Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Genre: fantasy
Secondary genre: historical/political
Format read: audiobook
Content warnings: attempted sexual assault, violence, pet death
Series: His Fair Assassin vol 1
Rating: planchet-3

**This review contains major spoilers, which are marked below**

After being abused by her parents, Ismae is sold into a marriage contract. But when her new husband sees the mark on her back–a blood red scar leftover from her mother’s attempted abortion–he beats her, rejects her, and sends her fleeing into the night.

She finds refuge in a convent dedicated to Mortain, one of the old gods of death. Populated by women and girls that have led hard lives much like Ismaes, they train from dawn to dusk in every manner of death.

When Ismae finally reaches the point, some years later when she goes out on her first solo mission, her assignment is interrupted by a man determined to keep her victims alive.

After a second run in, the mystery man tracks Ismae back to the convent. After explaining that he works for the Dutchess–the country’s teenage ruler, in danger of loosing her power to the invading French army–Ismae and the mysterious Duval have no choice but to work together. With Ismae’s ability to not only see the mark of Death on a person, and her immunity to poison and magic-enhanced healing, she soon becomes close to the dutchess and secretly takes a role not only as her confidant, but also her body guard.

But Duval has secrets of his own and may not be trustworthy, no matter what the reverend mother and the convent’s patron say. If she wants to keep herself and the dutchess safe, Ismae will have to track down the leak in their security network.

But to do so may mean betraying everything she’s come to believe about herself, the world, and the convent that saved her life.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it has great historical and political details that dovetail nicely with actual historical fact, but with an added fantasy element.

However, I found Ismae to be annoying, stubborn, and willfully obtuse at points, and I really didn’t like Duval. While he did have his good points, it’s clear almost from the first time he appears that he’s meant to be the love interest, and I really just don’t like him in that role.

There were some very funny bits, and some that were more heart wrenching. Honestly, my favorite scenes were the ones where Ismae killed someone she wasn’t supposed to (because ASSASSIN). She just can’t seem to help herself. 🙂

And then there’s the bit about Ismae’s powers. **spoiler** Ismae can literally cure poisoning by sleeping with people. That scene made me want to scream.

I don’t know if I want to continue with this series. I liked the beginning and the ending, but the bits in between left me somewhat cold, and there were still unanswered questions at the end.

What are your thoughts? Have you read the His Fair Assassin series?