First of all I would like to say thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Net Galley for providing me a copy of Grave Mercy in exchange for an honest review! I took advantage of their one day promotion. I loved the idea of a young woman (nun!) assassin and was very happy with getting a copy early on!
Ismae (even her name sounds so lovely!) was saved on her wedding night by their village's herbwitch and a priest from her husband who, mad with rage after seeing her scar (a red scar running from her shoulder to her hip) beat her and locked her up. When Ismae was still in her mother's womb, her mother tried to kill her, but she didn't die, because death himself is her father. She was brought that night to the convent of St. Mortain and there she has chosen to serve the saint and train as an assassin with her sisters.
Ismae's love for poison, I love it when she says the names of her poisons and how they kill, her weapons - a gold hair net with poisonous pearls, a gold bracelet garrote, and her womanly charms (which she can't seem to use on Duval) as well as her restlessness for not having much use of her (assassin) skills in the castle, her naiveté and prudishness with men when she is supposed to be a seductress, all makes me love her!
I also LOVED the romance between Ismae and Duval, it started out with a lot of tension between them having been thrown together after Ismae has killed two of Duval's informers in Ismae's earlier missions and a lot of intimate with a hint of humor assassin-sent-to-seduce-me-but-she's-obviously-so-innocent dialogues shared between them that evolved into something tender although it was a touch more adult than a young adult romance:
"'What is my fair assassin so afraid of? I wonder.' 'I'm not afraid.' 'No?' He studies me a long moment, then rises out of his chair. I hold my breath as he crosses to my bed. 'Are you afraid that I will draw closer, perhaps?' ..Every inch of my skin is thrillingly, painfully aware of the soft linens and bedcovers between us.'" (Duval & Ismae)
I immensely enjoyed reading Grave Mercy, I loved the complex and solid god of death mythology and the taut political backdrop of Britanny. LaFever can make you feel so much for her characters, even minor ones like Louyse, the Beast, and de Lornay, heck, I even felt so sad about her horse Nocturne!
GRAVE MERCY is a perfect read for those who love historical fantasies and kickass heroines!
"'Not all men are the same you know. With someone such as Gavriel, I would suggest appearing aloof, not chasing too much. He might see that as suffocating rather than charming.' Her words are sharp, but her voice is sweet, like honey on the edge of a blade, and meant to be cutting. I comfort myself with the knowledge that if Duval ever feels smothered by me, it will be because I am holding a pillow over his face and commending his soul to Mortain." (Hivern & Ismae)