Sunday, February 16, 2014
Answered Prayers: Grave Mercy
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
In her darkest hour, Ismae finds light in the most unlikely of places: it is only after a lifetime in the hands of an abusive father who sold her into brutal arranged marriage, she escapes to the convent of Saint Mortain, the god of Death, and learns the truth. Not only is her true father Death himself, but she has been blessed with lethal, powerful gifts to be His handmaiden. Over the next few years, she trains as an assassin to do His will - claiming her own life by taking the lives of others. She knows her duty when the young Duchess of Brittany and her court require her services, but will Ismae be able to carry out her mission when it appears that her next target is the man who has stolen her heart?
I've been fascinated by the premise of this book ever since it came into my library a few years ago. Then when it was one of the free audio books available last summer via AudioBookSYNC, I immideately downloaded it. However, it wasn't until a recent long car ride that I decided to give it a listen. The next day I got the book from the library, and over the next few days I was reading or listening non-stop. I curse myself for waiting to read this for so long!
Ismae's tale is a fascinating look into the past and the mythology of this story is astounding. Though this book is a big one, I had nothing to fear as the pacing was incredible, never lulling or boring. Readers get a little bit of everything here: warriors, ancient gods, misunderstood beliefs, political intrigue, secrets and scandals, fierce women, daring missions, and oh my word I'd be remised if I didn't mention the romance! Ismae's relationship with Duval builds slowly and subtlety in the background of everything else going on, but when it does ignite it is captivating. I loved how their relationship is complicated right away for multiple reasons, and other writers can learn a lot from how this develops.
The His Fair Assassin series is off to a bold start here. Perhaps better suited for an older YA crowd, LaFevers never shies away from the more gruesome aspects of this time period and death. After all, being an assassin is hardly a job or story for the faint of heart. In lesser hands, this idea could go terribly wrong but in LaFevers', it is just right. She writes complexly, challenging her readers to accept this reality.
Not only did I accept and embrace it, but I immediately started reading the sequel the day after I finished this first book.
If you like fantasy, history, and action, then pick up Grave Mercy. Learn from my mistake and don't let this one sit on the shelf - you don't know what you're missing.
Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!