Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First in the His Fair Assassin trilogy
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?
Let me just start this off by saying that even though historical fiction is one of my favorite genres I have actually never read a book set in this time period. Grave Mercy is set in 15th century Brittany which is on the verge of being taken over by France. There was a duchess and duke, arranged marriages, and everyone was either a lord or a lady. The language was a little hard to get used to at first but once I did I thought it was great and really made me feel like I was actually in the 15th century. Now since I've never read anything set in the renaissance era this was all new to me and I found it all incredibly fascinating.
I'm the kind of reader who makes goals. I try to get to a certain page or a certain part that I know is going to happen. So with this book my first goal was 200 then 250 then until it got cute and then until this one part I accidentally saw when I was skimming through that I really wanted to read. Before I knew it I was 350 pages in, it was 5am and all I wanted to do was finish it but by some amazing ounce a self-control I went to bed. To say this book was addicting is an understatement the fast paced plot added to the fabulous writing kept me hooked. I never wanted to put it down and I read it every chance I got and everywhere I went.
The characters were amazing too. I loved every single one. Ismae who I think has a fantabulous name by the way was an amazing protagonist. She went through so much at a young age her mother who used poison to try to get her out of her womb died leaving her with an abusive father (she didn't even know how to to read at 14 that is certainly neglect) who put her in an abusive arranged marriage at 14. Though luckily that didn't last long and she escaped to the covenant of St. Mortmain where she was trained to be a 'handmaiden of death' which is basically a kick-butt assassin. I thought Anne, the duchess, was such a strong character. She had the weight of a whole country on her shoulders, the French watching her every move and she had to decide which marriage would be most beneficial to protect her country. Yet again someone who has to deal with a lot at a young age she was only 12. Duval was so freaking adorable and I loved Beast and de Lornay. I even loved reading about the bad characters because they were just so well written and had a reason behind everything they did (except d'Albret he was just an evil, pervy old guy). Of course I have to mention the romance because there certainly was one and it was adorable. I loved how it was slow and sweet and how Ismae was afraid to fall in love at first but she faced her fears anyways. I'm not going to say who the love interest is because I think it's more fun to figure it out for yourself (and honestly it's not that hard).
Grave Mercy might just be my favorite book that I've read so far this year and believe me I've read some pretty amazing books. I absolutely adored everything about it the setting, the writing, the characters, the romance. Everything. My favorite thing about books set in another time period is how they can make me feel like I'm actually there and make me never want to leave and that is exactly what this book made me feel.