Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers
The Skinny: After escaping from a perilous marriage, Ismae joins the sisters at the convent of St. Mortain, the god of Death. Trained to be a handmaiden of the god, Ismae is taught to kill a man who is marked for death. The headmistress of the convent sends Ismae with Duval, the bastard half-brother of the Duchess of Brittany, to uncover his true intentions. But when she arrives, she finds that there is more than one treasonous act occurring and must discover the culprits before the Duchess is overthrown.
BFF?: Ismae is honestly what historical heroins should be made of. I LOVED her. I think sometimes bad-ass heroins fall into this mold of being hard and cold but have a heart of gold. I think Ismae kind of fell into this mold, but she was definitely likable. What I liked best about Ismae is that although at first she did just take the abbess’s word for everything, such as who to kill, without questioning what or why she was doing it, she eventually realized she should start questioning things. She should start to understand the god she served rather than just take her beliefs at face value. I probably wouldn’t want to be BFFs with her, because you know… she could kill me. But I really thought she was a great character.
Readability: The beginning of this book was a teensy bit slow… and I’m talking like the first couple chapters… but the rest of it read entirely too quickly for me. I didn’t want it to end! I loved how LeFevers subtly mixed modern language in with language of the period. It gave the book an easy feel but still kept the historical accuracies. Everything was well paced and I didn’t feel like reading was a chore at all.
Crush Level: 7
Okay, historical crushes are the bomb. There’s something seriously sexy about a tough to crack, cranky, dashing man from a different time period. Duval reminded me of the love interests from some of my mom’s (and eventually my own) historical romance novels. And believe me… I STILL have crushes on some of them! But I think what made Duval all the better for me is that while he was still kind of overbearing when it came to Ismae, he didn’t try to overpower her. He let her be her own woman. Which scored some major kudos with me!
Ismae joins the convent of St. Mortain where the sisters are trained to be assassins for the saint. They’re taught everything from weaponry to shooting to poisons. I kind of liked seeing all the different weapons and poisons Ismae used throughout the book and how she hid all of them. Kind of cool.
While I’m sure it did happen in the past, there’s really not a whole lot of powerful historical women from the time period in which Grave Mercy is set. So the fact that the soon to be ruler of Brittany is a woman made me all sorts of happy. Granted it sucked she was trying to be
sold married off to the highest bidder an eligible suitor.
I don’t know a whole lot about western European ancient religions, like the Celtics or Druids, but the little I do know is fascinating. I’m also a little rusty on this particular area (Brittany) and the issues with the English and the French, so all these things tied together was extremely interesting to me and I thought it was a great setting. It’s also inspiring me to look up all of this and see what was real… because some of the saints (or gods) they worshiped were kind of interesting. (And yes… that’s totally the creepy boy from Merlin!)
Commencement Speech: I honestly had forgotten just how much I love historical fiction until I read this. Sure, I’ve read some historical fiction and have enjoyed it, but this particular time period has always been a true favorite of mine. There’s something about it, whether it’s the romanticism of it or the fact that the world was still pretty raw, that makes me eat it up. To me, Grave Mercy read a lot older than I was expecting. I kept thinking “hey, add a more graphic sex scene and I’m pretty sure you’ve got an adult novel!” Which I sort of… ahem, loved.
The one thing that I had a little bit of trouble getting behind was the saint worshiping. Not that it was a problem and I thought it added a lot of depth to the story (as well as the central plot) but it was just hard for me to really and truly love. I did like that it was pointed out the saints were at one time gods and that the Christians had changed them to saints to appease the locals. Kept the historical events accurate. All in all, I loved Grave Mercy oh so much and really wish I had read it sooner. Maybe if our library would get on top of things…
Yearbook Quote: “Surely He does not give us hearts so we may spend our lives ignoring them.”
Superlatives – Most likely to make you want to search your body for marques
Like this post? You may like these too: