Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grave Mercy.

Grave Mercy
By: Robin LaFevers
Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)
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.

Going into this book I could instantly tell I was going to love it. Even by just reading the summary I knew. I mean, assassin nuns of the god of death taking the stage in a historical fiction with barons and duchesses and court politics. What is there not to like about that? Exactly, there is NOTHING not to like about that. So I was not surprised at all that I fell in love with this book.

Clever and Brave Heroine: CHECK
Ismae: I'll be the first to admit that I didn't always like her, but her character arc was absolutely wonderful. She was always a very well-developed character, but by the end of this book she really came into her own. She changed and grew and I loved watching it all happen. She was awesome with weapons, but not overly violent. She knew when to show restraint. I also really appreciated how Robin LaFevers portrayed Ismae's gradual yet realistic transition to loving Duval. She didn't pretend like falling in love was something horrible, just not ideal for their situation. And she didn't see being feminine as a deterrent to being tough or for fighting and outsmarting people or for being an active participant in the matters of court. Despite what everyone else believed about women.

Strong and Smart Hero: CHECK
Duval: another character that I wasn't sure about at the beginning, but I really started liking him as the story progressed. He also came into his own. He was really developed and flawed and wonderful. He was very clever when it came to coming up with plans to protect the duchess and yet I loved that he often needed help from Ismae and he never minded taking advice. He was humble but strong.

Excellent Supporting Characters: CHECK
The Abbess: I thought she was really interesting as far as motive was concerned. I could never quite tell where she was coming from or where she was heading. Maybe because her motive was supposedly so clear and yet she often acted against it (knowingly or unknowingly). I want to know more about her and I think that's going to happen in the companion books. So I'm looking forward to that.
Annith: I loved how Robin LaFevers has set up this world for the companion novels through different characters. She gave us just enough about Annith and Sybella to make you interested in the other books and kept enough secret to really intrigue. We learned more about Annith than about Sybella. The other impressive thing was that the three characters (despite what seem like very similar pasts) are completely different.
Sybella: I wouldn't have minded more about her in this book, but since I've already started Dark Triuh (the companion novel from her perspective) I understand why it was necessary. Some of her secrets needed to stay secrets until it was time to reveal them (also Ismae obviously didn't know much of it).
Chancellor Crunard:I never trusted him, but I didn't really suspect him until 3/4 of the way through. I loved his twisted sense of wrong and right. He really saw himself as the good guy and that's scarier than bad people who do bad things knowingly. 
Madame Dinan:another character introduced that I can tell we're going to learn more about in Dark Triumph. Her relationship with D'Albret is incredibly creepy, but she had a really good motive for betraying the Duchess.
Marshall Rieux:Another traitor (basically everyone is a traitor in this book, but it kept things interesting). And another traitor with a twisted sense of loyalty and morality.
The Duchess (Anne): I love her. So much. She's barely a teenager and in charge of a giant duchy and yet she does as good a job as anyone could be expected to do. She broke down. She got hurt by all the betrayal. But she was always strong. That was the wonderful thing, she was genuine and genuinely like a young girl who has been forced to grow up quickly.
De Lornay and Beast: More excellent characters! I wish we'd seen a bit more of them both (particularly De Lornay), but by the end I was so sad to see them go. 
Madame Hivern: possibly the most complex character in this book (which is saying a lot). Her relationships with her two sons and with the court in general was fascinating. I loved how LaFevers showed the role of women in that time through Madame Hivern and made the reader feel genuinely sorry for how little control she had over her life. She did what she could to protect herself and her family.
D'Albret: (or Creepity-Creep-Creep as he should be known). I know Sybella's story has a lot more to do with hi, (which I'm kind of interesting in a) learning more about him and b) seeing his hopefully inevitable demise) 

Wonderful Plot and Progression: CHECK
Before going in I'd read a lot of reviews that said this book was much slower paced than they thought it'd be. So going in I knew it was going to be more politics and less action. The thing is I love books involving court politics and such. So I really loved that aspect and there was still a fair amount of action to keep the intrigue up. I actually listened to the audiobook version of this so I had a bit of trouble a) keeping track of some of the members of the privy council and b) figuring out to spell the names. But once I started figuring out everyone's role in the book it became much easier. I loved the little twists and turns when loyalties were questioned and when agreements fell through. The changes were small, but when put together they formed this wonderfully intricate story.

Superb World Building: CHECK
I would say that historical fiction is one of the genres that requires the most realistic world-building (right up there with science fiction and dystopian). And this world was so well developed and so interesting. I loved the whole daughters of death aspect of the world and the assassin nunnery was just awesome. I think that while the premise might seem a bit ridiculous to some, it worked in the book and was very well-executed. 


"It is this kindness of his that unsettles me the most. I can dodge or block a knife. I am impervious to poison and know a dozen ways to escape a chokehold or garrote wire. But kindness? I do not know how to defend against that?"

"He smiles then, and even though it is well past midnight, it's as if the sun has just come out."

"There is no shame in scars, Ismae."

"Perhaps it is because you mistake death for justice and they are not the same thing at all."

"This is what I want to be, an instrument of mercy, not vengeance."

"His divine spark lives within me, a presence that will never leave and and I am but one of many tools he has at his disposal. He's given me life and all i must do to serve him is live, fully and with my whole heart."

"Surely he does not give us hearts so we may spend our lives ignoring them."

"I wish to serve in honor of his mercy rather than his wrath."

"Surely the darkness can give way to light sometimes."

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