Title: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, Book One)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Author: Robin LeFevers
Pages: 560 pp
Price: $16.99 US
ISBN: 054762834X / 978-0547628349
When I read the book’s description, I was immediately intrigued…
“Set in 15th century France, the book follows seventeen year-old Ismae as she flees to the Convent of St Mortain, discovers that the nuns secretly worship the ancient Celtic God of Death, and trains to be a handmaiden of death herself. Yes, you read that right: Pagan assassin nuns.”
The book was even better than I had hoped.
An abused fourteen year old girl is sold to her would-be-husband. After tearing the clothes off her back, the man sees scars that mark his young wife as a child of Mortain, god of death. In fear, he throws the girl into a cellar while he goes to get a priest. She is rescued and sent to the one place where she would be safe, treasured even: the Convent of St. Mortain. Here Mortain is named a saint to satisfy Rome, but in reality is honored as a god by those who are trained to be assassins in his service. At the convent, Ismae finds comfort, self-worth, and an education that ensures she will never be subjected to masculine terror again.
For her third assignment from Mother Superior, Ismae is sent to the court of Anne of Brittany to spy on the duchess’s bastard brother, Duval, and ensure the safety of the young duchess. There she gets over her head despite her assassin talents. To make matters more difficult, Ismae falls in love with Duval and comes to treasure his family, even knowing that this will eventually put her at odds with the will of her convent.
This book is a combination of fantasy, romance, and history. My only issue with the book is how it skipped so thoroughly over Ismae’s training. It went from her starting to settle in to the convent to three years later, with only a few paragraphs to fill in the missing time. This was not nearly enough and left me floundering a bit as Ismae is sent to her first assignment. A good couple of chapters should have been included on her training and on her skipping the all-important classes on seduction to help out in the poisons workshop. My favorite part of the book is Ismae’s short meeting with her divine father on a battlefield.
Grave Mercy is a well told story with a lively pace that left me impatiently looking forward to the next book in the triad.
“Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?”
[Melia Suez makes her home in the high Rockies. She is the editor of From Cave to Sky: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Zeus (Bibliotheca Alexandrina).]