By: Robin LaFevers
Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad.
Much darker. Originally I gave Grave Mercy a five out of five stars on Goodreads, but after reading this I had to move it down to a four, because this, THIS, my friends, is a five star book. It had heart and darkness and twisted men and good men and twisted women and good women. All the characters moved through this story with purpose and motive. It talked of forgiveness and abuse and love and justice. It had action and plot twists and secrets kept hidden too long and secrets kept not long enough. It had drama and humor and messed up love and real love.
Kick-Butt and Spectacular Heroine: CHECK
Sybella: I think I like her more than Ismae. She has a darker (and indeed more horrible) past and yet she is still compassionate and loyal while being hardened and brave and frightened and haunted and just all at once. She always protected the innocent and I loved that. In Grave Mercy she seemed sort of haughty but in this book I realized that that's just simply not true at all. She's genuine and tough and kind. I loved seeing her struggle with her view of herself through the lense of her family's horrible wrongs. After living for so long surrounded by so much evil she had to begun to suspect that some part of it had rubbed off on her. She did bad things, but she didn't know any better and she did the best she could to survive in her family's house. I didn't just love her character, I respected her. She allowed herself to grow and change and progress. She found ways to forgive others and (with the help of Beast) forgive herself.
Fantastic and Charming Hero: CHECK
Beast: oh goodness... He was FANTASTIC! I cant even put into words how much I love him. His whole perspective on life was so interesting and wonderful. And his sister. And his going back for her. And his lovely soul. And. And. Annnnd. :'( I love his and Sybella's dynamic. They save each other again and again. They protect each other. Sybella's needed a gentle giant and Beast needed someone who appreciated gentle giants. He was funny and charming and totally atypical (in the best possible way). I loved that Robin LaFevers didn't make him some gorgeous "prince charming" and yet it wasn't that big of a deal. Like, him and Sybella openly recognized that he was mostly pretty ugly and yet it didn't impact their relationship at all. Like, they had more important issues than attractiveness (as it should be).
Excellent Side Characters: CHECK
Ismae and Duval: I really liked seeing them from someone else's point of view. It was also really cool seeing Ismae's change from Sybella's perspective, especially because It was from the perspective of someone who approved of Ismae's change, who was proud of her for it.
Julian: He was one of the characters that I found scariest in this book. He managed to justify all of the horrible things he did to himself. Characters with twisted senses of morality can be more frightening than ones with no sense of morality, twisted or otherwise. It's an example of how messed humans can get. So while Julian might not have known any better he was still in the wrong. And in the end he realized that and made amends for it. That was the difference between him and D'Albret and Pierre. He tried to do what he thought was right when he figured out what that was.
D'Albret: If you think that you see the full extent of his complete horribleness in Grave Mercy, as I did, then you would most definitely be wrong. Because OH MY GOODNESS! He's so completely disgusting. The scene where Sybella was describing what D'Albret had actually done had me sobbing.
Excellent Plot and Progression: CHECK
I was wondering how the progress of the overall story would work with the switching narrators. But I think LaFevers has kept the reader in the exact right place for that part of the story so far. I feel like she's leading us all somewhere very important and when we get there it is going to low all of our freaking minds. Also the switching of narrators has kept the politics fresh because you're set in a new place with new characters and new motives in each book. That definitely works in this series' favor.
Gorgeous Writing: CHECK
As much as I loved the writing in Grave Mercy, I think LaFevers hit something really special with this book. It moved, it flowed, it hurt, and it impacted. I can say that the tone of the book completely matched the tone of the writing. Robin LaFevers can write LIKE CRAZY. I am completely jealous of her mad skills and whatnot.
"But I have to say I have just grown adept at snatching providence from the jaws of disaster."
"And do not even bright things cast a shadow?"
"Men of power are unwilling to believe anything ill of their own kind."
"Jewels can be replaced, my cousin, independence, once lost, cannot."
"She accepts not only the power and privilege of ruling, but also the painful responsibility."
"Every death I have witnesses, every horror I have endured has forged me to be who I am. Death's justice. If I had not experienced these things firsthand then the desire to protect the innocent would not burn so brightly within me."
"Hate cannot be fought with hate. Evil cannot be conquered by darkness. Only love has the power to conquer them both."