Published: April 3rd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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?
"Whenever you are ready, or if you never are, my heart is yours, until Death do us part. Whatever that may mean when consorting with one of Death's handmaidens."Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.
Grave Mercy was one of those books I have wanted to read for a lifetime. The premise of assassin nuns was nothing but intriguing and I was drawn in very easily. When the opportunity came across for me to review it for the publisher, I couldn't resist to read it. What was going to stop me from loving this book?
A lot of things. To be honest, I had a lot more struggles with this book than I originally wanted to. I'll start off the with the good parts: the setting and the beginning. Now, I have always been a huge historical fiction fan. I love that while reading, it's like I can escape in the past and enjoy the time setting. The time period in Grave Mercy has to be around the late 1400s, which means The Dark Ages. In some way LaFevers really managed to set that time period in her book and make it come across as believable. Throughout the book there's so much violence and lies, it's hardly possible to trust a handful of people. This was also the main reason as to why I adored how the book started off. I was blown away by the action and how the author wasn't afraid to really set the tone of the time period.
The list containing all my issues, is sadly a lot longer. In my opinion is safe to say I was completely lured in by the premise of Grave Mercy. How can one resist to read a book about badass assassin nuns? About Death himself having handmaidens who do his dirty work for him? I couldn't, and I was fooled. This book wasn't like anything I'd expected. To begin with the plot itself, I must speak of a so-called plot because there was almost none. Some parts such as Ismae's training felt very rushed, while others dragged along immensely. It dragged on for far too long, so long I found myself skimming more and more pages to eventually figure out I hadn't missed a thing.
Don't expect to find a lot of action, thrill or suspense. The only assassinations you'll get to see are in the very beginning before the book switches to a story filled with boring events, one after another. There was no doubt about the great amount of politics in this book. Sometimes this can be done in a splendid way so it's interesting and so you're curious for what will happen next. Grave Mercy didn't achieve that in any way. The politics here are nothing but boring, repetitious and maybe even made me like the time period less.
Even though I still am a huge fanatic of historical fiction and have nothing against the use of old and formal English, the use of it in Grave Mercy nearly drove me mad. It bothered me way more than I would have liked and above all, had way too much impact on many things, such as the action. To mention it yet again, there is no action whatsoever. When there's finally something that comes close to keeping you on the edge of your seat, the author made it seem like it was nothing and went on with what had happened before. I didn't feel any sort of suspense or thrill, something that was absolutely need in the course of the story.
I barely have anything to say about Ismae, except that she was such an unbelievable heroine. According to the book, this girl has spent three years in training to one day become one of the best assassins out there, and yet nothing she did afterwards made me believe it. Her personality was also so bipolar. When she was still a trained assassin a few seconds ago, she could also act like a naive little girl with no knowledge of the real world, and confused me a lot.
Other characters in this book just came and went, and I never got the chance to know them properly, which ended in an endless stream of names and very flat personalities. I can't even remember any of them expect maybe five, the heroine included. For that simple reason, I didn't feel anything for any of the characters. I didn't care if anything happened or if someone died; I just wanted to finish the book already.
All in all, Grave Mercy is the kind of book you either love or have struggles with. It's sad I didn't love this as much as I wanted to, but then again I can't force myself to love something I don't.