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Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin Series #1)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

40 out of 42 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

6 out of 10 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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  • Posted May 12, 2013

    Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilog

    Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy) is another book that had me from "Hello" - or rather from the moment I first laid eyes on the cover!  What a gorgeous cover that all but shows a strong character during a time when men have characteristically been the ones to fight a battle.  Anyway, the cover is just the beginning of a very beautifully told intriguing and historic story of politics, love and death. 

    Author, Robin LaFevers, does a remarkable job giving the reader very detailed descriptions of not only the characters but the locations and political climate throughout the novel.  Grave Mercy has it all: love, murder, poison, honor, suspense and death.  

    Our main character, Ismae, joins the convent of Saint Mortain (Saint of Death) after her situation turns hopeless.  Once at the convent she is trained to become an assassin - true Daughter of Death.  Ismae's next assignment seems straight forward, kill the traitor at court and protect the Duchess of Brittany, but this assignment turns out to have a fair amount of gray area, lots of politics and a possible love interest. 

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I absolutely love reading a book blurb and thinking, "I hav

    I absolutely love reading a book blurb and thinking, "I have never read anything remotely similar to this".

    That's exactly what crossed through my mind when I read the synopsis for Grave Mercy. There weren't a lot of reviews associated with the book, but I saw that it was repeatedly recommended by other authors I love so I figured I would give it a try.

    I couldn't be happier. Grave Mercy is an action packed novel that rarely stops to breathe and had me hooked by the end of the first chapter.

    The book follows Ismae, a seventeen year old novice living in a convent of trained nun assassins.

    Yes, you read that correctly.

    After being sold off into marriage at 14 by her heartless father, Ismae escapes to a convent off the coast of Brittany, where she learns that her real father is actually Mortaine, the god of death. Blessed with special powers, Ismae begins her training to fulfill her duty as a handmaiden of death.

    After three years of being trained in the arts of combat and killing (she excels in the poison department), Ismae is sent outside of the convent on her first big assignment. She must infiltrate the court of Anne, Duchess of Brittany, find out who Anne's enemies are, and dispatch them. But Anne's court is a nest of vipers, and any one of them could be a spy for France, including Duval, Anne's half-brother and the man Ismae is slowly losing her heart to.


    The book sets fictional characters like Ismae and her convent co-conspirators smack dab in the middle of real life historical figures and events and does so with an air of authenticity that helps to build a world that is both intriguing as well as believable. It's clear that author Robin LaFevers did her research and the result is a seamless integration of reality and fantasy.

    I very highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys exceptionally strong female characters, historical fiction with just a dash of paranormal influence, and romance that doesn't overpower the story.

    I'm looking forward to the sequel Dark Triumph.

    I give Grave Mercy four out of five stars.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Have Mercy I absolutely love reading a book blurb and thinking,

    Have Mercy

    I absolutely love reading a book blurb and thinking, "I have never read anything remotely similar to this".

    That's exactly what crossed through my mind when I read the synopsis for Grave Mercy. There weren't a lot of reviews associated with the book, but I saw that it was repeatedly recommended by other authors I love so I figured I would give it a try.

    I couldn't be happier. Grave Mercy is an action packed novel that rarely stops to breathe and had me hooked by the end of the first chapter.

    The book follows Ismae, a seventeen year old novice living in a convent of trained nun assassins.

    Yes, you read that correctly.

    After being sold off into marriage at 14 by her heartless father, Ismae escapes to a convent off the coast of Brittany, where she learns that her real father is actually Mortaine, the god of death. Blessed with special powers, Ismae begins her training to fulfill her duty as a handmaiden of death.

    After three years of being trained in the arts of combat and killing (she excels in the poison department), Ismae is sent outside of the convent on her first big assignment. She must infiltrate the court of Anne, Duchess of Brittany, find out who Anne's enemies are, and dispatch them. But Anne's court is a nest of vipers, and any one of them could be a spy for France, including Duval, Anne's half-brother and the man Ismae is slowly losing her heart to.


    The book sets fictional characters like Ismae and her convent co-conspirators smack dab in the middle of real life historical figures and events and does so with an air of authenticity that helps to build a world that is both intriguing as well as believable. It's clear that author Robin LaFevers did her research and the result is a seamless integration of reality and fantasy.

    I very highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys exceptionally strong female characters, historical fiction with just a dash of paranormal influence, and steamy romances that don't overpower the story.

    I'm looking forward to the sequel Dark Triumph.

    I give Grave Mercy four out of five stars.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Grave mercy

    This book is BOMB!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2012

    Enjoyable read

    Although i really enjoyed this read, the plot seemed a bit forced in the beginning. I would have preferred more plot development in the beginning of the book during her training. After that, though, I really liked it! Looking forward to the sequel!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    good book

    I truely enjoyed this story.it was fun watching the main character grow into herself and into her faith at the same time.the bad guy of the story was not well hidden though but i enjoyed the story none the less.





