Saturday, 31 March 2012

Review of GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers

Author: Robin LaFevers
Source: ARC copy from NetGalley for review
Publish Date: 3rd April 2012

I hereby award this book 5 wings!

I have to be honest, it was the cover that drew me in to this book. I got one of those lovely 'feed your reader' emails from Net Galley announcing this and I decided to download it even though I didn't really know what it was about. I know, I should have checked it out properly but I was basing it on having heard some good things about it. 

Having gone into it blind, I found that I really was lucky with this book. It was AMAZING. One of my very favourite books, I kid you not. I have never read an historic book like this before but now I think that I might look into them in the future. I will certainly be waiting on the edge of my seat for the next in the His Fair Assassin series, DARK TRIUMPH, in Spring 2013.

If like me you know nothing of GRAVE MERCY, then let me give you the blurb:

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? 

"Seventeen-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. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. 

Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?"

When I first started this book and realised it was set in 1485, I was a little hesitant about reading it - this was based on the fact that when I read some books and they have the prologue set in the past, I find it hard to get into until the book gets to the present. But 1485 is Grave Mercy's 'present'. Once I got past my initial hesitancy, I was really enamoured by this book. 

One of the things I loved the most was the fact that Ismae was one of 'Death's Handmaidens' - it probably wasn't meant as such, but I thought this was really cool. I mean Ismae got to concoct poisons and learn techniques with which to kill a man. This girl who started out as a victim, from being nearly aborted by her mother, to being abused by the men in her life, became an assassin and as such went from what you think of as weak to a badass heroine whom I came to feel a real empathy for. 

The second thing I loved most about this book would have to be one of the characters, Gavriel Duval. *swoons* I absolutely adored him. The relationship between Ismae and Gavriel isn't 'girl meets boy, falls in love, lives happily ever after'. It's a slow building, gradual relationship. Ismae is doing the work of her convent and her God, St Mortain. Whilst Gavriel is a noble lord. When has there ever been such a pairing? 
I enjoyed seeing the way in which Ismae and Gavriel built up a relationship between them. It wasn't all lovey dovey and doe eyed mushy moments. It was worked from a tentative friendship to [oops I can't tell you what became of them]. I certainly found myself captured in the moment and having to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next.

What was interesting was the basis for the story once Ismae and Gavriel were at the High Court. I won't go into the political ins and outs as I fear I will get it incorrect or spoil it in some other way for you. All I will say is that if you looked at the word 'political' and thought "I'm not sure I want to read on" - you really should do away with any misconception that it is dull and dreary. It truly isn't. There isn't a load of boring information dropped on you, nor does the author drone on about things as you might fear. Instead it is a story based around something political that arises and the characters trying to come up with a solution that suits everyone concerned.

There are many characters to love and indeed to loathe. I won't tell you who's who but you should look out for Beast and De Lornay. I like them nearly as much as I like Ismae and Gavriel. 

Having never read anything by Robin LaFevers before, I was unsure what to expect from her style of writing. What I discovered is that she expertly crafts a world that I found I didn't want to leave. I was happily lost within the pages of this incredible story. 

At one point I found myself thinking back to when I read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. I was reminded of the relationship between Yelena and Valek. It brought back fond memories for me as that was a series I loved. 

I found I didn't mind the political aspect as much as I thought I would in the beginning. I felt it may detract from the story for me but it didn't. It was an integral part of the story and it would not have been the same without it. 
The fact that you take many a YA story, strip it back to it's bare bones and it's basically a love story, meant that I was expecting more of the same here. But that is not what I got and I was pleasantly surprised by that. I love a good love story as much as the next person but it's the way in which they are weaved in with other things that make me really route for the characters.
I honestly felt like I could have been Ismae. Towards the end even more so. I won't tell you what caused it but I found myself crying on 3 occasions. I very nearly had my heart broken beyond any hope of repair, but my heart held on and so did my love for Gavriel and Ismae. They aren't your conventional couple and that's what makes me route for them even more. 
I cried so hard on one occasion that my glasses were actually sliding down my nose with the force of my tears. I had to stop reading and wipe my make-up off as it was making my eyes itch as I had mascara everywhere.
Once I got to about 73% I found I couldn't go to bed without finishing the book. I knew it would be a late night but I was so enthralled that I could not bring myself to wait until the next day to find out what happened. So it was 2am before I finally crawled into bed, exhausted from lack of sleep but also because of crying my heart out.

I am truly pleased I decided to take a chance on this book and am very grateful to the publisher for approving my request via Net Galley. 
I can't wait for Dark Triumph next Spring. Though I know it is set to follow Sybella [I won't tell you who she is, read the book & find out] - I do hope that Ismae and Gavriel feature even in a small part, just so that I know what became of them.

Thank you Robin for writing a truly touching story that stays with you long after the final word is read. 

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