Being the daughter of Mortain, the god of Death, has been nothing but a curse for seventeen-year-old Ismae until she is saved from a brutal marriage and finds sanctuary in the convent of St. Mortain. Here she learns that she can use she skills as a handmaiden to her father. But to claim her new life she must be willing to do his bidding which means taking the lives of others. Ismae is given an important task which installs her into the high court of Brittany where she is to act as the mistress of dark Duke, Gavriel Duval. Her assignment is to determine who is working against the duchess Anne and, if necessary take care to eliminate them.
I am hard pressed to name the genre of Grave Mercy. By the cover I would name it a historical fantasy. It is also an action adventure with all kinds of intrigues, weapons, poisonings, and secret passages. Lastly, and perhaps most prominently, it is a romance with plenty of sexual tension skirting around the edges of the pages.
The book took me ages to read, over a month. I decided as I closed the cover on the last page that my problem was reading it too slowly. (What an obviously dumb statement.) This book needs a good long, dedicated time in the beginning to allow the reader to "get in to the story." Ten-minute segments here and there just doesn't cut it. It wasn't until I buckled down to "read it" that I started enjoying it. The other thing that was working against me is my audiobook right now, Seraphina, has a very similar story line, right down to the bastard dukes/princes. Trying to consume two similar books at the same time proved to be very confusing. At the halfway point I was ready to abandon the book and give it a poor review. Boy, am I glad that I kept going. That said I do think the book was a bit too long with some slow parts that didn't move the action along.
Grave Mercy is a delightful tale with lots of action, adventure, and YA-type romance. Plus, as the reviewer at School Library Journal says, this book is a dream to "book talk." All one needs to say is "nun assassins" to entice readership. I found myself truly rooting for Ismae and Gavriel, even though she is an assassin and one is never quite sure of his true allegiance.
Grave Mercy is the first book in the His Fair Assassins series, but unlike many series these days this one finishes up Ismae's story. The next one will tell Sybella's tale and the last will be Annith's story. I like that a lot. When I recommend books to readers I can tell them it is the first book in a series but it is also a stand-alone tale.
This book is on our Mock Printz list that my team is reading this Fall. I haven't heard back from many of the team members as to what they think of it but I have a hunch that the girls will like it better than the boys. due to all the romance. I look forward to hearing what teens have to say about this book.