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?
Right now I shall attempt, with all the skill I have in my arsenal as a somewhat itinerant reviewer (okay, not really, I just wanted to use that word) to give you wonderful people my thoughts about the book that is being touted by (mostly) all and sundry as the next best thing since sliced bread (being a non-native English speaker, I fail to see why sliced bread is so wonderful but that just might be my failing as a heathen). Anyway, forgive the digression and let’s turn ourselves to the glorious bounty that is Grave Mercy, the first in what is definitely a trilogy.
What did I think about it?
Well, to be completely honest (so help me God), at first? Not much. I have, as you might not know, very little fondness for romance novels (which is not to imply that they don’t tell a good story because they do but I’ve read too many of them) and Grave Mercy really resembled a romance novel disguised as a YA novel. Okay, what I mean by this is – the focus was on the romance and I was like “Ehhhhh!” Don’t get me wrong, I like romance in YA, in fact, it might be a requirement for me but I don’t want the focus to be on it. What I mean by my babbling is that for a while Grave Mercy and I were at odds with me saying “please, do go on” while Grave Mercy said “but I want to discuss how he sits in my bedroom while I’m sleeping and there’s no sexytimes.” Ya know?
But then, Ismae, who had been about to join the hallowed ranks of Heroines Who Annoy Nafiza (it’s a long list) became fantastic.
I kid you not.
It’s like LaFevers decided a quarter into the book that her heroine needed more to be more (yes, I am quite articulate tonight) and so she gave her more. And I was like “YES, KILL THAT VILLAINOUS BASTARD!” I love heroines who kick ass and dear people reading this review and refraining from rolling their eyes, Ismae kicked ass and she kicked plenty of them. And I even liked the romance. LaFevers managed to tamper what could have been a mushfest and made the book more about the kingdom, the dynamics, the politics, delicious stuff like that and less about heaving bosoms and moony eyes.
The pace was quite exhilarating because things kept happening (after the first quarter, that is). There was no lull in the narrative where they watch daisies grow or curl up in a ball and bemoan their broken hearts. They are on the brink of a war and things just…happen. (Yes I know, don’t be intimidated by my eloquence.) I liked the characterizations, the pacing, and the plot (more elaboration this later). The writing felt a bit raw and I thought that the chapter transitions could be a bit smoother though this just may be because I was reading the ARC version.
I liked how LaFevers managed to sustain a skein of realism into something that is clearly fantastic. Oftentimes happy endings are too happy and tie up so neatly that they ruin the entire book but the term “pyrrhic victory” applies to this novel and I appreciated that. I didn’t think the violence was excessive nor did I feel that the sexytimes in the book was forced or illogical (you shall understand after you read the book and then if you want to discuss it, I shall happily oblige).
And I cannot freaking wait for the next story. Sybella sounds just as kickass as Ismae except in a crazier sort of way. I like insane. And I wonder if it features Beast. I hope so. Unlikely protagonists make me happy.
Do I recommend this book? Yeah I do, just stick with it through the somewhat slow beginning and it will pick up and stun you with its awesomesauciness.