Catie's Reviews > Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
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's review
Nov 15, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, read-in-2011, romance, series, for-review
Recommended to Catie by: Jo
Read from November 14 to 16, 2011

3 1/2 stars

I may have a few mixed feelings about this book, but I know exactly who to recommend this to. Do you love historical mysteries? Court intrigue? Romance? Very light fantasy? Do you love Juliet Marillier? Sherwood Smith? Do you wish that The Queen’s Thief series read a lot more like a romance novel? Then this book is absolutely for you.

Ismae is a young teenager when she’s sold in marriage to a much older man. Her father is happy to be rid of her, but her new husband doesn’t know that she bears a large red scar on her back - a scar that marks her as one of Death’s daughters. He is less than pleased (read: murderous with rage) when he discovers the mark, but Ismae is rescued by a hedge priest and bundled off to the convent of St. Mortain, the god of death. Soon she is in training to be a handmaiden of death, skilled in espionage and murder.

This book reads a lot like a romance novel, but I really enjoyed that about it. The romance between Ismae and Duval is slow-building, believable, and pretty smoldering. I was a bit surprised when the book finally seemed to be getting to “the good stuff” and then it pulled one of these:

Sometime later…

Boo. Apparently this is a young adult novel! Which is unfortunate because it reads so much like an adult romance, and I think that it would be better if it embraced that a bit more.

My only huge disappointment is that Ismae suffers from what I am now going to refer to as “Driven Snow Syndrome” (because I see this so frequently that it deserves a label): she’s the kind of character who says, “I’m not a normal human being with a sexuality; I’m a woman.” That is, until one special man comes along and then suddenly it’s, “What are these FEELINGS that I keep having? Why is my heart pounding? Why are my loins quivering?” She startles like a little bird every time he touches her, and she’s conveniently skipped out on the “womanly wiles” classes at the convent so she has absolutely no knowledge of what sex is even about. Ladies, isn’t it enough that men have spent centuries pretending that our sexuality doesn’t exist and over-valuing our “purity?” Do we have to do it too? Come on.

It’s also a bit unbelievable that Ismae would be a competent spy/assassin/seductress, and yet have no knowledge of court etiquette, social nuance, or male-female interaction. Not to mention…she has a giant SCAR. How is she supposed to insinuate herself at court as someone’s mistress if she can’t undress in front of anyone?

Still, Ismae completely charmed me. I love her snap decision making and wild leaps of tangled logic. I love her awakening and growth as a person. I love that she’ll dangle out of a window to eavesdrop on someone.

I also really love the mythology: the god of death and all his forms…the convent of assassins, for god’s sake! I love that I had some serious doubts about Ismae’s “calling” and she addressed every single one. I’ll definitely be reading the companion novels as they come out!

Perfect Musical Pairing

Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing

OMG, yes!! I was *this close* to being able to assign this song only a few months ago, but then…the book that I was reading didn’t go the way that I expected and…I had to choose something else. Sad.

Finally, a book that actually warrants this song (or at least, that's what I inferred was happening behind the closed curtains). This almost makes up for the complete lack of visible sexytime. Almost.

Also seen on The Readventurer.
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Reading Progress

11/15/2011 page 84
16.0% "For a trained assassin, she's pretty naive about social customs...although, I'd probably forego the etiquette classes in favor of the poisons lab too." 5 comments
11/16/2011 page 306
58.0% 2 comments
11/16/2011 page 332
63.0% "Not a fan of that last part :-S"
07/26/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 59) (59 new)

message 1: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Oh gosh, I'm always nervous when I get added as a recommender.


Catie Pressure!

message 3: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo There is one part that I'm so looking forward to you reading.

I imagine your face will be:


Catie ...because...I'm so mad that I've never read anything this awesome before? Is that what's going to happen?

message 5: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo ...yes.
But you'll also LAUGH because it's so awesome.

Catie Uh-Oh, I just met the love interest! Lithe muscle indeed.

message 7: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Oh gosh.
Watch out for his elbow fetish.

Catie He's the one who should watch out. I already told you that I have the pointiest elbows in the world...he's going to put an eye out if he gets too close to me!

message 9: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Hahaha, I just did the most unladylike snort ever.

Seriously though, I need to count how many times he touches her elbow and she gets tingles that she can't explain.

(view spoiler)

Catie Hahaha, I just laughed in an equally unladylike way at this:

"I vow to pay more attention to Sister Beatriz's lessons in the womanly arts. Perhaps Annith and I can even practice on each other."

Ha! Screw whatsisface elbow man, I want Annith to be the love interest! *waits patiently*

message 11: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo I'm more excited about your review than having my elbow touched accidentally by a smoulder Bretagne man. Boom.

Catie I'll try to make it good.

Where's your epic review, missy?!! I want to read it!

message 13: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo I've just read it again and it's not as good as I remembered it to be.


The theme tune, however, is THE BESTEST.

Catie Oh, whatever. My reviews never sound good when I read them. I bet yours is brilliant.

I only have one idea for PMP (aka, PiMP my review with awesome music!). It's one that I wanted to use before but didn't pan out. AND NOW, I have a reason.

message 15: by Jo (last edited Nov 16, 2011 11:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo I'm going to print t-shirts saying "PiMP your books" and send you one.

