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?
When Grave Mercy came out back in 2012, I knew I had to read it. The description and the cover drew me in, but since so many other titles also captured my attention back then, this book somehow got pushed to the back of my “to-buy list”. Luckily, the publisher gave access to Grave Mercy via Netgalley and I pounced on the opportunity to read it. On a whole, I am very pleased with this book. It’s an intriguing adventure filled with deceit and murder, intricate court politics, and the powerful force of a deadly assassin.
Grave Mercy is about Ismae, a 17 year old girl who from birth was marked by death itself. Abused by her father and sold to another abusive person, Ismae receives help from people that send her off to the convent of St. Mortain where she is taught to serve St. Mortain by killing his marked subjects. In her latest task, she must help protect the 12 year old dutchess of Brittany who has yet to be crowned and married off to a fine suitor that will help defeat the French threatening to invade Brittany. Ismae, along with Gavriel Duval-the Dutchess most trusted counselor- must find a way to uncover who is working against the dutchess by setting their differences aside if they want to save her, Brittany, and even themselves.
This book is a great historical fiction mixed with fantasy and a dash of paranormal. Besides the slow start (it took me around 50 pages to get into the book), I found myself flipping pages wanting to know what Ismae could do with death’s gifts in her hands and her role on the court of Brittany.
Ismae is an incredible character and one I liked immediately because she is sharp, smart, and deadly. Even though she is death’s handmaiden and has been taught only to kill for Him by the convent, she trusts on her instincts and acts on what she thinks is right and still manages to stay true to her belief of serving St. Mortain. Her abilities are morbidly fascinating and I liked how swiftly she uses them at the right times. She can see St. Mortain’s marks around her victims and see how they should be killed, she can sense death in her surroundings, and taste any kind of poisons and live to tell the tale.
Gavriel Duval is another interesting character and one I’m very fond of. I liked his loyalty to his country and to his Dutchess, always putting their best interests before his own. His personality usually clashed with Ismae’s, but because they were basically one and the same despite their protests. And, of course, they end up developing feelings for each other. Their romance blooms slowly and beautifully and it was such a nice bright contrast against all the dark happenings at court.
And something cool I found out at the end of the book is that it’s based on actual events (minus the convent of St. Mortain and a few characters). I was like: Woah, that actually happened? Grave Mercy certainly proves that history is mind-blowing. Now I can hardly wait to continue with the next book in the series! I hope it’s just as good as this one or even better.