Ismae Rienne was sired by Death, something that has cursed her her whole life. That is, until she escapes from her brutal father and an arranged marriage and is given sanctuary at the convent of St. Mortain. The nuns who serve St. Mortain aren’t like any Ismae has ever heard of. They serve the god of death, and it is here Ismae learns that St. Mortain has graced her with certain gifts. Gifts that will serve her well as an assassin — a handmaiden of death.
Ismae’s newest assignment is one that will change her life forever. The convent is worlds away from the court of Anne, Duchess of Brittany. It is there that Ismae’s strength and devotion to St. Mortain will be tested. For she must pose as the mistress of Breton noble Gavriel Duval and uncover the identities of those who would betray Anne to France; a task that is more complicated than Ismae could ever imagine. Treachery abounds in Anne’s court, but the convent’s prime target is Duval. Ismae knows in her heart that Duval’s innocent, but can she prove it? Time is running out, for more than Duval’s life rests on the choices Ismae makes.
I have one word for Grave Mercy: spellbinding. Robin LaFevers begins the His Fair Assassin trilogy with a voluptuous novel of death, danger, intrigue, and romance, and I am hooked!
Ismae Rienne is a heroine unlike any I have read about in a long time. There’s a grace and inner beauty to her that shines through the pages of Grave Mercy, but what really captivated me about her was her strength, intelligence, and personal code of honor. Though the nuns of her convent have given her a purpose, Ismae learns that there is more to serving St. Mortain than blindly following the convent’s teachings. Her growth as a handmaiden of death was utterly engaging.
In Grave Mercy, Ismae witnesses the deadly side of court politics in the Duchess of Brittany’s court. At the center of the intrigue is Gavriel Duval, the duchess’s illegitimate half-brother. Ismae’s been sent to determine if Duval is a traitor, but though there are many close to the duchess who will betray her, it’s clear that Duval is not one of them. In Gavriel Duval, Ms. LaFevers has created a hero who captivates and softly seduces the readers as well as Ismae. Duval’s unflinching loyalty, tenderness with those he cares about, and bone-deep honor made me fall for him from the first. Though the romance in Grave Mercy is understated (at least, it is to someone who primarily reads adult romance novels), it fits the book and characters perfectly. Ismae and Duval’s love story was perhaps my favorite aspect of Grave Mercy, for it unfolded over the course of the story beautifully.
A wealth of political intrigue keeps Grave Mercy moving at a fast pace. Given that the book is 549 pages, you’d think there’d be a slow moment here or there. There isn’t. It’s clear that Ms. LaFevers is a master at her craft. There’s not a dull or dragging moment, which is sometimes difficult to pull off when all the characters are fully fleshed out and each twist and turn of the story is completely organic.
In general, I’m picky when it comes to reading young adult novels. I have nothing against them, but I don’t often connect with the characters or writing style. I’m so, so glad I picked up Grave Mercy, because it’s a new favorite read of mine. There isn’t a single thing I didn’t love about the first His Fair Assassin book, unless I count having to wait for the second story, Dark Triumph, to be released.
Whether you like historical fiction, romance, unique characters, the twists and turns of court intrigue, or are just interested in reading an incredibly well-crafted novel, Grave Mercy is the book for you. Brava, Ms. LaFevers!(less)
High school student Jack Newhouse has two dreams; going to culinary school and winning the heart of...moreBlue Ribbon Rating: 3 out of 5 Original Review Link
High school student Jack Newhouse has two dreams; going to culinary school and winning the heart of childhood friend Ashlynn Yuan. Fate seems to have a quirky sense of humor, for while studying Casanova, Jack is given an antique mask said to belong to the legendary lover. Suddenly Jack — who never seems to attract girls — has women falling all over him. Is it coincidence or does the mask have some sort of magical power? And if the mask is magic, does Jack really want to use a supernatural accessory to win Ashlynn?
Author J.J. Wynn starts off her VENICE FALLS series right with the charming story UNMASKED. Jack and Ashlynn are two bright teenagers with a shining future ahead of them…if they can get through to their parents that they need to leave their hometown for college. There’s a sweetness to both of them that makes it easy to be entertained by UNMASKED. It was lovely to watch Jack and Ashlynn work their way around teenage awkwardness and misunderstandings in order to build up the courage to reveal their feelings for one another. All they need is a little push, and they get that from the Casanova mask. Is the mask magical? Perhaps it is. Then again, perhaps it isn’t. Whether or not there’s magic at work doesn’t really matter; the important parts of UNMASKED are Jack and Ashlynn working for the future they want, both in terms of romance and schooling. Things do tend to fall into place a bit too easily in UNMASKED for the story to be realistic, so you do have to suspend disbelief with this story. Still, UNMASKED is a genuinely sweet read that’ll make you smile.
Note: My review was written for Romance Junkies and is cross-posted here courtesy of Romance Junkies.(less)