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Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin Series #1)

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

38 out of 40 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 8 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 March 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    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 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.

    38 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Ha! Ha HA!! What an exhilarating ride!!! This book pulls tog

    Ha! Ha HA!! What an exhilarating ride!!!

    This book pulls together some of my most favorite things, weaving a new story with new characters and depths. As I read, I felt growing satisfaction… that THIS is what I had always hoped for and didn't even know it.

    I loved so many things about this book. The concept is rich – Ismae (love the name!!) is rescued from abuse, smuggled across the country to a Convent fortress where she is trained in the arts of Killing. It’s like Cinderella + Graceling. What a fun combination!

    I don’t don't much about history, so the setting might as well been a new fantasy world, for all I knew (or cared). The French-sounding names were exotic and the politics felt exactly like a complicated chess game, (the author's intention). There is gritty reality behind the impossible choices, which I absolutely loved. So often, especially when big, multiple kingdoms are involved, the answer is obvious & predictable, so “impossible” was refreshingly frustrating.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the deities of Britain. Does anyone know if this is historical? There are 8 (9?) Gods transformed to “saints” to conform to the times. Mortain, the god of death, adds depth to the entire story. I was never certain how Ismae was literally conceived by him, but I love, LOVE the idea that she is a daughter of God. Absolutely. And that the Convent believes that only it – or specifically the Abbess – knows what Mortain wants, while the question is raised as to whether the Convent is above deception? Doubt is cast on the Convent, even while relationship with Mortain Himself is strengthened.

    Ismae is a fun character. I slipped inside her skin so effortlessly, so that I still feel rather dangerous with various weapons strapped in hiding spots up my sleeves and skirts. (Ha!) I thought for sure I would learn all the in’s & out’s of her training at the Convent – like Paksennarian or The Song of the Lioness series. Instead, the story dives right into Ismae’s assignments. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was wondering how complicated this story would get if we leapt right through so much excitement so fast. She is intelligent & brave (rather than fearless). I love getting her thoughts behind each action, and I love her fast reflexes!!

    Duval is also very fun. He has layers of reactions and motivations to figure out, while being at the same time, highly enticing. Suspicious and sexy at the same time!! I was right there with Ismae as she experienced new love (great budding romance!) while remaining true to her beliefs and her deep conviction to serve the God of Death. When traitors abound, everyone is suspect!!

    Many of the secondary characters had surprising depth. Duval’s closest friends keep revealing greater depths, the council surrounding the Duchess holds surprises, the Convent and the handmaidens of Death have lots of secrets that they don’t give up even by the end of the story.

    The Duchess & her sister felt shallow to me, but if I was in either of their shoes, I could only hope to be as brave & decisive as they were. I'd probably run away.

    Grave Mercy does not have a cliff-hanger ending, but it does leave loose ends – rather loud loose ends. I wondered how the author could sleep at night without resolving these. (Ha!) Until I noted what book 2 in the series will be about… and entire book devoted to at least two of those loose ends, which gives me hope for the third, too. (Ack!! I hate not spoiler-talking!)

    As I read, I kept thinking of similar books I love. The court scenes reminded me of Crown Duel, which I love! Sometimes I was reminded me of King Arthur or Robin Hood or somewhere in between ‘em (all the Britain stuff - either inner fighting or against France). I already mentioned Cinderella, Paksennarion and the Song of Lioness… not to mention Graceling. What if Katsa had a different motivation for doing her killing job? Hehehehe And yet, Grave Mercy is unique, too. Some of the best of all of 'em rolled into something new.

    Cover Commentary: Love it. I love the red dress, with the windblown wild look & the suspicious back glance… especially with the castle and storm clouds in the background. The crossbow makes the picture for me, although it seems a little large for the weapon she hid in her skirts. I suppose of they’d given her a wee little crossbow, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. Lol.

    My Rating: 5 - LOVE IT!! I think this is one of my favorite books. I definitely want this book on my bookshelf collection to reread when the urge hits, ‘cause it definitely will! It may be 500+ pages long, but I couldn’t put it down!!

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    The cover is awesome. The story had me hooked. Great Read!

    The cover is awesome. The story had me hooked. Great Read!