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  • Posted August 15, 2012

    Set in 1485 ¿Brittany,¿ this novel¿s time period seems to be set

    Set in 1485 “Brittany,” this novel’s time period seems to be set at the
    end of the Dark Ages and the dawn of the Renaissance. Ismae has lived
    her life in the worst of the Dark Ages. Her mother was forced to try to
    abort her, her father has beaten her, and she has lived in a decrepit
    hovel – always hungry and cold. Despite a moment of hope for a better
    life, Ismae finds that the “husband” who bought her from her father
    wants only one thing…but then begins beating her when he finds the long,
    red scar on her back that marks her as Death’s daughter. Then, she is
    saved by the very scar that has caused her to be a pariah all her life.
    A convent of nuns who serve St. Mortain, the god of Death, searches for
    and trains girls like Ismae who have been marked as one of Death’s own.
    She is trained to be an assassin, protecting the rights and life of the
    young duchess of Brittany who is plagued by many suitors and others who
    would take her throne. When she enters court life with the duchess’s
    handsome brother, Duval, by her side, she enters Renaissance life. A
    place where some people she meets use reason and loyalty rather than
    superstition and old religion to guide them. However, the palace and
    gowns do not turn her away from her purpose of finding those who would
    do the young duchess harm. LaFevers’ plot and characters drew me into
    the story. First, I was filled with sympathy for Ismae – wondering at
    the cruelty directed at her for being poor, a female, and scarred –
    through no fault of her own. Then, I was so entertained by the
    description of the nun’s school for assassins. Their enjoyment of their
    work, and the two friends Ismae makes there are great to read about. The
    descriptions of the afterlife when Ismae exercises her unique talent are
    sometimes reassuring and other times chilling. Then, the intrigue of the
    court and the attraction between Ismae and Duval kept my interest until
    the end. The author created an inviting, mystical world.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    Check this out!

    Covered an area of history I seldom see with a hint of the paranormal. It is more for older teens so beware. Looking forward to more from this author.

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  • Posted June 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I’ve been drawn to allure of assassins for a while now. H

    I’ve been drawn to allure of assassins for a while now. However, my proclivities for assassin love had not yet extended to my reading habits. Grave Mercy is the first novel I’ve read about assassins, and it was a good one at that. Ismae has been a victim all her life. Her mother tried to expel her from her womb with a poison, leaving her disfigured with death’s mark. It is a source of shame for her, as she has been mocked and teased all her life. However, the superstitious association with her mark is much darker, as it brands her the daughter of Death. When she is forced into a deceptive arranged marriage, it is her husband’s glimpse of the mark that causes him to beat her mercilessly. However, it is also the meaning of her mark that allows her to escape to a convent serving the patron saint of death, St. Mortain. There she is trained in the arts and gifts she will need to begin her new life as an assassin, a handmaiden to Death himself.

    Grave Mercy is a historical fiction novel with elements of fantasy, romance, mystery, crime, politics and betrayal. The novel is set in 15th century Brittany. Fans of European history may recognize the historical roots of the story — following the death of late Duke Francis II, the Bretons are attempting to secure the future of the independent Duchy of Brittany from France by ensuring the installation of Anne as Duchess. Ismae’s first assignment is to observe and act in the high court of Brittany, protecting the Duchess and delivering vengeance upon those marked as traitors by her patron saint, Mortain. Despite her training, Ismae is unprepared for what she finds there.

    I enjoyed the novel quite a lot, even though it is considerably different from what I normally read. I hadn’t been a great fan of historical fiction thusfar, unless it had a big dose of steampunk favor and alternate history thrown in. In this novel, I found myself appreciating the historical setting. Again, I think this takes me back to video games and movies, where I like medieval settings. LaFevers did an excellent job immersing me in the time and place. It seemed to be rather historically accurate, from what I know, and there were no distracting disconnects from the setting (i.e., dialogue or other things that disrupt the reader’s immersion in the olden time). The idea of assassin nuns was definitely an intriguing one to me. I especially liked the character of Ismae. She had been abused all her life in different ways by her family and superstitious villagers. Watching her grow as she rises up from being the victim of a violent arranged marriage to a strong assassin to an independent woman that feels comfortable making her own decisions (even if she is afraid she is betraying the will of her god) is a treat, as I am a sucker for strong female characters rising up from questionable beginnings. Her slowly developing romance with Duval is also enjoyable, as are the supporting characters like Duval’s companions and Anne.

    I’d recommend this novel to those with interest in the blurb. It’s definitely something different — a historical story of political intrigue, supernatural saints, talented assassins, betrayal and love. I found it to be an enjoyable ride, and I look forward to the next installment in the My Fair Assassin series.

