Debbie's World of Books
My book reviews, book news & random rants

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

March 28th, 2012 by Debbie's World of Books

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Source: Picked up at NCIBA

Publication date: April 3, 2012

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Series: His Fair Assassin #1

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars

Summary from 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?

When I picked up this book to read the back of it the rep at the booth pitched it as Alias meets Game of Thrones so I had to read it.  I mean, how awesome does that sound?    It has been awhile since I’ve read a historical fiction book that I really enjoyed but I found this one fascinating.  It takes place in the 15th century, a time period I really have no familiarity with.  One of the highest praises I can give is that I did not want to stop reading the book but it also made me want to go look up more information about Anne of Brittany, the politics of the time (because I never realized that a duchess was considered as important as a queen or king) and I have to admit I even looked up doublets because I was curious to see what it looked like.  I seem to recall them looking pretty ridiculous and had a hard time imaging a guy being handsome in one.  I know, a silly thing to get caught up on but I just had to see it.  Here is a picture I found while looking up Anne, Duchess of Brittany, from wikipedia.

Anne of Brittany

Ismae is a kick ass character that I can totally see fitting into the Alias mould.  She’s trained in using a number of poisons, “womanly arts” to manipulate men as needed and a multitude of weapons including a garrote that masquerades as a bracelet.  Her naiveness grated on my nerves at times but I kept reminding myself that she lived an extremely sheltered life and it can only be expected.  I also wish we had a chance to see a little more of Ismae utilizing her assassin skills besides the two flawed assignments she completes early on.  Still she manages to hold her own in a world that has treated her cruelly.

Duval on the other hand struck me as a pretty blah character.  He had all the qualities you could want in a guy: handsome-checked, rich-checked, sweet-checked and devoted to his family-check but there was no spark that drew me to him.  I actually found one of his good friends, the Beast, to be much more interesting and wish we could have seen more of him in the book.

The story spun around Mortain, the god of death, and how Ismae and her order are devote to carrying out what they think are his wishes was fabulously done.  The mark of Mortain intrigued me and I really wish we could have learned more about why certain people were marked even though some other horrible people remained unmarked.  Ismae does make some unexpected revelations about Mortain and what he wants from his “daughters” that hopefully we will see more of in the next book.

Like I mentioned at the start I really enjoyed the story and I loved that it made me want to learn more about this time period.  My only wish was that Duval evoked more emotions from me.

Besides Ismae some other female assassins who have caught my attention over the years and proven that women can be strong, confident and just over all kick ass.



She first appeared in the Daredevil comic books back in 1981 and then was played by Jennifer Garner on the movie screen in 2003 and 2005.

Sydney Bristow-Alias

Sydney Bristow-Alias

Sydney Bristow was a CIA agent in the TV series, Alias, which debuted in 2001.  She wasn’t an assassin per se but she was a strong female character who knew how to take control.


La Femme Nikita

Nikita has show up first in a French movie, it was then adapted for tv back in the 90s and then again in 2010.

Samantha Caine (The Long Kiss Goodnight)

The Long Kiss Goodnight

I just had to mention Samantha Caine because I loved this movie!  Both Geena Davis and Samuel Jackson were wonderful and I loved watching Samantha speed cutting those vegetables and then tossing the knife into the wall.  Come on, wouldn’t you love to be able to do that?

Kitana (Mortal Kombat)

Kitana-Mortal Kombat

Ok, I know she comes off as mere eye candy for guys while playing video games but you have to admit the girl has got skills.

Kill Bill and Mr. and Mrs. Smith both also focused on female assassins/operatives but honestly not two of my favorites.  I am the first to admit I am not an expert on female assassins in fiction or in real life history so if you have a favorite please let me know who they are.

Posted in 4 Star Books, Books, Historical Fiction

3 Responses

  1. Wrighty

    Great review! I’m half way through this book and really enjoying it. I’m not usually a big reader of historic fiction but this grabbed my attention. I’m glad I have the ebook because I’ve been looking up a lot of words too and it’s so easy on my Nook!

    I also like kick-ass women and think you’ve picked excellent examples. I’ve watched and enjoyed every one of the TV shows and movies that you mentioned! I still have to watch The Long Kiss Goodnight every time I catch it while flipping through the channels. Samantha Cain ice skating with a rifle on her back and making explosive devices from her daughter’s baby doll were very cool! :)

  2. Bookworm1858

    I am really enjoying this book as well even though I’m only about a quarter of the way through. I think I will definitely end up adding another rave review to all of the others that are out here!

  3. Debbie's World of Books

    Wrighty-I really need to start utilizing these other features on my Nook :) Love the ice skating scene too!

    Bookworm-glad to hear you are enjoying it too.

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