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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 565 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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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.
The main heroine, Ismae, is 17 years-old and after escaping a forced marriage at 14 has been living in the convent of St Mortain where she has been trained to be an assassin. Exciting premise right! Assassin! Love it! But no, I found the character and plot to be such a letdown. She is very two-dimensional with little substance to drive the plot.
The romance was almost non-existent, can you say insta-love! There was a moment when Ismae realises she had fallen in love with the male hero and I had to re-read the paragraph to make sure I had understood it. There is a little banter between the two, but not much else that had me thinking they were in love with each other. It’s like Ms LaFevers suddenly realised the two hadn’t gotten together yet and so she declared them in love without worrying about any build up.
In terms of the story-line, when I had finished the novel, I realised that at no time did I feel like any of the characters were in any real danger. There was no real action, just a lot of skulking about and talking about politics. At no time was I madly reading to make sure everyone would be ok, there just wasn’t any real suspense or drama.
I would say that ‘Grave Mercy’ is more a historical novel with a smattering of fantasy elements and a dash of romance.
3/5 Stars! Ok read but doesn’t live up to its potential.
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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