting pig farmer named Guillo. She is rescued and taken to the convent of St. Mortain where she chooses to serve Death and is taught all the skills an assassin may need. Three years later, she is ready to begin going on assignments. Her first big assignment is to pose as a mistress to Gavriel Duval who is the half brother to the duchess of Brittany. She is to keep an eye on him because the convent has reason to believe that he is up to no good. But among those closest to the duchess, Duval seems the least suspicious to Ismae. So they must try and figure out who the real traitor among them is. I really enjoyed the mysterious aspect of this book. Who is the traitor among them working for the French? It really kept me guessing and feeling unable to trust anyone and I loved it!

I really enjoyed the characters in this book! Ismae is very dedicated to doing the work of Mortain. She doesn't question what the convent is telling her, believing them to know all. She thinks very little of men because all of the men in her life have been horrible to her. So she is not at all trusting of Duval when she is first assigned to tag along with him. But everything she learns while out with Duval makes her question what the convent has taught her about carrying out Mortain's will. Maybe it's not all about vengeance. She wants to believe that Mortain is also merciful. Duval also teaches her that not all men are completely awful like her father and Guillo.

Duval is wonderful. He is kind, caring, smart, strategic, and just wonderful. He is dedicated to the duchess and to helping her get out of a totally gross arranged marriage and helping her come up with strategies to keep Brittany safe and free from France. He is just so very good. He's a bit of a grump as well.

I never in a million years would have guess that Anne, the duchess, was only twelve years old during most of this book! That seems FAR too young to be having to worry about the well being of an entire country and avoiding gross old men who want to marry you for your throne! But I guess that things were far more different back in the day. She is a VERY strong young lady!

The only character that I found to be truly unlikable was d'Albret or whatever his name was. Every other character, not matter how awful they were, I seemed to be able to find the tiniest sliver of good in them or in the motives behind their actions. But that man was just really and truly vile. He was only out to help himself at the expense of a little girl! What a CREEP! Also, Madame Dinan was pretty awful as well. You'd think she'd care a bit more for the well being of the girl she's been caring for for years. I guess not!

I really enjoyed the note from the author at the end of the book explaining how this was all based on true events! It seemed that very few things were pulled out of thin air and I really liked that! I don't think I've read a whole lot of historical fiction in my life, but of them, this would by far have to be my favorite! So interesting!

I liked how everything in this book wrapped up nicely so there’s no cliffhanger or anything, but I’m kinda disappointed that the other two books don’t follow Ismae and Duval! I want to know what other shenanigans they get up to! I feel like there’s so much more that could happen with them! This is the thing that makes me the most sad, but also I am excited to know what happens with the character who the next story is about!

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, assassins, and ‘courtly drama’, as I saw someone say. That is a good way to describe this!
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