Rummanah Aasi
 One of the most talked about book of this month is Robin LaFevers's His Fair Assassin series. The first book in the series, Grave Mercy, has been marketed quite heavily including with an exclusive, limited time advanced reader's copy of the book thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. Grave Mercy is a great start to what seems like a fabulous new historical fantasy series that should attract many readers. I know it has my absolute attention.

Description (from the publisher): 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?

Review: Grave Mercy is a dark, rich, and gorgeous beginning of a historical fantasy series. Robin LaFevers has created an unique world blending history, mythology, political intrigue, and religion all into one. If you read any review of this book, you can easily tell that the main draw was learning about nun assassins. Yes, that's what initially caught my interest too; however, that quickly wore off and I was more wrapped up in learning about LaFevers world and the complex characters that she created.
  At first glance, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to finish Grave Mercy due to its 400+ pages, but once I started the book it was hard for me to put it down. I found myself thoroughly engaged with the plot and had to know what was going to happen next. I had devoured 11 chapters right away on a late night, which rarely happens. The book is really a stunning and impressive read. 
   The plot was unique and riveting. We are transported to the late fifteenth century where Mortain, the god of death, has sired Ismae to be his handmaiden. She will carry out his wishes by working through the Convent, an abbess of nun assassins, where she has found refuge from a brutal and abusive father and husband. After learning the Convent’s true purpose and becoming its pupil, Ismae is sent to her first, true mission at the high court of Brittany, ostensibly as the "cousin" (or what we could call mistress) of the Breton noble Duval. While she wears the cloak of a consort, Ismae is really the Covent's eyes and ears as a spy. Her tacit assignment is to protect the young duchess at all costs, which isn't easy as it seems as Ismae delves deeper into political conspiracies where friend and foe can't easily be identified.
  The characters were remarkable and memorable. I loved Ismae as a heroine. Her rough and abusive past has trained her to keep her walls up. Her first person narration allows the reader to get inside of her head and warm up to her. She refuses to no longer be the powerless woman who lives like a leaf blowing in the wind with hopes that a man will treat her kindly. She is drawn to the Convent because it allows her to gain skill, confidence, and reinstating her power which was taken away from her. Like all good heroines, Ismae isn't perfect. She talks before she thinks, has her own insecurities of not being graceful or lady-like, and blindly follows the rules she has been taught. Most readers have indicated Ismae's awkwardness towards her love interest, but I thought her uneasiness was real given to her shaky male interactions in her past. Throughout the book she progresses from a scared, fragile young woman to an intelligent, strong, woman who learns to trust other people and follow her heart and gut to do the right thing.
   Duval was an outstanding character and for the most part of the book an enigma to me. Like Ismae, I wasn't sure what his intentions were but he quickly began to grow on me. He is intelligent, wise, brave and loving. His loyalty to his country and sister was admirable. Though he didn't care for Ismae at all in the beginning, he always respected her and treated her well. Their romance is slow burning though it crackles with romantic tension in the quiet moments that they share on the page. Though we see the flicker of romance come alive in this book, I really hope we get to it burn in the next book.
  There were many great secondary characters in the book, however, I became very close to Anne, the young duchess. She epitomized the role of women at the time- a play thing for a man to enjoy and toss away. Anne is well aware that her marriage will most likely be a political contract, which is not unusual for monarchies at this time. Her life is in constant danger yet she kept calm and put her faith in her trusted advisers. 

  Unlike most readers, I was really intrigued about the religious aspects of the book. I recognized some of the names from the Celtic pantheon, however, I wasn't able to find any information about the central figure in the book, Mortain, the God of Death. I was confused how the word 'god' and 'saint' were used interchangeably as they seem to have two very different connotations. An author's note could have cleared up the confusion, but it wasn't included in the advanced reader's copy nor in the published copy of the book. This was the only flaw I could find in the book, however, it didn't make me lose interest in the story nor the characters.
  Readers interested in political intrigue, historical fantasy, and a strong female main character should definitely check out this series. I'm already looking forward to the next book which comes out next year. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is a few attempted rape scenes, crude humor, allusions to sex, and some strong violence. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Study series by Maria V. Snyder, Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray, Starcrossed by Elizabeth Bunce, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Fire by Kristin Cashore
3 Responses
  1. If I remember correctly, the book suggests that the patron saints used to be worshipped as gods but then with the rise of Christianity, they became saints.

    I loved Ismae and Duval and their romance too, Rummanahm, and the secondary characters were extremely well-done. I can't wait for book two! I'm a little sad that it won't be from Ismae's POV but it will be from Sybella's so I'll take that because even though you don't see much of her, I found her fascinating.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    AHHH-Epe-and Ahhhhh....I got a special eyes only arc of this one from the pub on Netgalley and I forgot to read it!!!!! Im CRYING real tears now....:(

    I really cannot wait to read this one, it looks and sounds really great, awesome look into the book Rummanah.

  3. I have to say this book is a bloggy has been round and round the bloggy sphere. I am glad you enjoyed it as well. I can't wait to pick it up. I liked that you added your list of cautions as well.

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