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Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy) Hardcover – April 3, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2012: Seventeen-year-old Ismae was fathered by Saint Mortain, the God of Death, and one dark and stormy night, she is brought to a mysterious convent where his many daughters are trained as assassins. When she is given an important assignment to protect the Duchess of Brittany and kill the traitor in her court, Ismae begins to learn that being a handmaiden of Death may not mean what the nuns taught her. But her burgeoning independence comes with consequences, and the fate of an entire country--and the only man she could ever love--hangs in the balance. Set in medieval France with historically accurate details, Grave Mercy is the first book in a gritty, fast-paced trilogy, and gives thrilling new meaning to the term "girl power." --Juliet Disparte
*Starred Review* In the late fifteenth century, Mortain, the god of death, has sired Ismae to be his handmaiden. She will carry out his wishes by working through the Convent, where she has found refuge from a brutal father and husband. After learning the Convent’s wily warfare and womanly arts, and being apprenticed to Sister Serafina (poisons mistress and Convent healer), 17-year-old Ismae is sent to the high court of Brittany, ostensibly as the cousin (aka mistress) of the Breton noble Duval—but, in truth, she is there as a spy. Her tacit assignment is to protect the young duchess by assassinating Duval if he proves to be a traitor, a charge made more difficult because of the couple’s attraction to each other. LaFevers has written a dark, sophisticated novel true to the fairy-tale conventions of castles, high courts, and good versus evil, and spiced with poison potions; violent (and sometimes merciful) assassinations; subtle seductions; and gentle, perfect love. 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. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a $100,000 marketing campaign, including national print, online, and social-media outreach; a video trailer; and a vintage T-shirt promotion, the publisher is pushing LaFevers’ novel in a big way. Grades 9-12. --Frances Bradburn
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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.
I downloaded the audiobook and I loved listening to it. It takes a little while to get into, but the overall story has a lot of depth and the world building is wonderful.
The audiobook much like the book, is pretty long, at about 14 hours, so it takes a while to listen to it all, but with dishes to go and lawns to mow, I was able to do other things while listening.
This book follows Ismae as she is taken in by the convent of St. Mortain, trained in the arts of death, and then sent off onto a mission to serve the Duchess. There is violence, conspiracy, espionage, death, and many twists. Ismae is innocent yet determined to serve her god and she is an interesting character to follow on this journey.
Ismae is tasked with reporting to the convent and providing death dealing as needed while watching and working with Duval. Their forced companionship slowly buds into romance and maybe more as the story processes. It is slow and that is a refreshing thing in a YA read where insta-love happens a bit too much. Overall the plot is long-winded, with a lot of tedious political intricacies but it is all admirable world-building.
I liked the main characters, I liked the plot - it wasn't too easy to see what was happening, I liked the slow moving romance, overall this was a great listen.
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