The Book Report: “Grave Mercy,” by Robin LaFevers

Anne Yoskoski, Life Editor

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Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf? That’s the question behind Robin LaFevers’ “Grave Mercy.”

 

In “Grave Mercy,” 17-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the Convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. There, Ismae is shocked to learn that her birthmark, what we would call a “port-wine stain” today, marks her as an assassin for the god of death. If Ismae stays at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and lead a life filled with violent destiny.

When her mission takes her to France, Ismae finds her skills lacking, her poisons useless, and her situation dangerous. At the High Court of Brittany, she discovers death sometimes marks those who do not deserve it, as well as some people you may love.

Robin LaFevers weaves a mystifying tale of a surprisingly relatable girl in this first book of the “His Fair Assassins” trilogy. Readers can see that this is no ordinary romance, and there are entire other issues and plot lines at work here besides love.

The book is long, but it is a good read. Readers may want to take a break before diving into the second book, “Dark Triumph,” in stores this December, due to the length and amount of action. There are literally no dull moments in this book. Someone is always close to a threat.

Although deadly, it is nice to see a strong female character making her own decisions in a book involving the supernatural. Also, the way that LaFevers presents Ismae’s destiny as a choice to study to be an assassin or not is intriguing and makes the reader wonder if they would make the same choice.

It lends itself to an interesting reader response, as the reader needs to either be sympathetic toward an assassin, or the people she kills. Some of her targets are bad people, but just as many are good people. It creates a potent moral conflict.

The overall strength will lead readers to Ismae, however. As the tag line on the cover ask: Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

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