Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Copyright: 2012 (Houghton Mifflin); 548 pgs.
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Genre: Historical Fantasy (YA)
From Good Reads.com: 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?
Comments: I really enjoyed this book. It’s more historical fiction than fantasy. Ismae, the main character, is a daughter of Death — called Mortain, and that gives her certain skills. Mortain is a god, but with the coming of Christianity, the Bretons have declared their old gods saints so they can still honor them without risking the wrath of Rome. Mortain appears to be based on the god Hades.
The plot centers around Ismae’s mission of discovering who might be the traitor in Anne of Brittany’s court. France wants to add the rich duchy to its possessions, either by marriage or by force. The late duke had promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to nearly every powerful ruler in Europe with the hope of keeping the duchy independent of France. None of the betrothals were in writing, however, and a treaty with France states that any proposal must be approved by the French court.
Things are complicated by the fact that the convent’s orders are that she assassinate whoever has the mark of Mortain, but it isn’t that simple. None of the suspected plotters are marked, as far as Ismae can tell. She begins to question the order’s purpose. Are they truly guided by Mortain’s will or has human politics been allowed to influence their actions? And what about redemption? Can a person, once marked, make atonement and be spared?
Looking forward to reading the next book.
Start: 9 May 2012
Finished: 13 May 2012