    This book was obtained freely from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Saints preserve us, I do love me some EPIC

    I expected GRAVE MERCY to somehow channel a fairy tale feel – maybe badass Red Riding Hood with a crossbow – given the cover and the tagline. I hate to break it to you, dear Readers, but this is no fairy tale. Nay, GRAVE MERCY is an intense EPIC fueled with dark and gritty details. Robin LaFevers has built a fascinating world built upon old magic and politics.

    Ismae is a tough character to love, but I think that may be partly due to the fact that she has been a sheltered life that has ill-prepared her to interact normally and comfortably with people. Although she has the itch to assassinate traitors, Ismae is hardly the experienced assassin as Celaena Sardothien. She still is in her “training wheels” stage where she can have an assignment go smoothly, but that is due to 80% pure luck and 20% skill. Not to mention, if I were in Ismae’s shoes and caught in the tangled web of politics, I probably would be on edge as well and not trust anyone with my back. I had hoped that Ismae would mellow out or show a little marshmallow middle, but she remained a strong and resolute personality that warranted respect and maybe fear but never the hug that I so wanted to give her.

    The story slowly but steadily builds to the point where Ismae comes face-to-face with the truth and has to weigh her options on the right course of action. St. Mortain, the old god of Death, expects her to kill those who have earned the marque to die, but when Ismae learns that this is not as black-and-white as the convent led her to believe, she gets a rude awakening into the gray area where change of heart occurs. I cannot say that there was a definitive climax – that high point where everything comes together before it plummets to the end; instead, the story remains steadfast in its intensity that I probably held my breath with anticipation for a solid 200 pages.

    There was not a whole lot of romance despite the promising hint of one. My lack of reaction may be a result of my love for the headier romances where I see more heated interactions (not necessarily without clothes, but the tug-of-war bantering and emotional rollercoaster). Ismae and Duval had a few good exchange of words, but I did not quite feel the pull of their attraction. The romance was expected and established, but I thought both parties seemed a bit stiff –and, like I mentioned earlier, Ismae is a tough cookie to love and she never really melted enough to welcome love into her life. I don’t know how else to explain it. I was a little disappointed with how this romance panned out.

    I can see fans of The Scorpio Races or the Beka Cooper series gravitating towards GRAVE MERCY because it travels on the same EPIC wavelength. Robin LaFevers has created such a fierce young woman that will demand attention and, trust me, it will be awfully hard to look away! I am curious to see what Book 2 will bring; it is supposed to focus on another fair assassin, but I am not sure if Ismae will also make an appearance. I kinda of want to have my cake and eat it too, so I hope Robin LaFevers will spoil us!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    A good first novel

    Some of the language was weird but overall it was very enjoyable

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  • Posted May 20, 2012

    Really good

    I think I had a hard time getting into this book right away because it was different from what I normally read. I really like the early England romance. But I found I really like this when I gave it a chance because it mixes what I normally like along with mystery (who done it kind of thing). I would recomend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2012

    Different Sort of Heroine

    I really enjoyed this book that read like a historical fiction. I really enjoyed the setting and the characters.
    The chapters were short, so it was perfect to be able to take a short break, read a few and get on with whatever I was doing.

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  • Posted May 7, 2012

    highly recommend

    Characters are well thought out and the book leaves you wanting to read the next episode

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  • Posted May 3, 2012

    Worth Reading

    This is one of those books hard to classify. It has some of the feel of a YA novel, but the subject matter and some of the themes are more adult in nature. The intimate scenes are not graphic, but the love interest in question is most definitely an adult man. Maybe you'd call it a bridge novel? Anyway, the story kept me hooked right from the start. For lovers of historical fiction and court intrique, this book delivers. The premise of a convent of girl assasins may sound hokey at first, but it really works in this novel. I'm looking forward to #2 in the series.

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  • Posted May 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This book was utterly...fascinating. It was at times brutal and

    This book was utterly...fascinating. It was at times brutal and very dark, but it was always fascinating. The premise of a convent where young women are trained to be both nuns and assassins was highly original, if rather strange. I was worried that I would find it difficult to sympathize with the heroine, but her feelings were so real and understandable that I couldn't help but like Ismae.

    Robin LaFevers is a master at description and atmosphere. You never once felt like you were anywhere but in medieval Europe. One of the reasons that I love me stories set in medieval time is for all of the politics and intrigues that go on in a kingdom, or, in this case, a duchy. In that respect, this book was perfect.

    I wondered how the author would handle assassinations being carried out by a teenage girl, but you quickly realize that Ismae is no girl. She is despised by her parents throughout her 'childhood', until her father sells her to a man for a few measly coins. This upbringing gives her the motivation needed to kill, coldly and without mercy. If she had stayed that way through the whole novel I might have given up, but when she becomes exposed to the world she learns to forgive and think for herself.

