Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy

His Fair Assassin Series, Book 1

eBook - 2012
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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?
Publisher: 2012
ISBN: 9780547822419
Characteristics: 1 online resource
data file, rda

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From Library Staff

a young adult historical read

About the servants of the god of death.

From the critics

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Aug 12, 2020

This book has everything I love in a novel: Historical fantasy, playing with expectations of gender roles, awesome ladies, political intrigue, and subtle touches of feminism.

So I'm disappointed to say that while I liked it, I didn't outright love it like I wanted to. I'm not sure what it is about the novel, but I just didn't respond to it as much as I thought I would.

The world building was good and layered, though I wish we'd spent more time at the convent. Especially because later Duval is poking so many holes in how they teach things there, and Ismae begins to doubt everything there, but it didn't really have a lot of impact on me because we honestly hadn't spent much time there.

While the political intrigue was, well, intriguing, I figured out who the traitor was way before the book wanted me to. The entire time I wanted to jump into the book and point at the person and yell at Ismae, "RIGHT THERE!! USE YOUR BRAIN!"

Speaking of Ismae, I honestly wasn't taken with her as a character. Possibly because she showed a lot of disdain for things generally coded as "feminine"; pretty dresses, knowing how to curtsey and act like a noble lady, etc. It gets so grating to read about after a while, and granted she does eventually drop it, but by then the damage had been done. The worst part is she doesn't really get into trouble at the court once she's there, despite never really paying attention to the classes that would have taught her how to properly behave. Things are incredibly easy for her when they shouldn't be, and I felt it cheapened her story by a lot.

I also wasn't into her and Duval as a romantic couple. Bickering couples aren't my thing, and Duval especially lost any of my interest when he basically pins Ismae to the chair on their second meeting and tries to physically intimidate her. I had rather hoped she would kick him in the groin then, but alas, no.

Still, I wasn't bored while I was reading it and the pacing didn't bother me (I thought it was quite even, actually, if a slower kind of pace). I'll still look into Dark Triumph, but I'm going to hope it's improved from Grave Mercy.

RandomLibrarian Mar 16, 2020

Review excerpt: "The biggest reason I picked up Grave Mercy originally was because of the assassin nuns. Because come on, how awesome does “assassin nuns” sound? ... LaFevers uses language so well that I sank immediately into her style without the 5-10 pages of struggle that normally accompanies reading present tense.

Here, she's created a fantastic medieval world of gods, saints, political intrigue, and romance that swept me away completely. And yes, the assassin nuns were pretty much as great as they sounded."

PimaLib_ChristineR Apr 06, 2019

I'm torn on this book. I don't read romances as a rule and this definitely fell into the "historical romance" genre. So I'll say that I really enjoyed this book but I don't feel it necessary to read anything else in the series following other convent classmates of our heroine, Ismae.

What I loved: while this is fantasy to some extent (Ismae can see some sort of mark, or as she would say "marque" on those she is sent to kill), it is mostly a history, covering the court of Anne of Brittany at the end of the 15th century. Even more than the And I Darken series with Istanbul, Grave Mercy</i> taught me a huge amount about the duchy of Brittany--that I hadn't even known existed before this book!

Ismae is a poor villager who is sent off to live in a convent that worships St. Mortain, the saint of death, as a god. Trained to kill, it is the sisters' job to remove those who would work against the Duchess--and there are many. One of Ismae's first jobs is to infiltrate the court and decide if her court patron, Gavriel Duval, the Duchess' half-brother, is a traitor. While I felt that her indecision regarding his innocence was overblown, it was perhaps one of the only missteps in this novel full of intrigue, and murder of course.

The mystery of who was the key traitor was well-crafted and the romance didn't overpower the story. Indeed, it would be difficult to overcome the many levels of machinations that were taking place. If you enjoy historical fiction or mysteries, you'll likely enjoy this novel.

Apr 03, 2019

Very fascinating book, had fun reading it the whole way through. The first book that I enjoyed all the through. Was a little slow in the beginning but that is to always be expected. First book to read in a whole week.

In 15th century Brittany, Ismae is a 17-year-old trained assassin, chosen as a handmaiden to the god of Death. Eager to prove herself and fulfill her sworn duty, she is thrust headlong into a world full of danger, deception and political intrigue and from the first few paragraphs, I was easily pulled into the struggles of young Ismae. Despite her lethal training, she is a vulnerable, damaged girl who is easy to root for as she makes her way in a world where she is clearly the outsider and the story itself, complete with romance and adventure, is a real page-turner and very hard to put down. For fans of Tamora Pierce and other like minded authors, this is a must-read. (submitted by QP)

Sep 13, 2018

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy novels of political intrigue, court life, and a bit of magic.

