Title: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, Book 1)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Andersen Press (7th June 2012)
YOUNG, BEAUTIFUL AND DEADLY.
Trained as an assassin by the god of death, Ismae is sent to the court of Brittany, where she finds herself underprepared – not only for the 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?
A dangerous romance full of intrigue, poison and ultimately finding one’s way.
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Gave Mercy is the first book in the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers. It tells the story of Ismae who is taken to the abbess of St. Mortain to train to be an assassin. The story takes place in Brittany before it became part of France, and it follows Ismae as she takes the final steps to become a member of the abbey.
When we first meet her, Ismae is being married off by a father who doesn’t want her to a man who promises to make her life a living hell. She is rescued, and spirited away across Brittany to the abbey of St. Mortain where she is offered a choice by the abbess – she can learn all the ways to kill a man. Ismae takes this choice and then we see her start to settle into life at the abbey. I was disappointed that at this point LaFevers chooses to skip three years, which means that we missed much of Ismae’s training. I would love to have had a bit more insight into Ismae and her challenges at the abbey here, because as it is I found her a bit cold and remote. I can understand why LaFevers would choose to not include Ismae’s training, because it would have made an already long book even longer, but I would have liked to get to know the main character a little better.
When we rejoin Ismae it is to witness her complete a series of assassinations she is assigned by the abbess. Things appear to go without a hitch, and Ismae completes her kills without discovery. As she is reporting her final kill to the abbess they are interrupted by a man who is unhappy about both deaths. It is through this man that Ismae is sent to the court of Brittany to find out who is plotting against the duchess, and if the man is truly faithful to the duchess.
The plot of the book is full of intrigue and it is on the whole an entertaining read, although I must confess that I did find it something of a struggle to read this book. I think part of the problem is that although I found certain aspects of both the plot and Ismae herself interesting, there were times when I found myself bored. Although Ismae is an assassin, and there to uncover the plots at the court of Brittany, most of the intrigue seems to pass her by completely. There is also the very definite sense that Ismae doesn’t feel she belongs at the court, and part of me cannot help wondering why none of the courtiers seemed to pick this up. However, LaFevers does do a good job of weaving an interesting story. I look forward with interest to the second book in this series.