    Gavriel Duval is a fantastic love interest. Loyal to a fault, it is easy to like him from the very beginning. He is as dismayed as Ismae when they find themselves unwilling allies in their efforts to reveal (Duval) and destroy (Ismae) the young duchess's enemies - of which she has many. Thankfully, Duval and Ismae have some likable and heroic friends in the form of de Lornay and Beast. (I am really hoping to see more of Beast in the next book.)

    I would not recommend this book to everyone, due to the dark and at times disturbing elements, but I enjoyed it a great deal and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark fantasy and historical fiction (though it isn't technically historical). The sequel will be about Sybilla, a fellow assassin of Ismae's, and I can't wait to read it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2012

    What a great book! Who doesn't love a strong heroine who knows

    What a great book! Who doesn't love a strong heroine who knows how to kick some butt!?! I think my favorite part was how Robin LaFevers used Brittany as the tapestry on which to paint the plot. It really gave the book depth. I will definitely be reading the other books in this series!

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  • Posted April 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I was really excited to receive this one from the publisher, rea

    I was really excited to receive this one from the publisher, really excited (I'm pretty sure I screamed when I opened the mailbox). When I began reading it I found the story intriguing and the style diverse and new for me, but I had a hard time giving it my full attention. About a quarter way through the book I started to fly through pages. When the story gets going it is a remarkable and captivating read with a lively assassin to root for and villains to be discovered. Robin writes a fantastic historical fiction for readers of any genre and mixes in the perfect amount of fantasy and magic. My advice? Check it out for sure!

    I haven't read any other books by Robin LaFevers, but I can't wait to start. I'm also anxious for the second book in this series, Dark Triumph, I'm sure it will be an epic follow up.
    “Surely He does not give us hearts so we may spend our lives ignoring them.”
    Ismae is a resilient character full of fire and a need for revenge. In the beginning of the story she is young and frail, unable to protect herself against the demons of her world. Her future is shaped when she is brought to the convent of death and trained to do his dirty work. Asking no questions she begins a new life killing traitors bearing marques by her god, Mortain. But, as she rises in her stance and unwillingly falls in love she begins to question all that she has been taught. The author's use of historical politics and days at court created a well rounded adventure story that I had a hard time being away from.

    Ismae's story is one of death, love, mystery, challenge, vengeance, and above all trust. I am very impressed with the amount of personality and individuality the author is able to portray in her characters over the length of this novel. One of my favorites is Beast, you have to read it to see why.

    Overall this book is a magical addition to any bookshelf and one I really recommend. I am impressed and awed at the fresh story implemented through smooth flowing language. It's a great read, not only for YA but anyone.
    “When one consorts with assassins, one must expect to dance along the edge of a knife once or twice.”

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    Ryan

    Im not in the mood for retarded games.... **walks back to scarlet leter**

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Once again trying to go a little beyond what I normally would re

    Once again trying to go a little beyond what I normally would read, I decided to try another Historical Fiction novel. I will start off by saying that history was not a topic I really enjoyed very much when I was in school. As an adult I have found I do enjoy it much more, but it's still not high on my like list. So that being said, when I do read novels that are based on historical times and events it is very hit or miss. This story is very heavy on the events happening at the time, but the writing was very wonderful and it kept me interested. There is a lot more going on the the historical events though. This book is full of secret, betrayal, romance, and murder. I eventually ended up doing a web search for the time period and gave myself a mini history lesson. I was able to really enjoy the book after that.


    Ismae was awesome!! I loved her character. She has had a pretty rough life. I think that her rough life has made her tough. She has such a fierce personality. She also has some good humor too. I was cracking up at a few of the things that she said. I loved watching how she grows and changes through the book. Being a hand maiden of Death, she is all about destroying the people she is set out to get rid of. That is her purpose. She knows that she can not go against Death's orders. She must do his bidding. The longer she is at the heart of the situation in Brittany, the more she questions things. She knows that she must let Death guide her, but thinks that there may be other ways than to just kill out of vengeance.

    Okay now onto Duval. Swoon-tastic!! He is just so great. As the story progresses I could not help but fall in love with him right along with Ismae. It was fantastic how their relationship progressed and developed. They go from reluctantly working together at a common goal, to slowly realizing that they have feelings for each other. It is a perfectly developed romance. No insta-love here, just a nice gradual build up.


    If you love historical novels this is definitely a book for you. If I hadn't been so confused at first, and if historical was my thing I would totally have loved this book. I really enjoyed it, but it was a bit heavy on the history for me. I absolutely loved everything else about it though. Fantastic writing, kick ass female heroine, swoon worthy male love interest, and not to mention action and killing!! There are some really great twists to the story too. Now that I am more familiar with the time period and events, I am really looking forward to the next book Dark Triumph, which will be told from Sybella's POV. 3.5 out of 5 stars

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