Ismae was to be expelled from her mother's womb, but survived. She bears a deep red scar, and is said to be the god of death, Mortain's own child. When she is married to an abusive farmer, she is rescued by the herb witch and priest in her city and sent to a convent of Mortain's handmaidens. There she will learn the arts of death, and how to kill those Mortain wills it upon. However, when her assassinations get in the way of Lord Gavriel Duval's plans to cull information from his Duchess's court, Ismae must pose as his mistress and go to court herself. Will they be able to stop traitors to the crown before it is too late?

I really really enjoyed this book. The premise is so neat: nun assassins. I wasn't sure what sort of vibe this book would take: nun boarding school, super fantasy-based, mostly political intrigue, etc. It ended up being mostly political intrigue, which I loved. It would have been cool to have a few more chapters when they were young at the convent, but I loved the part at court, and as Ismae learns about her abilities on her way to court. I loved Gavriel and Beast as well. I think I read all but a few chapters of this in one day. I definitely recommend if it sounds like your kind of thing.

May 26, 2018

I read this for the "an adventure/espionage novel" part of my 2018 reading challenge. Interesting concept, but it was a little bit predictable and it didn't quite suck me in.

Sep 20, 2017

Really like the writing style, female assassins theme, character development and pace of the book. Am happy to have just discovered this talented author.

Sep 10, 2016

Fantastic historical fiction book with supernatural elements. Nods to historical figures, old gods, and mythos.

Aug 22, 2016

This was a great book!

I liked Ismae's journey into becoming an assassin and I loved it even more as she started to see that things weren't necessarily as black and white as she thought. I really liked how in the end she came to a realization that she could serve Mortain as well as her heart.

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Add a Quote
Jul 19, 2015

“When one consorts with assassins, one must expect to dance along the edge of a knife once or twice.”

KaiaWillow Aug 13, 2014

"Perhaps you mistake death for justice, and they are not the same thing at all"

Dec 18, 2013

“Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?”

Feb 01, 2013

“When he laces his fingers through mine, my heart does its now familiar panicked flight, bumping painfully against my ribs. My shoulder twitches as if to pull my hand back, but my heart overrules it.”

Feb 01, 2013

“I pause at the door, wishing I could find a corner and sleep until my head clears, but the sailor said the abbess is expecting me, and while I do not know much about abbesses, I suspect they are not fond of waiting.”

Feb 01, 2013

“He barks out a laugh. "My little rebel.”

Feb 01, 2013

“It is this kindness of his that unsettles me most. I can dodge a blow or block a knife. I am impervious to poison and know a dozen ways to escape a chokehold or garrote wire. But kindness? I do not know how to defend against that.”

Feb 01, 2013

“The body on the ground is nothing more than a shell, a husk, and I am filled with a sense of peace. Yes, I think. Yes. This is what I want to be. An instrument of mercy, not vengeance.”

Feb 01, 2013

“... true faith never comes without anguish.”

Feb 01, 2013

“God's Teeth,' he says. 'I was only trying to wake you. You were crying out in your sleep.'
'I was not,' I say, then look from his neck to my knife.
'When I tried to wake you, you stabbed me.' He sounds sore put out. and I cannot blame him.”

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Age Suitability

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Jul 05, 2017

blue_dog_8329 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Sep 10, 2016

Agrysen thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

Jul 19, 2015

EricaMcKay thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

adottoprog Jun 26, 2014

adottoprog thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Jul 27, 2012

KKPGIRL thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

black_panda_159 May 05, 2012

black_panda_159 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Summary
mvkramer Sep 27, 2013

Ismae Rienne is not a normal girl; she is the daughter of Death himself, marked -- and hated -- from birth. When her human father tries to sell her into a brutal arranged marriage, Ismae escapes to the convent of Saint Mortain, where other daughters of Death learn how to kill for their Duchess and their patron god. Ismae believes in the convent's purpose, and is excited by her first assignment -- following the serious Gaviel Duval to the court of Brittany to root out traitors and French agents. But what she learns at court, and what she begins to feel for Duval, might come between her and the convent that rescued her.


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