Tuesday, April 3

Grave Mercy: Book Review

Grave Mercy
Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
April 3rd 2012
Young Adult | Fantasy | Historical (1485)

Official Blurb -
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?

This was a case of love at first sight. The cover screams there is more to this than what you see, though that is a tasty eyeful. Ever since I read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, I have loved the idea of female assassins. They rank right up there next to good looking bad boys with a tender heart deeply hidden. When it comes to female assassins this book does not disappoint.
There is no drawn out introduction for this story. We are racing right out of the gate. Just as quickly Grave Mercy has cast its spell and entranced the mind. I pulled up for air in the middle of the book and felt I was pulling myself from the actual depths of time itself. As if raising out of some ancient tome that felt more real than life and I wanted nothing more than to quickly descend again. So fully entangled was my mind in the story that I could not see further than the heroine. Everything was as fresh to me as to her. It was nice not to be spoon fed. True to the thinking of the time period, women are ill treated and used. This does cause for some crude and disturbing moments.

Ismae is a heroine who has drudged the bottom of the barrel in life, even so, she is still sweet. She quickly grasps a purpose and gives her all. Saddest to me is that she goes from one set of people who do not value her to another. Sure, life is better at the convent, but they still don't see aught but a tool. Through the story, she really develops into her own strong will. No one can begrudge her her just deserve. 
There is a slew of great characters in this story. Each comes with his or her own personality and depth. Robin LaFever is not afraid to kill characters and isn't meager in detail for those that are momentary. Some of my favorite characters are de Lornay, Beast, Duval, and Francois. Even the villainous characters are worthy of note. I hope we get to see more of Anneth in future stories.
Death is a central theme and also an area of great change. The characters, as well as the reader, have hard wired beliefs about death. At the beginning we are given to believe Ismae is sired by Death. Such could be no more than the superstitions of the unintelligent. Death is also revered, which felt almost blasphemous. These things play to our firmly held beliefs. I love how Death becomes apparent through the book. It is not simply dark and despairing but a good deal more. Much in this book becomes nothing like it first appears, yet the transitions for these flips is so subtle and convincing that you hardly notice and also so total one can scarce believe they once felt differently.

Absolutely arresting! Every painful and horrible moment served to build up a base for moments so stunning in their beauty as to awe. Right at the ending is a very sweet moment worth every bit of trial. Amazingly, nearly 550 pages were not enough to bore me of this world or its characters. The ending also provides closure if you do not wish to continue. But my mind has tasted of this bitter-sweet world and hungers for more. I'm definitely adding this book to my permanent shelf. For those who enjoyed Poison Study, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Sexual: crude/moderate
Violence: mild
Main Character Age: 17