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?
After reading the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, I guess I have a thing for assassins.
Grave Mercy (GM), like Throne of Glass, follows the main character, Ismae, who escaped an arranged marriage to train as an assassin. Grave Mercy, however has religious twist to the killings. In this novel, there are nine patron saints. Those who follow the old ways call them gods but those who don’t, call them saints. These saints showed similar parallels to the Greek gods. On LaFevers’ site, she claims “the Nine Old Gods of Brittany are her own invention” but are built from existing figures. The Greek mythology really stood out to me. St. Mortain is like Hades, there’s a goddess of wisdom (Athena) and a fable mentioned in the book resembles the story of Persephone, Demeter and Hades.
The book’s setting is Brittany 1485-1488. I normally don’t ever read books that take place in the past, whether it’s fiction or not. The Middle Ages and the Renaissance era never appealed to me, it also doesn’t help that I could never understand the language. Despite the weird language, when reading Grave Mercy, I got accustomed to it and didn’t really mind the setting at all. This was really weird for me because I remember picking this exact book a year ago, and immediately putting it away when I realized it was dated back it in the late 1400s.
The thing is, the plot, the writing and the characters definitely overshadowed my dislike for historical fiction.
The plot does include a time jump of 3 years. For the first few chapters, we follow Ismae escaping her arranged marriage, training to be a handmaiden to Death and living in the convent. Flash forward 3 years and Ismae is doing her first mission/assassinations.
The pace was slow in the beginning but once the time jump happened, I couldn’t put the damn book down!! I ended up finishing the book in one night! The plot twist at the end was predictable but I think the author meant it to be. She hinted at the result in the beginning of the book and it depended on the readers whether they caught on or not. I definitely caught on.
Now, I love the style of this book! It’s written in first person POV (Ismae) and I love Ismae’s character and speech! I mentioned the language of the novel was foreign to me (still are) but the book was written well enough that you got the gist of it. The visuals were great and the words, very descriptive. There was also some words in French!! The book has a nice feel and flow to it. I’m pretty sure that’s why I sped through Grave Mercy that quickly! LaFevers’ writing is very unique and it definitely made this book original.
The characters are my favourite part of this novel. Ismae is a smart, strong-headed, stubborn character. (I love that name!) Even though, GM is set in the past, Ismae was still relatable to me. She has a tough interior but still struggled with very feminine problems. Gavriel Duval, her love interest, caused most of these problems and I loved seeing her struggle with her feelings. Her challenges weren’t just about love. For the most part, this novel surrounded Ismae about finding the traitors of the crown and killing them.
Imagine a male character that is moody, passionate and intense. That is Gavriel Duval. Duval is moody towards everyone, and the tension between him and Ismae was so entertaining! There was banter and there was sarcasm, but once Duval warmed up towards Ismae, you saw this warm and caring man. It was captivating to read. Duval is dedicated and passionate towards the duchess. He is a bastard child of the duke, so the duchess is actually Duval’s half sister. In the book description above, it mentioned that Duval might be a traitor. (Don’t wanna spoil but everything is a-okay in the end!) I loved reading in Ismae’s point of view on how much Duval cares about his sister. *heart eyes* Lastly, Duval is intense. He’s both scary intense and romantic intense. All in all, his intensity is shown throughout the novel and it was freaking sexy to read about. Actually, Gavriel Duval is sexy in general.
I love reading this book. His Fair Assassin is a trilogy and all three books are out. The sad part is, Ismae’s story ends at book #1. The next two books follows two characters mentioned in Grave Mercy, Sybella and Annith. I don’t really like series that follow different characters in each book, so we’ll see if I’ll end up finishing this trilogy, despite how much I loved GM.
I recommend this book to the readers who’ve read Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Those who love action and romance will adore this novel too. Grave Mercy is a great YA read and doesn’t disappoint in any way.
To anyone who’s read the whole trilogy, should I read the next one??? Will I get more Ismae?? Will I love Sybella’s story? Let me know in the comments!
Keep calm and read on!