Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Book: Grave Mercy
Author: R.L. LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 549
Rating: 3 Stars

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?
For while I am Death’s daughter and walk in His dark shadow, surely the darkness can give way to light sometimes.
Killer nuns? Historical fantasy? Right on!

I wasn't all that interested in the first couple chapters. Well, the first chapter definitely got my attention. First chapters that involve almost-rape always capture my attention. I think that's what they're supposed to do. But after that, things got a bit ehhhh. Okay, convent with lots of poisons that Ismae is fortunately immune to. Lots of man hating, as well as a class in which women can learn how to seduce...? Some interesting side characters that you think are going to have greater importance but end up popping up only once or twice throughout the story. Most of all, there was a lot of preaching about how killing a man is better than...doing anything else with a man. Yeah.

One heart cannot serve two masters.

The political intrigue was good stuff. It takes some serious logic to think of all the plots and pitfalls that come with being a duchess. Although, I didn't really get the duchess. She didn't really do anything useful except be pale yet determined (???)  all the time. While we're on redundancy, I have to mention that there was a lot of elbow grabbing and iron grips. What's with that?

 In addition, I want to point out that despite the gigantic problems that arose, they were all solved relatively quickly and efficiently. Duchess can't get a good husband? Here comes a man who just happens to have just lost his wife and has both looks and a formidable army! French whore (I don't call her this, the abbess does. Are nuns allowed to call other women whores? Huh.) and her son might be traitors? Just swear an oath and be spared from death (why didn't they do this sooner...?) I just don't think problems that concern a country's future can really be solved so easily. Then again, this IS a YA novel. Can't expect serious fiscal-crisis-stuff. That would ruin everything. Just like it's ruining America now. Ahem. Moving on!

The romance made me roll my eyes a healthy number of times. Example:

Perhaps Mortain knew I could not kill him even if he bore the marque. I cannot kill the only man I have found it in my heart to love.

Of COURSE he's the only man. You were locked up in a convent for most of your life until you met him! 

Anyway, Ismae sort of bothered me. She was way too good at everything she did, and even though I have great admiration for her collection of poisons and that badass bracelet she uses for strangulation (or something of the sort), there's no way for one person to excel at killing and hiding the way she does. Just... nuh-uh. No way. And that part at the end where she saves Duval? Totally expected something like that. The only problems she seemed to have concerned her angsting over him and the way she completely lost all of her nunnery smarts whenever he came into the picture. 

I do have a soft spot for Duval, though. He's way too sweet and perfect, which is how I like my fictional men.

“I know some call him oath breaker, for although the oath he swore to Saint Camulos required him to stand and fight, he turned his back on the fighting and instead carried me to safety. But as he explained to me later, what good is fighting if what you are fighting for is lost?”

Deep stuff. Anyway, Grave Mercy is how I've come to expect all these paranormal/fantasy/whatnot young adult novels to be. Now authors are trying to throw in kickass heroines and swoon-worthy males at an alarming frequency, and I don't think I like it. But you could definitely do worse than this book. Thus, 3 stars.
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