April 16, 2012

Grave Mercy

by Robin LaFevers
ages: 15+
First sentence: "I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch's poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by my place of employment.

I feel like I'm the last on the bandwagon with this; everyone seems to have read it already, and everyone seems to have loved it (including M who, 17 pages in, came to me and said, "This book is awesome."). Thankfully, it was one that quite lived up to the hype.

It doesn't hurt that it has a pretty cover (or a catchy tagline), either.

It's Brittany, 1485, and Ismae, our fair heroine, has been married off (at the paltry age of 14!) by her abusive father to a hulking brute of a man. Consigned to her fate, she is surprised when a series of herbwitches and priests save her, sneaking her off in the night. She ends up at the convent of St. Mortain, one of the old gods, where they worship Death.

And train the girls who are brought to them to be assassins.

Three years pass, and Ismae is ready to be sent off on assignments. She performs well, and so is thrown into something more grand and complex: court politics. She is sent off to keep an eye on Gavriel Duval, adviser to Anne, duchess of Brittany. Ismae is supposed to pose as his "cousin" (*coughcough*), and keep an eye on him; if he turns out to be a traitor, as the abbess and Count Crunard, a patron of the convent, suspect, then she is to kill him.

However, once there, Ismae discovers that court politics -- as well as her heart -- are much more complex than that.

I realized about 30 pages in that if Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon and any Phillipa Gregory book had a love child, this one would be it. There is court intrigue, romance, fights, horse chases, desperate situations, historical trappings, sweeping European settings, all covered in a sheen of mysticism that makes everything sparkly.

In other words, quite awesome.

6 comments:

alone said...

This does sounds like a good read.
It is always nice when a book lives upto its hype.

A Jane of All Reads said...

This book is seriously good. I finished it and immediately craved more just like it. I loved that the book didn't hold back, dumb it down or clean it up and STILL made it to the YA section. We need more of this.

How bad to you want to be an Ass-kicking Nun of Death!?

Melissa said...

Alone: I know, it is! And maybe because it's really well written (as Laura pointed out), that it holds up to the raving.

Laura: very badly. She was quite awesome. I love imperfect heroines.

Bibliovore said...

Gads, I loved this book. Thanks for your review!

Natalie said...

This sounds fantastic! I can't remember the last time I read a fantasy novel. I used to devour them as a kid! I'll have to get this. Thanks for your review :)

Corinne said...

Um, I'm farther off the bandwagon than you :) Thanks for the review though, off to the library website!!