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Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin Series #1)

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

39 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

While GRAVE MERCY is categorized as YA, it has one foot in the a

While GRAVE MERCY is categorized as YA, it has one foot in the adult fiction category as well. Novels like this one show how rich and diverse the genre can be. I love a good fantasy, especially one as layered and textured as this. It twines lush, slow-building romanc...
While GRAVE MERCY is categorized as YA, it has one foot in the adult fiction category as well. Novels like this one show how rich and diverse the genre can be. I love a good fantasy, especially one as layered and textured as this. It twines lush, slow-building romance (No insta-love here, rejoice!) with political intrigue, deft mystery, and the lore of Death's handmaiden. Plus, there are female assassins. Win! The story unfurls at its own pace and never feels rushed. Rather, it's one I want to savor. If you're looking at the fact that GRAVE MERCY is Book I in the HIS FAIR ASSASSIN series, fear no more: This is not one of those stories. Ismae's tale is self-contained, as are the following novels, though I expect that familiar faces will come back in passing. The second book, DARK TRIUMPH, will center around Sybella, whom we meet briefly in GRAVE MERCY. My guess is that the third (and likely final) book in the series, DARK HOPE, will revolve around Annith, a third girl from the convent of Saint Mortain.

Many of the characters in GRAVE MERCY are centered around real people that lived, making the novel historical fantasy, which can be richer than traditional fantasy when factoring in all of the original research. Robin LaFevers posted an in-depth author's note on her website rather than in her novel so that readers wouldn't be pulled out of the story. Ismae, the novel's main character, is wholly original, as is Lord Gavriel Duval, the man with whom Ismae leaves the covent on a mission to discover who has been betraying Brittany to the French. The characters were both detailed and well-fleshed out. As the novel progressed, we learned more about each one and watched their wariness of one another move tentatively to trust and onward to something deeper. Ismae is such a complex character. Her story begins with betrayal: Her father sells her into an abusive marriage, and only after her escape does she discover the convent of Saint Mortain, a place where she can learn how to be her father Death's handmaiden, a female assassin.

Once she has spent three years training at the convent, Ismae is giving a position at Lord Duval's side to be the eyes and ears of Mortain, dealing justice to anyone found to be an enemy of Brittany. She is told to trust no one, and is properly careful around Duval. And Duval! This man is one of my favorite heroes to sweep his way into the fantasy genre in quite some time. I loved the way his character was built up. LaFevers pulls back layer after layer, revealing him like an onion until you can't help but love him and his unwavering loyalty. He shares a strong connection with Ismae; their relationship is never forced or rushed the way it is in so many teen novels. Both characters have reasons to guard their hearts, so when they let that guard down, the result is beautiful and deep.

GRAVE MERCY has been on my "to read" list since the publishing deal went through in 2010. I coveted it long before the awesome cover reveal that made everyone sit up and take notice. Sometimes when this happens, my expectations are too high and the book can never meet the lofty bar I've set for it. And that's always my fault, never the book's. With GRAVE MERCY, however, I never felt let-down. I was captivated from the moment I picked the book up and I couldn't put it down until I had turned the last page.

posted by Bonnie_W on March 29, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

It was rough.

The synopsis had me interested. Assassin nuns? It sounded pretty cool. Sadly it turned out to be more of a mystery/ romance than an action packed book about assassins. Plus, i really, and i mean REALLY, had to fight to get past the first 200 pages. It was really slow an...
The synopsis had me interested. Assassin nuns? It sounded pretty cool. Sadly it turned out to be more of a mystery/ romance than an action packed book about assassins. Plus, i really, and i mean REALLY, had to fight to get past the first 200 pages. It was really slow and boring. However, i trudged on because i wanted to find out what would become of the duchess and who the traitor was. I must admit that the last 80-100 pages were way more exciting than the first 3/4 of the book. Which is why i gave it two stars. The ending was rather quick and rushed, and seemed as though it wasnt very well planned or thought through. Overall its mostly boring with a little excitement in the end and an underwhelming ending.

posted by roniVT on May 15, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2014

    Not so good

    The stupidiest thing i ever read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2014

    If u c its more than 2 pgs long

    A reveiw then dont read it. Um, #plotspoilers

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2013

    While it was a good book it was kinda boring. The first 4/5 of t

    While it was a good book it was kinda boring. The first 4/5 of the book was basically a waste of paper and time, it didn't truly get interesting until the very end. I am a huge fan of reading books in this genre (especially series) but this is one book series i will not finish.

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  • Posted August 23, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Review: Grave Mercy

    Oh man was I looking forward to this. Assassin nuns in medieval Brittany, yes please. I love historical fiction and this sounded like just that mixed with a little bit of spunk. Sadly, I think I missed something. It was nearly as good as I had built it up to be.

    I think I had Ismae's character held to a higher stander. Being a female assassin with her set of circumstances behind her, I just didn't expect her to fall in love as easily as she did. I really thought she would have more of an internal struggle. She's been through some pretty extreme things that would cause her to dislike men. Duval is the first man she's had any real contact with outside of the convent and she falls for him. Seems a little too convenient. I struggled with this fact a lot because I liked Duval too.

