Author: Robin LaFevers
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: eARC (exclusive promo galley)
Source: The publisher, through Netgalley.
Buy It: Amazon
Add It: Goodreads
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?
Oh, the buzz around the blogosphere regarding this book is so loud that one can hardly focus on anything else! I have read amazing reviews for this book, and when Netgalley had an exclusive promo going for it, I snatched it up without even thinking about it. Unfortunately, my review will not match the bulk of the reviews out there for Grave Mercy. I was a little disappointed in it, and it took me forever to read it. As always, my main points are bolded to accommodate the skimmers out there like me!
1. I loved the idea of this book! Ismae, a daughter of Death, was saved from the attempt on her life while she was still in her mother and has now grown up to be one of his (Death's) assassins. And she lives in a convent of nuns who are "called" to do the same thing! She gets trained to kill in numerous different ways (and in "womanly arts"... seriously? Hilarious term.) and is then sent out on missions to serve his will. I'd never heard of anything like this, so I was incredibly excited. I am always gobbling up unique subject matter. I definitely respect the imagination and creativity that the author has. The magical/fantasy elements of this book were really enthralling. I just with there had been more time for that, rather than sitting around discussing politics and "state of the union" type stuff.
2. The writing style is pretty. I can see why many people love the book so much, as I'm sure this is one of the drawing forces for Grave Mercy.
3. I'm not a huge fan of straight historical fiction. I enjoy romance and adventure more than politics and facts. This book was full of a ton of political discussions and explanations. I really had no desire to read all of this, and wished that more room was left for the adventure. I mean, Ismae is DEATH'S assassin! I expected so much adventure and suspense, which did not happen. On and on and on the politics went. This book is 564 pages!
4. It was really hard to keep up with all the politics, locations, and characters. There were SO many people to try and remember, all with names that don't come easily to me and intricate webs of craziness in each of their pasts. Because there were so many people and so many stories, I had a hard time connecting with any of them enough to care about what they had to say. I only finished this book a few days ago, and I can't remember most of them.
5. Ismae was flat and boring. She had no personality or likeable qualities. Throughout the whole story, she acted like she was brainwashed to have no conscience, independent thoughts, or a sense of humor. I mean we meet "Death" at one point and he seems much more tender and compassionate than Ismae ever does. It seems weird that the "master" is so much more likeable than the "servants". Isame was a machine, and I'm having a hard time figuring out how the dude (I seriously can't remember his name) fell for her. How can you fall in love with someone about as interesting and loving as my stainless steel refrigerator? And seriously. I don't get it when a heroine does not understand what she's feeling regarding a man. She has no idea that she's physically attracted to him, and has inner dialogues wondering why she's trembling, why she has this burning in her chest, why she's blushing, why her heart races when he's near, why she startles every time he touches her elbow or brushes her hand. Does she not even know she's a woman? She's pretty clueless throughout the entire book, and I was getting frustrated with her lack of common sense. She does have some awesome weaponry, though. I'll give her that.
6. I loved Beast, the big guy who was supposed to be scary, but was actually more friendly and warm hearted than any of the characters combined. He was funny and sweet, and I really liked him. He was definitely my favorite character in the book.
7. I appreciate the fact that this was not insta-love. Although... authors seem to have caught on that people are getting tired of insta-love, so they are all making their main characters hate each other for the bulk of the book. Whatever happened to just liking someone? It seems to be either hate or love these days. Why can't people meet, become friends/casual acquaintances, and then fall in love? I've never hated anyone I barely knew, so why are all the heroines/heroes feeling this way all of a sudden?
8. To avoid any spoilers, I'll just mention one word and those of you who have read it will know exactly what I mean: Antidote. Seriously? Kinda anti-climatic, if you ask me.
9. Even with all my complaints, I'm very slightly interested in book #2. So... I don't even know how that happened. Haha! We'll see.
Oh, I finally remembered the dude's name: Gavriel. Phew! Oh, and another random thing to mention... This book does not read like a YA. Yes, Ismae is young, but her voice is too mature, her purpose is too mature, and there was a bit more steam to this book, even though no sex scenes are described.
While I did not love this book, I can see why others did. It's unique, well-written, and sometimes it was interesting. I would recommend it to people who enjoy historical fiction with a little bit of romance and fantasy mixed in.