Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date Published: April 3, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Audiobook Length: 14 hours and 14 minutes
Audiobook Narrator: Erin Moon
Source: Free audiobook download from Sync summer audio pairings
Description: 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?
Grave Mercy was a really great concept to me. I mean, it starts out with the main character Ismae is mistreated by her “father” because her true father is Death (St. Mortain). Ismae is forced into a marriage and her new husband shows signs that he will abuse her, but she gets rescued by a convent to become an assassin! She is one of Death’s daughters, and does his work. Ismae is trained in weaponry and poisons, as well as seduction and covertness. She kills those who have been marked by Mortain as traitors.
Sounds like a great set up, right? Well, I did have some things I struggled with in the story. It is a historical fiction piece and takes place among royalty in Brittany. I really struggled with all the formalities and rules of the Court. I found a lot of that to be slow and a bit dull for my tastes. It wasn’t easy to keep up with the characters and their connections.
I also thought having Death (aka St. Mortain) be treated like a God by the convent was a bit odd, a little creepy. Ismae had to remember to refer to him as a Saint outside of the convent, so obviously it was an oddity in their time. I also thought it was a strange combination to have the assassins be convent girls but also be encouraged to be promiscuous. I think having an academy of assassins rather than a convent would have made more sense to me.
I much enjoyed the romance that built between Duval and Ismae. It was a nice slow burn, which is such a breath of fresh air with all these instalove and love triangle stories out there. The two start out distrusting each other and possibly even hating each other when forced to work together. As they learn more about each other and their common goals, their feelings grow. I thought their story was beautiful and believable, and I loved the ending.
I also enjoyed the theme of redemption in this book. While Ismae starts out blindly following her orders and assignments the convent gives her, she eventually realizes she can think for herself and learns that even traitors can atone and the mark of Mortain can be removed.
Overall this was an enjoyable story even though I had a few complaints. I enjoyed the audio presentation and would recommend it for someone looking for a good audiobook.
I also thought I would share a deleted epilogue published on the author’s website. So click here to read it, if you’re interested.