Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publish Date: April 3, 2012
Origins: From Publisher For Review
Order From: Amazon / Barnes & Noble
Synopsis: 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?
Review: Before Ismae was born, her mother tried to terminate the pregnancy with help from the herbwitch in the village. Obviously it didn’t work and Ismae was born with the mark of St. Mortain, much to the ire of her mother’s husband. After years of abuse at home, the man she’s known as her father all her life sells her off in an arranged marriage. Ismae is able to escape from her false husband and is spirited away to the convent of St. Mortain. This is a most unusual convent as they worship the old gods, their patron being the god of death himself, Mortain. Ismae learns she is actually a daughter of Mortain and if she chooses, she will be trained in the arts of assassination and follow the directives of the Mother Superior and Mortain himself. After her first two kills, Ismae is sent to court, accompanying the future duchess’ bastard brother to succeed at saving Brittany from the French. Can she weave her way through court intrigue to discover the traitors and determine her future as Mortain’s daughter at the same time?
I loved ‘Grave Mercy’! The veneer of Christianity in Brittany is thin over the worship of the old gods and following of the old ways. Ismae is stronger than she knows after putting up with the abuse at home; she’s been tempered like steel – strength without brittleness. I liked the nuns at the convent of St. Mortain; they are all quirky and have an interesting outlook on life and death. What I enjoyed the most is how blunt and to-the-point Ismae is in her speech and actions, but she does take the time to think things through, mostly. As she delves further into the mysteries at court, she is starting to learn more about her life as Mortain’s daughter and his mysteries as well, as no god has only one aspect. The romance which blossoms for Ismae is tender, sweet, and wholly unexpected, which I believe she truly deserves. An excellent start to an intriguing new series!
His Fair Assassin series: Grave Mercy (1), Dark Triumph (2), Dark Hope (3)