Title: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Genre: Teen Fantasy/Romance
Publication Info: Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
Synopsis: Ismae’s survival of an attempted abortion as a child marks her as a daughter of Death, and she is taken to the convent of St. Mortain to train as his servant, an assassin. Yet her mission to protect Brittany’s ruler lands her in the dangerous plots and scandals of court and under the scrutiny of the mysterious Duval.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
I adore the idea of this book–assassin nuns working for the mythological god of Death during the 1400’s–and it was this idea that kept my attention while reading. LaFevers certainly creates an enjoyable and romantic storyline while intertwining action and politics, so this book appeals to large amount of genres and readers.
While I was fascinated by the idea of the novel (as stated before), I felt disappointed at times when reading. The book promises action and violence and weaponry (which oddly makes me excited–don’t know what that says about me), but focuses so much more on politics and romance. While Ismae’s time training as an assassin is mentioned, it seems glossed over, and I wanted to read so much more than I was given.
Because action seemed to take the backseat in the plot, the romance between Ismae and Duval was overwhelming to me. As told from Ismae’s point of view, the story focused a lot on her interactions with and feelings for Duval, which I would have expected from a romance novel, not from a book promising violence and assassins. But this disappointment may be my fault–perhaps I judged the book’s genre and content too quickly.
Although I do criticize the plot, I loved Ismae’s personality. If nothing else, read this book for the heroine. Her no-nonsense attitude and impulsive nature drew me in (as did her sarcasm and wit, which I always appreciate). While her relationship with Duval sometimes left her lovestruck, she stayed an assassin at heart throughout the entire book, which kept me reading. Additionally, I could easily see her growth as a character in the first book of the series, which I applaud LaFevers for, as often characters in teen novels grow over the course of the series, but not the individual book. Throughout the plot, Ismae became more and more independent and free-thinking, which I believe makes her not only relatable, but also well-developed.
I have to give LaFevers even more kudos for this, for she didn’t use first-person point of view, and moreover, used language and writing that fit the setting and characters! I know this may seem trivial to some, but the writing style, to me, balanced out the romance-based plot and enhanced the characters and dialogue.
Who do I recommend this to?
- Historical fiction readers
- Romance readers
- Fantasy/magic/mythology-based readers
- Late high school, college, and beyond (warning: death, murder, brief mentions of sex)