Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
A fresh, new series that will appeal to teenagers and adults alike. Also, killer nuns, historical intrigue and romance!
Ismae is the 17-year old daughter of Death. Rescued from her life and delivered to the Convent of St Mortain, she is trained to be an assassin. Her mission is to protect the Duchy of Brittany’s heir, Anne, from her many enemies. Ismae is sent to court to kill the traitor set on destroying Anne’s future but finds that all is not what it seems.
I loved this book. First of all, there are killer nuns. Ismae is rescued from her father (who was always pissed that death sired a child with his wife) and sent to the convent. She discovers a natural expertise in poisons and learns how to kill people with different weaponry. I love how the nuns have their own talents, and how their many weapons are hidden in what I feel are realistic ways under their clothing. (Anyone ever seen an action movie and wondered just where the women put those giant guns under their mini-skirts? (No, not that giant gun!))
Ismae starts out young and naive—she is a teenager, after all—and even with all her training and she is unprepared to deal with the intrigues at court. I liked that she doesn’t pretend to know everything and that she’s willing to admit she may be a little bit in over her head. Her growth as a character comes from all the learning she does along the way, and how ultimately she learns that not everything she was taught is necessarily right. She learns to question things and to make her own decisions.
Yes, there is a romance—with Duval, who is one of those suspected of being the traitor to the future Duchess, Anne (who is only 12!). Duval is a great hero. He’s essentially a good guy trying to do right by everybody, except circumstances often turn against him. I liked how they came together, gradually, and without anything just sort of coming out of nowhere.
This book is a bit adultish for teens, in that there is violence—some stabbing and arrow shooting as part of the job description—and there is sex/implied sex that is a necessary part of the story but not gratuitous and done in a way that wouldn’t put a parent off. I feel that if you’re old enough to read this novel, well, you should know how it all works—that’s the kind of age group this appears to be aimed for.
The story is rich with historical detail—the author seems to have done her research (I read the links on the author’s website!)—and I’m curious to read more. Details are described in a way that made me feel that I was there, whether it be in a remote island convent or creeping behind doorways eavesdropping on palace intrigues.
Yay or nay?
I found this to be a fresh, new series that will appeal to teenagers and adults alike. Really looking forward to the next one.
Who might enjoy it: People who like killer nuns and historical intrigue
Who might not enjoy it: Actual nuns