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?
Assassin nuns! What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, I'm here to report that I felt this novel was definitely concept over execution. The idea was fantastic, and the first couple of chapters made me sit up and think that I was onto something special, but it all melted away into something that felt so generic.
LaFevers managed to evoke a dark atmospheric start to the novel, with whispers about old gods and a girl who was promised in the service of Death. I wanted the whole novel to continue in this vein, but once Ismae reached the convent, Grave Mercy felt as if it could have been interchangable with many other YA novels out there.
The part that was most disappointing to me was seeing Ismae's assassin training swept away with the wave of an authorial hand into a couple of pages. You see, I like novels like Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce and The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan, where we actually watch our character develop into something new and powerful, thanks to various lessons. The lessons to become an assassin must be awesome, but all we see was a little bit of poison making.
I was also irked by the fact that a man turned out to be Ismae's deliverance and her reason for operating. As soon as he walked onto the page and the two characters started bickering, I gave a mental sigh because I knew exactly where their story would end up going. There were no surprises in this novel, in the end. And I find that almost unforgivable when you consider the world that LaFevers gives us, and these women who are guided by the hand of Death.
Final verdict? Grave Mercy could have been so much more.
(Where did I get this book? It was purchased by me on my first year at BEA, on a trip to a central New York Barnes & Noble!)