Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Posted 2 April, 2012 by Amanda / 36 Comments

Grave Mercy will be released tomorrow, April 3rd

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
(His Fair Assassin, #1)

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Format: eARC from NetGalley
Read: 3/20/2012 — 3/23/2012
In Six Words: Rekindled my love for historical fiction.

Robin LaFevers — Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook
Amazon — Hardcover | Kindle
Add it to Goodreads

Book Order

1. Grave Mercy
2. Dark Triumph (2013)
3. Dark Hope (2014)


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?
-from Goodreads

Why I Started Reading This Book and Final Verdict

Grave Mercy was an exclusive download on NetGalley back in February. It was available to anyone and it sounded decent, so I decided that I certainly couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I don’t use NetGalley as much as I probably could, and even though I don’t quite have a lot time right now, well, there’s no time quite like the present, right? Now, I had seen both positive and not so positive reviews about Grave Mercy before I started reading, so I started reading without many expectations. I was very pleasantly surprised with Grave Mercy, and I fully intend to pick up the next in the series when it comes out.

My Thoughts

I have always — ALWAYS — been a fan of books set in the past. I don’t quite know what it is about historically set books that makes me love them so, but they are intriguing with their society rules and culture and dress. Though Grave Mercy is not true historical fiction in the sense that it follows actual history, it felt as though I was reading about actual people in the past. And, of course, the fact that there are paranormal elements (Ismae is a handmaiden of Death after all, and she has powers that no true human would have) also slot Grave Mercy into the historical fantasy genre rather than straight historical.

We only get a brief glimpse of Ismae’s life before the convent and her training at the convent. I think this may be my one big complaint because I think it would have set up Ismae’s character and her motives a little better. That, and I think learning about the assassin training the girls went through would be pretty darn cool. Ismae becomes a product of the convent, devoted and unquestioning. We believe in the convent, too, even if it is a little odd to be a handmaiden of Death. I do love that throughout the book, the convent slowly comes into question, and we are left wondering where the truth lies.

In some ways, Grave Mercy reminded me of Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder in the sense that this bordered on being an adult book. Even though the characters in Grave Mercy are young (Ismae couldn’t have been any more than 18, and the Duchess herself was in her early teens), historically, these “youngsters” were forced to take on more adult roles. To me, Grave Mercy felt true to the times and actually covered the kinds of situations actual people may have faced at court (well, except the whole handmaidens of Death thing). Grave Mercy was a very politically charged book, as many historical books that revolve around court are. The politically treachery that occurs adds suspense to the story, which left me flying through the pages as fast as I could. Whom do you trust?

While the historical aspects of Grave Mercy are well set, there is still a lot left to learn about the assassins of Death, the convent, and where the truth lies in how Death should be served. There are a lot of levels to this series if you bother to look at it deeper (though it’s enjoyable without looking more in depth, too) — the idea of blind unquestioning faith being one such theme explored. Though the main focus is on Ismae and Duval, the other characters in Grave Mercy are easy to fall in love with and cheer for. Or hate, as the case may be.

Ismae’s story was one that sucked me in almost right away. I was instantly captivated by this world. And I thought it only got better (especially with the introduction of Duval, but then, I do love a good romantic interest in my books, especially since it was slow and sweet yet made my heart race all the same). I am sad that Ismae’s story is basically over with this book (i.e., the next book does not focus on her) because I loved her and her relationship with Duval, but I am looking forward to exploring this world a little more, as well as getting to know Sybella more. Her character pops up occasionally in Grave Mercy — in key parts, that is — and it will be fascinating to find out where the convent sent her, and what is happening with her.

You Might Enjoy This Book If…

If you’re a fan of historical fiction set at court and you enjoy a little paranormal in your books, you will likely enjoy Grave Mercy. Although YA, this may be better suited for older teens and adults.

Other Reviews

Jacinda: 4 stars
Jennifer: 5 stars
Mariya: 1 star

Filed under: ESR: 8, Historical Fantasy, Review: Amanda, YA, ,


36 Responses to “Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers”

  1. When I started the book, one of my earliest thoughts was “Whoa, this is YA?” The whole beginning scene with her father and husband left me reeling a bit.

    I used to LOVE historical fiction – particularly historical romance. I used to swear I was born in the wrong century. I’m slowly finding my way back to that line of thinking as I read more books set in the past.

  2. YES! It was a lot like the Poison Study series in its tone. YA but…not. Duval seemed a LOT older to me, for some reason. Ismae had to grow up fast but she still had girl-ish qualities to her. I’m hoping that, like a lot of interconnected series, Ismae and Duval will make an appearance in the next novel!

  3. Yay! I’m so happy you liked it! I’m a total fangirl over this book. :) I got the Poison Study vibe from it too (another favorite). I wish the next book focused on Ismae too, because I love her and Duval, but at the same time I can’t wait to learn more about Sybella.

  4. I started this one late Saturday night and the next thing I knew I had read 11 Chapters. I’m now halfway done and I agree with the “Poison Study” vibe. It does remind me a lot of that book, particularly the things I loved about it. I’m surprised there are negative reviews out there as I’ve read nothing but awesome reviews of it. Really can’t wait to pickup my book and see what happens next!

  5. Great review! I really enjoyed this book, too … it was pretty amazing! I also thought about Poison Study as I was reading it. I agree with you, though — I’m sad that it seems like Ismae’s story is over with this book. I love Ismae, but my main concern is — how will I get my Duval fix in the next book? LaFevers better have something amazing up her sleeve!

  6. Just started and this book already looks promising. Loved your review and also have the vibe that it’s similar to Maria Snyder book.

  7. Oooooo I’m excited to read this one! The fact that there are assassin nuns is really enough to make me want to read it, but everyone seems to be really enjoying it as well with only a few small complaints here or there. I love when a story grabs me from the first page. Wonderful review Amanda!

  8. I can totally see the comparison to Poison Study! That struck my mind while I was reading it as well! Like you, I tend to love historical fiction, especially the “historical fantasy” genre that Grave Mercy falls into. I ended up giving the book a three because of a few minor issues I had, but I still really enjoyed it overall!

  9. I wish the whole series as a whole(title wise) matched better…so close, lol.

    I wasn’t sure who to trust in this one.

    I thought the same thing about all of the characters!

    Such a slow romance like you said, loved it!

    And thanks for linking to me :)

  10. I can’t wait to work this one into my reading schedule. I used to read exclusively historical fiction. Death’s assassin just sounds awesome. Glad you liked it.

  11. I really enjoyed this one and cannot wait to read the sequel. I didn’t think that it read like YA but I really didn’t mind. I loved so many characters and the plot was so great.

    I loved that there was this huge plotline of who could be trusted and whether or not you could figure out people’s true motives. I was very moved by this one. I loved Duval. I hope we hear more of their story in the sequel.

  12. I really want to read this. I am loving the Handmaiden of Death title, too. Historical YA Fantasy just sounds like too much fun. I too love the roles, rules, culture and dress of historical societies .

  13. I did enjoy this one because it is hard to find historical fantasy books in the YA section and this one was rather good. I did like almost everything about the book. The one thing that was a little weird for me was the relationship because they seemed to be too far apart in age. This was just the impression that I got.

    If you are looking for other great YA historical fantasy books I would try Tamora Pierce