Saturday, March 10, 2012

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I guess even assassin nuns can be boring after all.

Also called "daughters of Mortain", the god of death, often rescued from terrible living conditions - like our Ismae - this particular kind of nuns are trained and educated in a convent in honor of the god, and they dedicate their lives to the fulfillment of Mortains' will by killing people who carry the "marque" and who are guilty primarily of treason against their country.
Ismae has just been sold to her future husband - a brute man - by her father when she is rescued by the town's herbwitch and is sent to Mortain's convent. She bears a mark upon herself that makes her a daughter of Mortain and is, miraculously, immune to all poisons.
Fast forward three years of training in martial arts and whatnot, she is sent on a mission to unmask a plot to overthrow the coronation of Anne, the future duchess of Brittany, by following one of the suspects, her half brother Duval.

I admit being in a bit of a reading slump lately and I get easily distracted by life getting in the way but it truly took me forever to read this book. The first few chapters were tedious, uninteresting and awkwardly written. I am sure some of my fellow Goodreaders (I have a few in mind) would abandon it right there. But since I am nothing if not stubborn, I read it until the end.
I am quite glad I did, to be honest because it does get better, eventually. The pacing is still somewhat slow and the book is long (or so it seemed to me) but the plot became gradually engrossing and the heroine grew on me, as well as the other characters. That's why I'm giving it three stars; I actually enjoyed reading it, after all.

In my humble opinion as an amateur reviewer, this book needs some more work. It needs more editing, to tighten some long and useless scenes and conversations as well as various incoherencies in some scenes (like cloaks on when there's no mention of the actual putting on of the cloaks... you know, that kind of small mistakes).

Furthermore, I don't understand how can it can be categorized as young adult lit. It's not that it has blatantly adult content, like hot sex scenes or inappropriate language, but it certainly does not follow the usual young adult tropes.
Is it just because the heroines is 13 when the book starts? (and by the way my eyes bulged when I realized that). Her voice sounds a tad too mature for her to be 13.
I was thinking all this political intrigues and plots would probably not have interested me much in my teen years, I suppose. If you want more of a comparison, I'd say this is as much YA as Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder.

I was somehow irked in more than one occasion by Ismae's cluelessness. She gets to logical conclusions some lightyears too late, so much so that I felt banging my head on the way in more than one occasion. She also makes a very poor assassin considering her three years of training, by being clumsy and "green" (as Duval describes her); her very first mission was rather disastrous, I'd say.

Aside from these problems, the story was enjoyable. I liked the way the romance developed gradually, the idea of the story itself and how, though part of a series, it is a standalone in itself (by the little snippet at the end of the book, I understand the next book will focus on Sybella).

For lover of political intrigues in costume and of clueless heroines, this is your cup of tea.


  1. I'm reading this one now, and while I don't think I'm having quite as much trouble as you with the beginning, I understand what you mean about the slow start. While I haven't been bored, necessarily, I definitely haven't had any trouble putting the book down either.

    1. I think you'll like it more than me as it goes on then Natalie! Enjoy!
      ... but when she goes on her first mission, didn't you think: "and from three years of training, you learnt THIS?!" :D

  2. Love that first sentence. Too. Fun!

    I have this one on my pile, and I'm hoping to get to it soon. I've heard mixed feelings, but to be honest, right now I'm cringing - poor editing tends to kill me really dead, and that's what you seem to be describing there.

    Still, I'll try my best to keep an open mind, and to go into the book with my patience full (no quick reading for this one!)... then, I'll let you know what I think with more of a basis for my opinion!

    Thanks for the great review!

  3. I completely agree Lisa - this one feels so much like an adult romance! I think it would have worked better as one.

    I am also irked by the clueless heroines. :) Nice review!

  4. Awh, and this one sounded SO GOOD. I'm sorry to hear it didn't impress you all that much, Lisa. Slow beginnings drive me crazy, so that's already a red flag for me! I hadn't realized that this book didn't have the feel of a YA novel. Thank you so much for your honest review, Lisa! :)

  5. I've seen that so many people are reading this but I have to admit I never bothered to read the blurb and find out what it's about.

    It's always a disappointing when a book is really slow to start off with but at least you did enjoy it and you'd never have known if you'd quit. I would have done the same!

  6. I read the first chapter and being blunt... yeah, it's a little boring. There's nothing that would make eager to read more. I love Poison Study, but from your review, I think I'll get a different heroine. I think I like Yelena more because she is smart, and heroine in Grave Mercy doesn't sound that brilliant LOL. :D Awesome honest review, Lisa! <3

  7. Aw, it's a shame the killer nuns didn't do it for you, Lisa. I'm currently reading this at the moment and am really enjoying it. Though I'm a bit confused about how old she is now. I realised she was thirteen at the start but I'm nearly certain I read something about a 3 year passage of time. Or maybe I imagined that? O.o

    1. You got it right Sam, she is 13 at the beginning when she gets "recruited" and then three years pass while she gets trained. She's 16/17 for most of the book.

  8. Awww, boring assassin nuns? I didn't think I'd ever hear those three words in a sentence before LOL! x) It's too bad this one wasn't as good as you hoped, Lisa -- everyone keeps raving on it and the idea sounds really cool! I'd probably be a little bothered by the slow beginning too, but I'm glad you decided to push through it! :)

    Thanks so much for the honest review, Lisa! And thanks for the warning about the content as well! Now I'll be prepared for the adult feel when I go into the book. ;)

  9. That stinks, that you didn't enjoy this, Lisa. I have a feeling I'll like this more than you, but it's kind of nice NOT reading an enthusiastic opinion every once in a while.

    Still, I can't wait to read this myself ;)


  10. Looks like I'm not missing much by not reading this book! It has such an intriguing premise and I felt bad that I wasn't able to request it from NetGalley. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy reading this one, Lisa, especially since you were feeling slump-ish.

  11. Aw, sad that you didn't enjoy this one. I've heard some rave reviews and some indifferent ones, so I might give it a try with mediocre expectations. I can definitely see where having a clueless MC would be annoying though! Nice review.

  12. Your review made me giggle in a way I've needed to all day. Thank you.

    1. That is so nice to hear Rebecca. I wish my reviews were all giggly ones :D

  13. Grave Mercy started out very strong for me with its historical roots. I instantly loved Ismae and could empathize with her bleak outlook on life. The novel had strong characters, a good plot, and political intrigue. I mean, c'mon! An assassin nun?! A badass premise like that is just begging to be read and loved.
    I also really liked the plot and the historic features. I can tell LaFevers did lot of research and it truly does show. Many of the characters in the novel are real people and the events occurring, real events. I felt it was a nice change in pace to the usual YA books I've read.

  14. Thanks for posting the review! I love RL LaFevers and cannot believe I haven't read this yet...seriously, I've been a very bad fan-girl lately :)

    Micky Johnson (SEO Seattle)


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