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2012

    Despite the fact that I read a ton (like several books a week) I

    Despite the fact that I read a ton (like several books a week) I have never posted a review to B&N. Until now, that is. This book absolutely blew me away. I bought it because of the favorable editorial reviews, but wasn't expecting a lot. Turned out to be phenomenal, from top to bottom.

    The characters in this book are so well written and realistic, it is hard not to understand and love them from the outset. Ismae, the main character, is nuanced and strong. She has a mind of her own, enough to question the stories she has been told and carve out her own path while staying true to her beliefs. The romance added just the right touch- it was not the focus of the story, but it was really lovely to see blossom as the characters grew to trust one another.

    The only thing I wish is that the book had been even longer! Though I do believe it ended very well. I am excited to read more of the story when the sequels come out- though it seems they do not focus on Ismae, I hope we will still see her from time to time. Overall an excellent book I recommend not only to those who enjoy historical fiction, but really anyone who is looking for something new. You won't be disappointed!

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I am so in love with this book! I devoured this book in a day an

    I am so in love with this book! I devoured this book in a day and couldn't put it down. Every single moment of the book had me hooked and even with how big the book is, I read every single word and LOVED IT! I know that some people were slightly disappointed that there wasn't much "assassinations" happening in the book and it was mostly political scheming and plotting, however i have a faint heart and I am so glad that even the killing scenes weren't graphic! Also I loved the political talk in the book and while some people did find it confusing, Robin had two pages at the beginning of the book of all the names and their positions so you wouldn't get too confused. I have to admit that I flipped back and forth several times, but I was never lost, in fact I was fascinated that Robin could create such a complicated and strong plot.

    The story is set in the late 1400s and revolves around Ismae, who you will know to be a handmaiden to Death. She escapes an cruel arranged marriage and is put in the St. Mortain convent and taught to be an assassin. Her targets come from the god of Death Himself through a marque on the victim. On Ismae's third mission, she ends up traveling with the mysterious Duval to the high courts of Brittany, where she needs to keep close watch for any traitors to Brittany. This is when the scheming, plotting, and political backstabbing starts, and oh I ate it all up! I am especially fond of plots with these themes because I find them to be suspenseful, exciting, and just original. You discover many shocking secrets and have to grip the edge of your seat while your heart is pounding 5 times faster trying to read as fast as you can to find out just what happens next.

    I loved Ismae, she was smart, caught on to things pretty quickly, rational, and wasn't smitten with love the first chance she got to experience it. She began to question her knowledge of her covenant and her teachings at the right times so I didn't have to pull my hair and start one of my yelling sessions, good thing since i was reading it in the middle of the night and didn't want to wake anyone up! As for the romance in the book, I feel that this was what softened Ismae's heart and caused her to question her beliefs and heal some of her emotional scars. Duval was such a gentleman and I loved how loyal he was to his duties and how gentle he was with Ismae. To sum it up, I am totally in love with Grave Mercy and will be raving about it for a while until I get more people to read it and discuss it. Robin LaFevers delivered a strong debut, one that is going on my all time favorite books of 2012. The only downside to all of this is that now I have to wait a full year for the second book!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Surprisingly good introduction to a new series

    This book really surprised me. At first, I didn't know that it was set on the cusp of the High Middle Ages/Early Renaissance period. Once I found that out, I figured the book would bore me and that I wouldn't be able to connect to the character at all. However, I was wrong. Ismae has a terrible life until the people of the convent take her in. She is angry and bitter and ready to kill any man who dares to look at her, and the convent gives her the means and tools to do so. Over the course of the novel, though, she learns that life and death are both more complicated than she thought. Grave Mercy has strong characters, a captivating plot, and endless action. LaFevers will keep you guessing from the first page until the very last.


    The book starts out kind of slowly. It held my interest from page one, but the pages didn't start flying by until Ismae went to court. Then I could not put the book down. LaFevers holds true to the time period by having her characters speak properly. She goes through all of the rigid manners there, but somehow the dialogue doesn't fall flat. I thought the lack of contractions would bother me, but it didn't. She wasn't true to the dialogue of the region or the time period, thankfully, but she did hold true to the proper dialogue used in the higher echelons of society during the 1600s and beyond. I, for one, am glad that I didn't have to read a mixture of French and Gaelic, which was spoken in Bretagne at that time. There were some random French words throughout the narrative, but mainly just "merde," in place of obscenities, and "enchante," which I think everyone can translate. I didn't even notice the lack of contractions until the end of the book when I was like, "wow, that didn't bother me at all."