OK, I'll post my review tomorrow because I haven't written any others... badblogger in the words of Rafiki: "It is time."


Also: SIMBA. Swoooon.
I mean.. uh... he's ok.

Catie Yay!

I will now forever imagine that giant echoing hammer sound that happens at the end of The Lion King trailer every time you say "boom."

message 17: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo (view spoiler)

I can't wait to read it :)

message 18: by Tatiana (new) - added it

Tatiana Ok, how exactly can you be a professional seductress/assassin if you don't know what goes where, you know, maidenhead-wise?

message 19: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo LOL... your review is basically mine but more coherent ;-)


message 20: by Catie (last edited Nov 17, 2011 03:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Catie Tatiana - I don't know! That was basically my question. I get the feeling that it was assumed that she had attended these "classes" even though she hadn't. (minor spoiler--->) (view spoiler)

Jillian - I was so bummed when all of that "nonsense" started happening, because I really like this book otherwise! The sequels are going to have different main characters, so I hope that some of them have at least attended the seduction classes that I kept hearing so much about.

Jo! When are you going to post yours? I need to read it ASAP!

message 21: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Chill yer bean, miss.
I'm being productive today so it will be posted eventually....:-P

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Jo wrote: "Chill yer bean, miss.

that's like one of my favourite Jo sayings. oh you.

message 23: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Lol, do you have a list of Joeycisms that you rank?

(view spoiler)

Catie OMG, get a room you two.

(view spoiler)

message 25: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Envy isn't a good colour on you, Catie.

(view spoiler)

Catie Whatever, I look awesome in green.

BTW, here are my favorite Joeycisms:

1) "cannae be arsed" (abbreviated frequently as cba)
2) "get a wiggle on"
3) "What IS my life?!"
5) "having a sad"

*dons electric green jumpsuit*

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Haha oh I love you two
You were both in my dream last night telling me how you hang out all the time and I was hella jealous. Also why do I keep dreaming about my gr friends my stalker is totally showing.

message 28: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Hahaha... oh god. If you knew me in real life, those would lose their charm so quickly.
Because I honestly say them all the time.

Also, with the first one, I tend to put on a Glaswegian accent.
Also x 2: You need to put "man" and "mate" on the end of them.

Then you pretty much have the entire Jocabulary.

LOL, Trin. Didn't you have the same dream about Rey last night?
You're going to develop a complex that all your friends hate you and are whisperwhispering behind your back.

But yeah... um, we do whisper about how much of a massive stalker you are behind your back.

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

I know I didn't think I was this paranoid but my subconscious obviously disagrees

message 30: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Mad 'ead.

Catie Hahaha, we need to chat more Trinity. In fact, I have a matching green jumpsuit right here, care to join me?

Embrace the jealousy.

message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm there :)

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard You and Jo have made me curious about this book.

Catie I'm not sure if you would like's quite romance-y. It's worth a try though! It's an easy read.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard The assassin part/nuns is what draws me. I can handle some romance. I'll keep it on the potential list.

My TBR list just continually grows. I'm not even sure how to make it smaller anymore.

Catie Yeah, unfortunately...adding to it requires a one-second impulsive clicking...whereas, reducing it...well, I'm not sure that I even know how to do that. Rate of addition >>> Rate that I read.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard I tried to get it under control once. Tried to limit my adds and only read from my TBR list but yeah...that worked for like a grand total of a week. Occasionally I try to go delete things off of it but that's always like 3 books out of 200 lol. Not much in the way of progress.

I add them partially so I remember them & can watch for later reviews.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard So I can't read your review again because I'm going to review it myself. BUT I just wanted to ask.

(view spoiler)

Overall I did like it. I can't say that it's a great novel, but it feels like a guilty pleasure type book. Ismae took awhile to grow on me, though Duval was more likable from the get-go.

I just needed to talk about that which I put in spoiler tags. And I didn't feel like I could say it on twitter because a. sounds weird. b. SPOILERS. lol

Catie Ha!

That whole part made me laugh quite a bit too - hence the musical pairing. I definitely agree - more of a guilty pleasure read!

How's the review coming? I'm going to go check it out!

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Just finished the book last night during halftime of the football game so I didn't even start yet.

What was weird is (view spoiler)

Catie Yeah, that and the fact that the (view spoiler) had been postponed for so was like...well, now's your last chance, missy. Ha.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard This was so obvious a book that was going to (view spoiler)

Catie Probably because it's an obvious romance, from the start. I'm guessing the sequel will be about her friend from the convent?

Melinda Jane Harrison Now I must read it. Laughing. Great post and conversation.

Catie Thanks Marigold!

rameau A good review. Thank you for that. I was hoping to find out what I missed for having flounced the book. I don't think the aspects you enjoyed would have been enough to carry me through.

Catie Thanks rameau. I'm glad I could help!

message 48: by Minli (new)

Minli I have been looking for a good romance lately... and the fact that you name-dropped Sherwood Smith and Juliet Marillier means I have to go find this!

Catie You might like it Minli!

Cloud James Anyone care to educate me why the author chose to write Grave Mercy in present tense? Is it the author discretion whether to write in past or in present tense?

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