Grave Mercy is the first book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. This installment follows Ismae, the daughter of Death, as she trains to become an assassin and unfurl plots to seize the duchy from 12 year old Duchess Anne’s grasp.
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?
Yes officer this book right here! 😩 This book hurt my damn feelings and I’m uPSeT about it. Crying so hard I couldn’t see the last 60 pages.
First of all, I didn’t even expect to like this book as much as I did. I didn’t even intend on reading it until I came across the cover for “Courting Darkness,” a book duology that is set in the His Fair Assassin world. People said you could read Courting Darkness on its own without having read the HFA trilogy, but it would be a richer experience if you did. So here I am, and I’m really glad I read this!
Second of all, if you haven’t read this yet, brush up on your Regency hierarchy terms first. There is so much going on in the first half of this book that sets events up in the last half but it would have made SO much more sense to me (and sooner) if I had known how all of the characters fit into place within the hierarchy.
This book. MY HEART. This book.
Like I said previously, it took a while for me to understand fully what the big picture was. I really enjoyed getting to see Ismae use her many talents on people-the tiny misericorde blade was my favorite. Growing up without a stitch of power and an abusive father, then finally being able to lead her life the way she wants to, empowered by her skills and her life’s purpose *chef’s kiss* We love to see it.
I got attached to characters so quickly. There are many in this book and LaFevers enables you to feel endeared by them all, excluding the obvious villains. I was rooting for Ismae, her fellow assassins, and Anne straight from the beginning. I also enjoyed reading about Duval and his friends, and how they warmed to Ismae and her abilities, after basically shunning her at first.
My only issue, besides the beginning world building, was how D’Albret was described. He is a foul character, in more ways than one. Before his death, Anne’s father promised her hand in marriage to D’Albret (even though he was much too old), needing the size of his army to help defend their home from the French military. D’Albret was described as 50 years old, a grandfather, and fat. Always looking out for his own interests and arrogant, too. He didn’t care about Anne as a person, only as a means to get what he wanted. And use her for dalliances. He actually assaults her at one point, pinning her against the wall and touching her skirts saying that she’d like it if she gave it a chance. (Y’all remember she’s 12, right? No never mind that she didn’t want to in the first place. But she’s 12. A middle schooler, by today’s standards. Oof). A real loathsome character. With all of these terrible qualities to focus on I’m disappointed that his fatness was even drawn into the occasion. It was basically “He’s arrogant, old, ugly, deceitful, and fat!” anytime Anne was questioned as to why she couldn’t marry him. Of all the terrible qualities this man had, the author picked fat as a reason why he was unmarriageable. That’s a little unfair. The man is the literal worst and tried to sexually assault a 12 year old girl but no, don’t marry him because he’s fat. A tiresome trope that needs to end.
Other than this, I really loved watching how Duval and Ismae grew together – first as partners on a job then as they examined their true feelings for each other.
This book was written so well, and the next books in the trilogy are companion novels. So we will get to follow adventures of Ismae’s fellow assassins. I can’t wait to read about them!