Robin LaFevers has written a very cool book. Grave Mercy is the start of a new young adult trilogy set in 15th century Brittany… that’s in France for those of us (myself included) who do not remember our late Middle Ages/Northern Renaissance History. It follows young Ismae as she escapes the shackles of an arranged marriage and finds purpose for herself; as an assassin in the service of God.
Ismae is a chosen of the God of Death, Mortain. Training in a convent with other women like her Ismae hones the skills of her trade, becoming intimate with different weapons, poisons, and, most importantly, politics. When she is assigned to a young man who is the bastard half brother of Anne of Brittany Ismae’s journey takes her into the heart of the royal court where intrigue knows no limits and danger lurks behind every door.
Ismae is a great character. She struggles with a lot during the course of this book and overcomes many of the trappings of her time. This book is also a fascinating look at many of the things going on during this period of European History; the fervor of Christianity verses the downfall of Pagan beliefs as well as the place of women in society (and as monarchs) being two of the most notable. The historic aspect of this book is rich and detailed. The plot between Ismae and her potential love interest was also consuming.
Unfortunately for much of the book the plot focuses on these things and doesn’t give enough time on Ismae as a harbinger of death, which I very much loved. My biggest gripe with this book is really that I wanted to see her practicing her art more throughout the book. For a book with an assassin as a main character I felt she didn’t kill enough to suit my bloodthirsty taste. There was a lot of sitting and waiting…and waiting…and drama building…and more waiting. It set my teeth on edge in a bad way. I felt that the flavour of this book could have used a bit more spice.
That said, it’s a damned decent read and worth wading through the occasional morass moments. I dug the hell out of this idea. I hope that the next book proves just as promising.
4 out of 5 stars.
* Grave Mercy releases March 7, 2012.
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