I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by Andersen Press on 3rd January 2019
Genres: YA Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Trained as an assassin by the god of Death, Ismae is sent to the court of Brittany, where she finds herself underprepared - not only for the 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?
Grave Mercy has been out in the US for several years. When I saw that it was being published in the UK by Andersen Press I leapt at the chance to finally read it.
What’s it about? Well I was sold on the description of “assassin nuns” by a Goodreads user! Want more detail? Read on.
A Wee Summary
It’s 1480s’ Brittany and our protagonist, Ismae Rienne, a girl with the mark of Death on her back, finds herself among a group of nuns at the convent of Saint Mortain, the old God of Death.
It’s here that Ismae is trained to be an assassin so that she may carry out the will of Saint Mortain himself.
Brittany as this time is a Duchy. Following the Mad War with France, the Duke ensured Brittany’s protection through treaty. The Duke has since died and his young daughter Anne is set to be Duchess. Prior to his death, the Duke had agreed many potential betrothals for his daughter. However, in signing the treaty to protect Brittany, he agreed that the King of France must approve any marriage of Anne.
With a 12 year old set to become Duchess, many look to wed her and seize control – not least France who have long wanted to rule over Brittany and its customs.
Following her first assignments, Ismae is seconded by the convent to Anne’s court, under the guise of being the mistress of a Gavriel Duval.
Ismae must gather information in the court, reporting back to the convent with her discoveries. She must be poised to undertake any assignments for Saint Mortain – following a message from the convent or finding His marque on members of the court, Ismae must be ready to kill.
I really enjoyed this book a lot. I found myself wanting to read ‘just one more chapter’ – always a good sign!
It wasn’t until I was part way through the novel that I realised that it was drawing upon actual historical events! The author has a note online which goes into more detail, but most of Anne’s court, and indeed Anne herself were based on real people. The situation that Anne finds herself in is indeed from the historical events of the Duchess Anne’s life.
While most characters were drawn from historical figures of that time, Gabriel Duval himself is a purely fictional character. The convent of Saint Mortaine is also fantasy.
I wanted to share that with you as I loved that aspect of the book – a fantasy novel that draws from history.
With quite a cast of characters and names, it can be a wee bit hard to keep track of everyone. However the author has included a ‘Dramatis Personae’ at the start of the book which I found helpful.
I liked Ismae and enjoyed her whole story arc – I mean, she becomes an assassin nun! I very much enjoyed her interactions with Duval – I even laughed out loud once or twice!
Duval was perhaps my favourite character as I tried to decipher what his true intentions were.
With action, assassin nuns (did I mention them?), politics, poisons, and plots I found myself unable to put the book down.
The setting, and the creating of a fantasy tale that draws upon historical fact was perhaps the part I enjoyed most. I actually went on to read online what actually happened to Anne – I truly did learn from this novel.
All in all, just the kind of read I needed to kick start 2019. I’ll definitely be looking to read more of Robin LaFever’s books this year!