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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

Released April 2012

Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

One of the first things that came to mind when reading Grave Mercy, the first book in the new His Fair Assassin trilogy, is that this is the meatiest young adult novel I've come across. Historical details blend with the action-packed plot to create a book that is both hard to put down and will keep you reading for days. With well over 500 pages, this isn't a book you'll rush through and feel disappointed that it ended before it really began.

Ismae, a seventeen year old, is forced into marriage by her cruel father. Her new husband is both much older and no better than her father. On their marriage night, he's insisting on bedding his new wife and Ismae's not looking forward to this encounter. When he spies the mark she carries, a mark revealing she is the daughter of Death, he locks her in a root cellar and insists he's going to bring a real priest who will burn or drown her. Ismae never expects to be rescued and whisked away to the Convent of St. Mortain where she is trained to become one of Death's assassins.

Her new role as an assassin begins with a challenging assignment. She accompanies Gavriel Duval, half-brother to the Duchess of Brittany, into the world of the nobility. Ismae must find the person close to Anne Duval who is truly a traitor, and suspicions are that Gavriel may be that traitor. This assignment finds Ismae falling for Gavriel and realizing she may well have to kill the man she loves.

The story is set in the late 1400s when the Duke signed the Treaty of Sable that included terms stating the King of France would have final say in who his daughters married. This historical fact plays an important part in the novel. Fictional characters blend with the real figures from that period. For those who dislike reading historical fiction, the book does contain a lot of historical details. While this may turn some readers off, I found it created the perfect setting for Ismae's story. The setting and backstory bring the story to life.

Ismae and Gavriel are an outstanding couple. Both are strong, passionate, and determined to do their job to the best of their abilities. While this has them butting heads, it also helps create strong romantic sparks. Fans of romance will love that aspect.

Some are saying Grave Mercy is more suitable for adults than teens. I don't agree. Adults will love the story, especially fans of historical romances. Teens will also find a lot to enjoy. Ismae is a teen and life in her time period was different, but historically that's true and most teens know that women didn't have the same rights they do today. There is some sexual content and some violence, but nothing today's teens don't hear about on the news. Given that, I think what's most important is that teens will have the chance to learn about the politics and culture of the 1400s. I hated history in high school, and often say had teachers taught the class through fictional stories laced with historical details rather than text books, I would have excelled.

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