Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFever
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: Pretty girl in a pretty dress, but wait! What's this? A MASSIVE CROSSBOW?! This just got much more interesting!  I love the look on the model's face and the hair and makeup are well done (though I do wish it had featured Ismae's fancy poison pearl hairnet.)  I particularly enjoyed the tagline "why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?".

The Gist:  Ismae has been sired by death.  At the hands of the Sisters of the convent of St. Mortain, she learns the art of dispatching a man from this earth and finally finds the strength to stand against the men that have filled her life with cruelty.  Sent to on assignment to the court of Brittany, she must wade into a world of secrets and intrigue and follow her own guidance about who to trust, and who to kill.

Review: This book gets an A+ for the originality of the idea.  A convent of nuns trained in the deadly arts and willing to assassinate based on the will of their God - now that is something I have not read before.  In fact, I so loved this idea that I am a little disappointed that LaFevers did not spend more time describing Ismae's training.  The opening was incredibly strong, but then instead of watching Ismae learn the skills that will allow her to kill a man in seconds (or stretch his agony out for days), we get a three year time jump which was more than a little unsatisfying.  

I enjoyed most of the characters (and the glimpses of Sybella made me long for the next installment in this series).  Ismae is strong willed, though young and inexperienced.  I loved her cold hearted certainty and willingness to follow her convent's orders without question.  However, I found her less enjoyable as she developed a conscience.  I was also thrilled to read descriptions of the weapons that she carried rather than the diatribes about sumptuous gowns that one often finds in period novels.  

Despite the strong opening and a very interesting premise, the plot had a tendency to lag.  For a book about an assassin, it was sorely lacking in assassinations.  I like politic intrigue as much as the next reader, but after pages and pages of political maneuvering I was practically foaming at the mouth for some bloodshed!  As for the mystery element, it is laughably transparent who is to blame for the current state of affairs and I kept waiting for some plot twist because surely it couldn't be this obvious, alas - it was.  
I will be back for the second book in this trilogy, mostly because I am intrigued by Sybella but also because I am too in love with the concept of deadly nuns to give up hope for a dark and compelling sequel.  Stay Tuned.
Teaching/Parental Notes:
Age: 15 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: One instance, tastefully written
Violence: Domestic abuse, garotting, poisoning, shooting with arrow, knife play
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse: Drinking of wine 
Additional Notes:  This is a decent introduction into historical fiction 


Post a Comment