    Overall, I felt fully immersed in the time period, and because of LaFevers' wonderful world building, I could picture every place Ismae went, down to the types of clothes people were wearing. LaFevers doesn't overly explain things, she just gives enough description to get your imagination working, and I really liked that. She was very good at showing instead of telling, which you guys probably know by now is very important to me.


    The characters in this book were extremely well-developed, and I found myself attached to certain characters that I didn't even know I'd grown attached to until much later. Every single character, from Ismae, to the smallest secondary character, had a fully developed personality. And each character had his or her own quirks. No one was perfect, and no one was a cookie-cutter or stereotype. The characters added so much depth to this novel, and since I am a character person, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each and every character. My favorites were Ismae (of course), Duval, and Beast. Ismae was extremely complex, and even though I couldn't relate to her all the time (I've never wanted to be an assassin, haha), I could sympathize with her. I cared what happened to her, and I knew that she wasn't as cold-hearted as she wanted to be. It was fascinating to see how her character grew and changed over the course of this novel.


    The plot of this book was a bit complicated, but I was able to keep everything straight, which is a testament to what a good author LaFevers is. Court life, apparently, was extremely involved, and everyone was out to screw everyone else over. The pages flew by. I couldn't put the book down!

    I would recommend this

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Originally posted on my blog: The Bibliophile's Corner I don&rs

    Originally posted on my blog: The Bibliophile's Corner

    I don’t think I have ever read a historical book about Brittany, but I definitely want to read more. The setting, the writing, honestly everything, was simply beautiful. The idea of assassin trained nuns is brilliant. Part of me wishes that this would have been an adult book so that the author could have gone into a bit more into this world of assassins.

    When it comes to characters, this book is well filled with fleshed out and people that I could imagine perfectly. First we have, Ismae. She is beautiful, strong, and has serious trust issues. I particularly loved how she developed in this book. It was almost painfully slow, but that’s why I loved it. She didn’t immediately morph into some completely different person, but gradually changed as she got closer to those around her.

    Duvall is a wonderful counterpart to Ismae. He too has serious trust issues, but then again, I would too if people kept trying to attack my little sister’s authority. From the beginning, I found myself a lot like Ismae. Weary of him, but at the same time just couldn’t connect this fiercely loyal man with a traitor. Not only did I find myself falling in love with his character, but also his best friends. Beast, a legend on the battlefield and de Lorney, a legend with the ladies. Both men were such good friends to Duvall and it was easy to see why the three of them fit each other so well.

    Another character who I love and can’t wait to read more of, is Sybella. She is another assassin and took quite a liking to Ismae when they met for the first time. It is clear from the beginning that Sybella is not mental stable. Whatever she suffered at the hand of her father and other men in her life, has literally driven her crazy. We only see her a couple of times in this book, but if I understand correctly, the second book in this series is about her.

    My absolute favorite part of this entire book is the believe and servitude to the god Mortain, or Death, as he popularly known as. I have always had a fascination with gods and goddesses of ancient times and I love this dedication that I see in Grave Mercy. While Death is always seen as someone to be feared, He is also someone who had mercy. That is something that Ismae comes to learn throughout this book. She also begins to notice that the convent is not exactly as trustworthy as she originally wanted to believe.

    Overall, this book is absolutely beautiful, brilliant, and must be read. Even if you are not a fan of YA, I highly encourage you to read it. First and foremost, this is a historical fiction novel. As I mentioned earlier, I do wish that it would have been more adult, but even as a book geared for teens, this is still a book that will leave you wanting more.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2012

    Kaylie laceheart

    This book was amazing!It was a thrilling romance with some action(no too much!). The charecters are complex and the main charecter Ismae was espceiallycharming!I loved the romance and the love intrest duval was so sexy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2013

    Great

    Loved this book!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013

    Amazing, complex, and wonderful!

