Joint Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

5 April, 2012 Reviews 6 comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Joint Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on April 3rd 2012
Pages: 549
Genres: Historical, Historical Romance, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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?

Okay, we’ve finished the book and instead of doing two separate reviews, we’re just going to give your brain an overload of our combined wit, intellect and awesome. Over the past week, we’ve had a few discussions regarding our reading experience, which may or may not have included a sexually frustrated Kat, a blood thirsty moi, and Kat sending out an S.O.S. from my basement. The battle of wills is over and even though Kat started off disliking Grave Mercy and I started of on a bookish high, we’ve somehow managed to meet in the middle and agree. Stay out of my brain, Kat! Anyway, here are our final thoughts:

Grave Mercy is the improbable tale of an assassin-y murder-nun, Ismae, on a mission to rescue the Duchess of Brittany from a fate worse than death – a really disgusting old, pervert man. She’s joined along the way by a studly lord-type person, Duval, in order to defeat evil (the French), crown the Duchess, and get laid.

I’m going to pretend you didn’t just attempt to make up fake words. Grave Mercy started out very strong for me with its historical roots. The novel had strong characters, a good plot, and political intrigue. I mean, c’mon! An assassin nun?! A badass premise like that is just begging to be read and loved. Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way. But let’s dig deep within our souls and attempt to be positive. Really deep.

So on the positive side there’s court intrigue, crossbows, britches untied and skirts hitching and all those kinds of shenangians.

True. And I did like all the characters, especially Ismae. It’s a big deal for me to like the heroine since I usually hate them due to their inability to use their brains. But not Ismae, she’s a smart cookie. This isn’t shocking since I’d wager it does require a certain amount of neurons to assassinate someone. Not to mention, she hides crossbows in her dresses. Automatic win.

And given those facts, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is your average bodice ripper with all it’s stripped-to-the-shift, sexy occupational hazards of the 16th century, man-rooty goodness (…or badness?)
But this is actually a YA novel, which makes it awkward because it actually reads far more like it should have this cover:

Yes, unfortunately, the negatives outweigh the positives. *sigh* Another book falls short of badassery.

First of all, I probably would never have picked up this book on my own if you hadn’t suggested a read-a-long. I choose to avoid historic fiction for a myriad of reasons, the most important being: It’s just not my cup of tea. When I have to sit down and think about the setting, time period, a huge cast of characters I have to keep up with, political talk, yada, yada, yada… it just turns me right off. It’s too much. And I don’t like having to concentrate while reading for enjoyment. In this case, I liked it, but then, I didn’t like it.

The premise was very interesting and I think the idea was most noteworthy. There’s nothing much to complain about with LaFever’s writing and stylistic choices in that regard. But it’s the plot and the pacing that is its biggest let down.

There was mostly too much talking about the political plans being made to ward off the French from invasion. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about any of that. I WANTED BLOOD. Blood, I tell ya! Then it got pretty boring. Ismae spent more time talking about all her cool weapons, than using them. She’d go on and on about her poisons and how she could kill someone with this weapon or that poison. I wanted her to take a page from Nike.

No excuses, Ismae!

Quite early in this novel we see the plot mostly dry up and the fantasy of a badass killer-nun seems to be unattainable as we’re left with a soggy romance that never feels quite convincing.

You speaketh the truth. Grave Mercy spent entirely too much time revolving around the mystery and not much time developing the relationship. I think the book needed to make its mind up: Romance or plot. It couldn’t have both believably, in this case.

Certainly, both characters are likable and work well together as a team. But the actual romance is never particularly breathtaking or impassioned. Which would be fine if the movie had more throat-cutting and less awkward moments where the two main characters almost kiss.

Let’s talk about the actual mystery. This book was entirely too predictable. Could the bad guy be anymore obvious? LaFevers pretty much dangled him in front of us the entire novel like a carrot, so by the time the main characters goes, “It was you!” you’re thinking, “It’s about time.” I was not impressed. >.>

The mystery is laughably easy to deduce which, for me, just added to a rather average reading fare.

But we seem to be the odd ones out when it comes to this book. That being said, I would still recommend it to others looking for a change-up in their usual YA readings, especially those who enjoy historic fiction with romance and a pleasant splash of paranormal. What say you Kennedy?

I recommend this book to those that like the idea of assassin-nuns without dealing with the mess and teenagers who want a gateway book to the historical romance genre.

You can check out our full reviews below:

Kat’s review | Stephanie’s review

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

6 Responses to “Joint Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers”

  1. Kara

    Yup, I have to agree. While I gave this one four stars, I still agree with you guys. I guess maybe I liked the romance a little more? But everything you said about the plot I agree with. Not enough killing, too much court stuff that I didn’t care about (it became overkill), and the ending was far too predictable. Let me tell you something. I knew who the bad guy was from like page 50. Pretty much the second their mouth was opened. Great post as always.
    Kara recently posted…March Wrap-Up PostMy Profile

  2. Lexie B.

    You guys definitely are not the odd ones out. People’s opinions seem to be pretty evenly split: either they’re completely in love with it and want to have its babies, or they’re pretty much “meh” on the whole thing. It’s always nice to find that rare YA heroine who doesn’t give you the strong desire to bash your brains out every other sentence, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about LaFevers’s writing, but if the plot isn’t up to par, it makes the whole book that much worse. I’ve always been very hit-or-miss with historicals, so I really haven’t the faintest what I’ll think of this one. Judging by your reviews, though, and those of several others, I should make this a library read.
    Lexie B. recently posted…A Million SunsMy Profile

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