Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, Book 1)

It is 1485 Brittany. Ismae has born the mark of the devil all her life. Her mother took the herbs to get rid of her pregnancy, but she survived, albeit with an angry red scar. When her father arranges a marriage for her, she hopes that her new husband will treat her more kindly. Upon their first meeting, it is apparent that he will not. The very herbwitch who sold her mother the potion whisks her away to the Abbey of St. Mortain. He is of the old gods, the god of death. The Abbess offers Ismae a life without the need to rely on any man, and she accepts. "Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?" Those who were sired by death (marked with the scar) were also blessed with some gifts from St. Mortain. Ismae is immune to poison, and she is able to sense souls. She sees the marque that the wicked wear, that which marks them for St. Mortain's justice.

It is from the Sisters that she learns of the deadly arts: poisons, arms, culture, seduction...all the ways of an assassin. Her first and second missions are executed virtually without incident, and for her third she is to follow Duval to the court of the Duchess, his sister Anne. The Sisters live to protect the Duchy.

The subterfuge of Duval and Ismae being cousins is a farce. Everyone believes her to be his mistress, and they keep up appearances. He visits her room each night, although she spurns his advances. That is just too much. She must be vigilant, watching for the Marque of Mortain as well. Without further instructions from the convent, she is left to her own devices to watch and learn.

The political environment of the Duchy is volitile: Anne has not be crowned, nor has she married. It seems clear that her marriage will make or break the kingdom, and her father promised her to many suitors. Choosing one over the others may bring about war. While they try to arrange a marriage that will both fortify Brittany, and keep the Dutchess safe, precious time is lost. D'Albret is certainly the suitor with the most to offer, but he is an odious man.

Just when it seems all may be coming together, it falls apart. Left with few options, can Ismae carry out her duty...even if it means killing the person closest to her?

This period piece is a great example of feminist historical fiction mixed with fantasy elements. It has an interesting political dynamic, and it encouraged me to learn more about the "old gods" and mythology of this time period. Recommended for older high school. This book is scheduled to come out in April 2012.

"But the two sisters could not be more different. Amourna was happy and giving, but her sister, Arduinna, was fierce, jealous, and suspicious, for such is the dual nature of love. Arduinna had a ferocious and protective nature and did not care for the way Mortain was looking at her beloved sister. To warn him, she drew her bow, and let fly with one of her silver arrows. She never misses, and she didn't miss then. The arrow pierced Mortain's heart, but no one, not even a goddess, can kill a god of death.
Mortain plucked the arrow from his chest and bowed to Arduinna. 'Thank you,' he said, 'For reminding me that love never comes without cost,'" (LaFevers pg 342, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, Book 1)
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

LaFevers, Robin. (2012). Grave Mercy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

No comments:

Post a Comment