    I expected Grave Mercy to be one of THOSE books, if you know what I mean. I presumed that Ismae would meet her designated love intrest and instantly fall in love with him, or at least find him "so mysterious and interesting" that she had to know more. That only worked for Twilight, everyone. Nothing else. I must say, though, I was very wrong about this book. The love story was really introduced very late in the story, which gave time for the author to develop the characters, plot, and settings to perfection. I really enjoyed how the main characters did have minor flaws, but good qualities, too. It adds to the sense of reality, that this is not a dream come true romantic YA, and thank goodness for that.
    Overall, I believe this book was excellently written, had amazing character development, and that the romance was introduced perfectly. I love Ismae, as it is becoming more and more rare to find a kick-butt female protagonist that doesn't have an overprotecive boyfriend who's just a bit less powerful. She's relatable as well, but in her own way. Moving on, I felt that Duval opened up very, very gradually but grew into someone we all loved, and was, thankfully, very patient with Ismae (most of the time). The plot was complex, but not in a way that would discourage younger readers. I couldn't ask for more! I would recommend this book to almost anyone- including adult adventure/fantasy/kind-of-romance fans. 5 stars from me, and keep on writing!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Wow

    I have never written a review before but this book was too good not to. I was skeptical at first but fell in love with it quickly. The characters where built well and the world they live in is beautiful and tragic. The author does not spare you the true cruelty of people in the world which made it that more heartwrenching and that more real to me. I must sincerely thank the author because while there is a bit of a love story the book does not drown in it. They do not start spouting sonnets and undying love after one day of meeting each other (thank god) and there is no love triangle! Can you believe it? I have read an unprecident amount of books in the last six months and most have just become a blur in my mind and honestly I do not care if I forget a lot of them for they are all the damn same or there is too much mushy love thing going on that I end up reading only half the book because I am skimming so much of it. So if you are like me and looking for something exciting, breathtaking, and new to read please pick this up for I promise you will enjoy it and everything I have said here applies to the second book as well, if not more so

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013

    Awesome book

    Great story, it was so very hard to put down. I can't wait for the next one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2013

    Best Book Ever

    I am an avid reader but I can say with confidence that this is the best, most touching and thrilling story I've ever read. Kf you have any taste in great literature, you will not be dissapointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    Who do you trust?

    This book maybe fantasy but once you read it you will wish it is real. Ismae is the daughter of death, born to a turnip farmer who uses his fist more for beating then harvesting the crop. After being almost married off to a pig farmer who is more like a pig than man she finds herself at the coven of death with a whole bunch of girls like herself. She finds freinds and around the age sixteen is sent off for her first mission impressing her master but then all hell breaks loose when Duval comes into play the soon to be queens brother is a suspect to betraying his sister by the coven ismae is sent off with him to play his pretend mistress at court, but instead of Duval being untrustworthy the coven and close ties maybe the traitors instead and ismae finds herself falling for duval and him projecting the same feelings will ismae turn her back to the coven and with the french on the borders will everything end in destruction?

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2012

    Wow

    This book.....was one of the best books I have ever read!! Any book I read after this will have to be pretty amazing to top this!! I love how it ends, but it leaves me wanting more!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2012

    Amazing

    An amazing read!! Full of adventure, romance and pure excitment. It captured my full attention and had me feeling part of the story with all the magnificent detail. A must read. Loved it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    Excellent Read!

    I loved this book! it was so entertaining! The story is so unique and I thoroughly was surprised at some of the twists. I could not put it down, shame I have to wait a year for the next one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2012

    page turner

    LOVED THIS BOOK! there were unexpected turns on every page. Stayed up late at night reading this one! it constantly kept me engrossed! this is a must have!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2012

    Awesome

    This book is something different from most. But in a good way loooooved the book and would recommend this bookbto everyone. Cant wait till the next one comes out!!!!!!:)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2012

    Wow! ;-)

    This was a really good book. I found it hypnotzing and magnificient, in it's own way. It is original and nice to see in this day and age were anything that is like a soap opera and paranormal creatures makes a best seller list. I enjoyed this book, but word to the wise you have to stick with it and wait for it to get better. Because I garantee it will. I hope this was helpful, happy reading. :-D

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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