Historical Fantasy

Review: Grave Mercy

Cover of "Grave Mercy," featuring a girl in a red dress standing in front of a castle holding a crossbow
Image from smallreview.blogspot.com

Title:  Grave Mercy

Series: His Fair Assassin #1

Author:  Robin LaFevers

Genre:  Historical Fantasy

Back Cover:

Escaping from an abusive arranged marriage, Ismae finds sancuary at the convent of St. Mortain.  There she learns that Mortain himself has blessed her with deadly gifts – and a violent destiny.  As a handmaiden to Death, Ismae’s assignment is to infiltrate the high court of Brittany and protect the duchess, posing as mistress to Gavriel Duval, who has fallen under the convent’s suspicion.  Once there, she finds herself woefully unprepared – not only for the deadly games of love and courtly intrigue, but for the impossible choices she must make.


This book intrigued me for two reasons.  One was the cover, which, although it was a standard girl-in-a-pretty-dress cover, also included a crossbow.  The other was the premise of assassin nuns.

Ismae, the main character, was one of those assassin nuns.  And as far as characters go, she was a fun one.  I loved watching the deadly girl try and navigate courtly life – especially when her first instinct when she gets upset is to stick a knife in whoever upset her.  She was exactly the kind of stubborn, kick-butt heroine I love to read about.

Strangely enough, I feel like I didn’t get to know Duval at all.  Sure, he loved his sister, was a good strategist, could be stubborn and could also be sweet, but I didn’t feel like I really knew him.  I don’t know if this will be developed in subsequent books or if I’m just crazy, but I got the feeling he was hiding something.

This book was the perfect blend of courtly intrigue and assassin-related stuff.  I found the court especially fascinating – it was like they were acting out roles, and everybody not only knew other people were acting but knew other people knew they were acting, yet they still acted!  I found it astounding, and yet riveting.

One thing I definitely have to give this book kudos for is plot.  There were a bunch of different plots and subplots (multiple threats to the duchess, Ismae’s service to Mortain, romance between Ismae and Duval), but they were all tied together so tightly that I don’t think you could remove one of them without tearing the whole story apart.

About the only thing I had a problem with in the book was one of the plotlines.  Something didn’t sit quite right with me about the romance.  It could be because of my impressions of Duval, or because I don’t thing a killer like Ismae could fall in love so quickly, but it just felt a little…off to me.

Other than that one minor detail, though, I really enjoyed the story.  It doesn’t make my top favorite books list, but I’ll definitely be reading the second book in the series, Dark Triumph, when it comes out sometime in the spring.

The His Fair Assassin series:

  1. Grave Mercy
  2. Dark Triumph
  3. Mortal Heart

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