Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Book review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Ismae's life in fifteenth century Brittany (now a part of France) has been difficult and painful from the day she was born. Her true father was said to be the god of death. Her mother later died, and the father who raised her was physically abusive. At age fourteen, he sold her to a cruel man who wanted to marry her, but her new husband rejected her when he saw the scars on her back, left by the poison her mother took to try and induce a miscarriage. Ismae is able to escape and is taken to the convent of St. Mortain, the old god of death. There, she is told she can be trained to be a powerful assassin and serve her true father, Mortain. And the skills she is taught will mean she never needs to fear a man again.
Three years later, Ismae has almost finished her training. She completes two successful missions, and soon will be ready to take her final vows. But then Ismae is chosen for a mission that is far more complicated. Brittany is struggling to mantain its independence from France. The duke recently died, and his heir - his daughter Anne - is only twelve years old. Many powerful men want to marry the young duchess, and most have ulterior motives. Ismae is told her mission is to protect Anne - particularly from those who would threaten their country's independence - and kill anyone at court that has been marked for death by Mortain. But at court, it's hard to know who to trust. And soon Ismae finds herself, against her will, falling in love with a man, something she vowed never to do.
Grave Mercy is one of my favorite recent young adult novels. I loved everything about it! The concept was great and very original, like nothing else I've ever read from the young adult genre. There's lots of history, romance, magic, mystery, and intrigue. I particularly loved the romance between Ismae and Duval, her love interest. Unlike the instant love found in many young adult novels, the romance develops gradually, since Ismae fights her feelings at first. I loved Duval's character too - he was so caring, noble, and protective. All the court intrigue reminded me a bit of Game of Thrones (the TV series, haven't read the books) - there's lots of poltics, evil plots, backstabbings, and traitors, leaving Ismae not knowing who to trust and who is on which side. This book is on the long side for a young adult novel and the plot is quite complicated, so I think this would appeal more to older teens and adults, including adults who don't normally read young adult books - it's a great crossover read. I can't say enough good things about this book, and I can't wait to read book two, which sadly won't be published until spring 2013.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.