    I liked the historical and political parts. The intrigue with who the duchess might marry and the pull for political power was intense. I was intrigued that Duval was so involved with the court considering who he was. He would do anything to protect the duchess even at the expense of his own life. I think that's probably what makes Ismae so willing to overlook everything she's ever promised herself. But, there's almost too much information presented. It a really long book, and some of the details really drag it down. I'm not looking for a historical fiction to rival in length to the Outlander series. I think the story could have been told in much fewer pages.

    I think I was most disappointed in the lack of actual assassinating. Sure, its there a little bit. But, I wanted more of it. We barely get a glimpse of this life that Ismae has been trained for. I enjoyed that we so much of her knowledge of poisons and how it pertains to her work. I also liked how she becomes more than just a handmaiden of death.

    I will probably still read the next in the series. I'm curious as to what Ismae might do with her new knowledge of death and how she can play a part in it. Plus, I'm curious as to what might happen with the romance between her and Duval

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This book falls into the category 'Oh, I so wanted to like this

    This book falls into the category 'Oh, I so wanted to like this one more than I did'... Grave Mercy was refreshing, to start with. I mean, a convent of nuns that trains their novices to become assassins? If that doesn't scream action-packed mystery, what does? The first-person present tense narrative sucked me in immediately. It starts out great, with Ismae escaping the arranged marriage to a brutal pig farmer to be taken to the convent and to find out that she was sired by Mortain, the god of death. In fact, I loved everything about the first act: Ismae as the main character, frail and vulnerable, but will-strong and refusing to be the victim; the beginning that promised a great action; the writing, compelling and edgy.

    Possibly mild spoilers ahead:

    But after that, when Ismae is assigned her first mission, I lost interest. I was able to tell who the rat was early on, so the greatest part of the book made me hmpf and umpf in irritation about the court intrigues. What they did around the court at times felt like flogging a dead horse. Even the nuns disappointed me, so did Gavriel Duval and Ismae. I didn't feel the romance, mostly because Ismae is quite cold and detached to the very end. Of the poison-mistress, by the end all we are left with is the mistress. What she shows at the court is a far cry from what we know she is capable of. I loved the authors opinion of the convent, and how Ismae decided to part ways with them. It came as a relief.
    After the blind obedience, Ismae accepts that what the convent demands may not be what the god really wants done.

    The ending was rushed. When we eventually learn who the traitor is and the motivation behind his deeds, there's no resolution to that plotline. Also, I wanted to know more about Sybella, as she's constantly mentioned in Grave Mercy and appears only for a few brief moments. Luckily, the sequel, Dark Triumph, will revolve around her. And the plot seems intriguing as well (I have my guesses who the knight in question might be), and I'll be on the lookout for it when it comes out.

    La Fevers created an interesting concept and a set of characters that seem capable to kick your ass. Why they didn't...I don't know the answer to that. This book had its moments of greatness, laugh-out-loud, swoony and teary moments, but overall, I feel like it didn't live up to its full potential.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2012

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    I Also Recommend:

    Its a series !? I must say i didn't know that . Anyway well it w

    Its a series !? I must say i didn't know that . Anyway well it was a interesting and decent book . If you love historical fiction and killing you'd like it more then i did.
    Well i give it 3 stars .

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2012

    Grave Mercy

    Grave Mercy is the first book in the series His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers. Ismae is a 17 year old girl who has had an awful life. She is taken to the convent of St. Mortain where she learns that she is the daughter of Death, and trains to be an assassin.

    I believe this is considered a young adult historical fantasy. It almost doesn't seem like a YA book to me though, I think anyone of any age would enjoy it – if they like historical books anyway. I haven't read many historical novels so the reading was slow going for me. I'm not used the the words and phrases of this time period, so the text was sometimes distracting to me. The plot was good, but a little complex. There was so much political stuff, as well as a lot of characters.

    I would liked to have seen more romance between Ismae and Duvall. They dislike each other from the start, so it took a long time for them to warm up to one another. The chemistry builds very slowly and there are a lot of slow parts of the book. Even so, I had trouble putting it down from the anticipation of what would happen next. There is a lot of mystery involved to keep you guessing. I thought it was very well written, and the author must have put a lot of research into this book. I didn't love it, but I did like it. I would be interested in trying more books by this author.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Great YA read

    The book starts out showing you how rough of a life Ismae has had. Her mother tried to expel her from her womb with a poison that has left a hideous scar on her back. She's pretty much been shunned by everyone in her village and her father doesn't hesitate to be rid of her and arranges a marriage to a man whom knows nothing about her and is non too thrilled to find that she has been touched by Death. That is when she is whisked away to the convent where she is shone her true potential as an assassin. She is still a novice when she is sent to accompany Duval to Court as his mistress. However, while at court Ismae unlocks a lot of secrets and starts to question her faith in the convent and her feelings for Duval.

    I liked Ismae's character and liked watching her grow and become more confident in herself. But I must say that my favorite characters was the Beast. Duval's right hand man, who is unfortunate enough to have a deformed face (hence the nickname) but deep down he is a caring guy who would do anything for those under his protection. I don't know why I found myself gravitating to him when he wasn't in the story that much but there was just something about him that grabbed my attention every time he appeared in the book.

    I found the world that LaFevers created to be very interesting. A convent of assassins who's purpose is to carry out the wish of the Saint of Death? Sign me up!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 13, 2013

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