Thursday, March 15, 2012

Early Review of Grave Mercy ( His Fair Assassin, #1) by Robin LaFevers

  • Title: Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)
  • Classification: Young Adult (Ages 14 and up)
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: Hardcover, 560 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (April 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 054762834X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547628349
  • Notes: Contains violence and sex, but isn't extremely explicit. I think the author leaves a lot up to the readers imagination, but gives the reader enough to give them a fair idea of what is going on.

"We serve as the handmaidens to Death. When we are guided by His will, killing is a sacrament...If you choose to stay, you will be trained in His arts. You will learn more ways to kill a man than you imagined possible. We will train you in stealth and cunning and all manner of skills that will ensure no man is ever again a threat to you...He will ask for sacrifices, but it is not your role to question. Only to serve with love and obedience...That is the nature of our service...Unquestioning faith. Can you do that?"

Marked on the back upon her birth by a deep red stain that crossed from her left shoulder to her right hip, she was declared by a herbwitch to have been sired by the god of death. Her scar apparently the result of the poison her mother tried to terminate her pregnancy with. Never accepting her as his own, her father physically abused her and turned a blind eye as others did as well. Upon her wedding day, she hoped to finally escape the abuse once and for all. But shortly after saying the 'I dos' she found all hope lost. That is until the hedge priest who had hours before blessed her marriage, found her battered and beaten and whisked her away to the convent of St. Mortain, the said God of Death. That was the beginning of her new life one where she would never be a victim again. She'd be trained in all arts from martial to that of a womanly nature.

"They say to lie with a handmaiden of Death is the sweetest end imaginable."

The convent at St. Mortain is like no other. The nuns serve an old god now considered a saint by the church. The god of death lets his wishes be known in one of two ways--by revealing his wishes to a seer and/or marking his victim with a marque.The marque may be obvious and reside on someone's forehead or be hidden under a garment. It usually marks what type of death the marked individual will have such as if it's over his heart perhaps he should be stabbed there. If it resides upon his neck perhaps it could mean he or she  is to be strangled. The mark  or marque "looks as if the saint has dipped His finger into the darkness of a man's soul and anointed him with it. Sometimes the marque will show how a man is to die." The marque also creates a fool safe way to assure the vengeance the handmaidens reap is on the person who deserves it. The nuns are also not a virtuous as those of a normal church. They are trained in martial arts, weaponry, courtly manners, reading and writing, horse riding, history and politics, and womanly arts.
     "Womanly arts? Why do we need instructions in that?"...
     "So we may get close to our victims. How else are we to see if they have a marque?"

Ismae was only 17 when she decides to enter St. Mortmain's service and join the convent where she trains to be one of His handmaidens. When she accepted, her mind focused in on the fact that she despised all men and would love exacting Death's vengeance upon them. She didn't really heed the warning of abbess that not every man was like her father or husband. She eagerly accepted her new life with no questions asked. Ismae trained for three years before she was given her first mission. It was a simple execution.

Her second assignment, however will be much more difficult as she will need to inundate herself into the political world of the court. She is to pose as the mistress of Gavriel Duval. The two will end up working together and Ismae will find that not all men are a lecherous and dishonorable as the ones she has previously known. And the warning of the words she so blatantly disregarded will come back to haunt her. "Those Mortain sends you to kill. They won't all be like the pig farmer."

As the story progresses, Ismae will grow as a person. She'll become more confident and learn to trust her own judgement as the nuns will not always be there to guide her. Plus, with Gavriel's help she'll come to the realization that sometimes there is more than one way to figuratively skin a cat. She'll make peace with what she is and become the person she was destined at birth to be.

*********Slight Spoiler*********
Why is the book called 'Grave Mercy'? Well, I believe it is partly due to the fact Ismae, being Death's daughter, puts people in their grave, hence the 'Grave' portion of  'Grave Mercy'. The 'Mercy' portion, I believe, comes from this line:
"I wish to serve in honor of His mercy rather than His wrath."
*********End of Spoiler********

This is such an interesting book. I'd call it a Young Adult book with a definite adult edge to it. There is plenty of action and suspense and twists and turns to keep your attention. Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. 

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