Title: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
Author: R.L. LaFevers
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Read In: June, 2012
Summary: (from Goodreads)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?
Ramblings: Assassin nuns? Dark magic? Political intrigue? All in 15th Century France? Sounds like a recipe for a pretty great read, right?
This one had so much potential to be amazing and even though I did really enjoy a lot of it, I still think it just missed the mark. So, what went wrong? I would say the blame lies in perhaps 3 things. First, the pacing. The first 20% of the novel moves pretty fast which I thought was a little bit odd (I'll go more into it in a bit), but I figured the rest of the novel would move just as fast. It didn't. Most of the book went pretty slowly, but I never really got bored with it. I will, however, say that the slower pace should not have lasted as long as it did.
Pacing became more problematic towards the end of the novel as well. After spending so much time with the slower pace and the build-up of the story, the sudden rushing of everything going on and trying to get to the ending climax just felt awkward. It was like LaFevers was hurrying to end the book before she ran out of pages.
Second, is the world-building, specifically the supernatural bits. While I really loved the historical setting with supernatural elements, I was sooo disappointed with the lack of good backstory for the convent and of St. Mortain. The time you spend reading about Ismae at the convent is so brief that it hardly serves as a strong backbone for what her life becomes about. I mentioned earlier that the speed in which the book starts out with was odd and this is exactly why. How am I supposed to believe that she's so dedicated to the convent when I didn't even really see her do much there? I wanted to see her learn all the skills she needs and develop into the great assassin she's supposed to be.
The third thing I'd place the blame on would be is Ismae's inconsistency and her relationship with Duval. It's not a huge fail, but it still bothered me. Considering her background, I would have expected her to be way more wary of him and not have fallen for him so easily. I do think their romance was decently paced (no declarations of love were had until much later in the novel, thank baby Jesus), but I still find her easy reciprocation hard to believe.
Now that the negativity is mostly out of the way, I'll talk about things I did like about Grave Mercy. One of the best things about it was the fact it didn't shy away from including more mature/adult themes than what we might be used to reading in YA. I know there were others that didn't like this, but I personally thought it was refreshing.
Ismae in general was okay as a main character. I didn't love her, but I didn't hate her. I just wish she had better character development. I found Annith and Sybella from the convent and Anne the Duchess-to-be way more interesting than either of the main characters. I liked Duval enough, but he didn't really stand out for me aside from when he showed his love and protectiveness for Anne. That I did like. Those other guys that helped him (their names escape my mind at the moment) were pretty great too.
Final Verdict: Grave Mercy was a decent read, but I can definitely say that it's not for everyone. I was hoping there would be a cliffhanger at the end (and that is something I never ask for), but everything gets wrapped up a bit too well and eh what are you gonna do. Parts are predictable (such as a certain betrayal that happens-you can see it a mile away), but that can't really be helped either. Other than that, it wasn't so bad. If you like reading historical romances, this could be right up your alley.
p.s. I wasn't sure if I was going to read the sequels after I had finished this one because I didn't know if it was going to be about Ismae and Duval again, but I just found out that they're going to focus on Annith and Sybella and I am so happy. I will definitely look forward to those.
p.p.s. It's hilarious that one of the big complaints about this book that I've noticed on reviews over at Goodreads is that the book is more of a historical romance. I guess people must have expected this to be more kickass (which, I admit, I did as well), but did these people that are getting mad over it not read the summary? At all? Scroll back up and look at what the last paragraph says in the summary. I'll wait.
How can anyone miss that? Did they all just stop reading after it mentions the convent and being an assassin? Good grief people. Don't blame the book for your fail reading comprehension.