Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is the first book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. It’s a series I put in my Series I Plan to Read in 2016 video since I’ve heard such wonderful things about it from several credible sources. Plus, it follows an assassin so that certainly caught my interest. As someone who hadn’t really enjoyed historical novels in the past (until I learned I recently that I actually LOVE them see: Hamilton and Passenger), I had been expecting to have a difficult time getting into Grave Mercy but I was completely wrong. Once I learned everyone’s names (which was a little bit confusing in the beginning), I found I had no problem enjoying the story and reading at my normal pace.
Our main character is named Ismae and she is the daughter of Mortain, the Saint of Death. After a horrible childhood with an even worse stepfather, he sells her to a farmer for three coins. Ismae has a scar on her leg from her mother attempting to abort her so she is viewed as undesirable. On her wedding night, she get whisked away by a man who takes her to a convent that serves Mortain and after being tested, she accepts her new role as an assassin of Death. I was shocked at how quickly Isame was willing to accept her new job offer but after being wronged by so many people I suppose I should’ve seen that coming. I had honestly expected her to be hemming and hawing for a good portion of the novel but I’m so happy it was a quick decision because the remaining pages were used to tell a very captivating tale. I love Ismae as a character. She is eager to learn and serve her convent and despite what might seem like an impulsive first decision, she is very thoughtful in her actions henceforth. I also love Duvall who strongly values family and puts his sister, the Duchess Anne above all else. He protects her in ways that none of her other trusted advisers do. Additionally, I also grew very fond of Duvall’s most trusted men, but particularly Beast. These characters have secured a place in my heart and I cannot wait to find out more about them.
Seeing as how this is an historical novel, I would be remiss not to mention the intriguing setting of Brittany in the 15th century. After completing the novel, I read the author’s note, only to find out how historically accurate all of her characters (with the exception of two) and much of the plot were (minus the whole Death’s daughter as an assassin thing). For me, it is fascinating to learn about history when I can feel a deep connection to the characters involved instead of the dry recounts found in modern textbooks so everything about this story really worked for me. I had so many feelings about what was going on and especially toward the latter half of the book I could feel my heart pounding in my chest while I read. The fantasy elements interwoven in Grave Mercy enhanced the overall story and would add just as much if they were only metaphorical. I love everything about the lore of the assassins, the tense atmosphere due to French threats in Brittany and the fate of these beloved pawns in an intricate political game. As I understand it, the second book focuses on another character who meet in this book, but I’m still eager to find out more of the story!
Final Thoughts: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is the first book in the His Dark Assassin trilogy and it follows Ismae, an assassin who serves as her father Mortain, the Saint of Death. I was completely captivated by Isame’s tale and the political situations in 15th century Brittany. Robin LaFevers totally nailed it and I would highly recommend giving this series a read if you’re into historical fiction with fantasy elements.
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? (via Goodreads)