Author: Robin LaFevers
Pages: 549 pages
Format acquired: Hardcover
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published on: April 3rd' 2012
Source: Gifted (Thanks, Kate!)
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble
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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?
(Image and summary taken from Goodreads)
I drooled over the cover of Grave Mercy. Something as simple as a girl standing, looking all empowered and brave makes ME feel empowered and brave, too. It's like I get to be a part of why she's standing there and looking so majestic in the first place. Let's go feminism!! Hahaha!!
I feel guilty for putting off this book for the longest time. I got this book way back during Christmas and until two days ago, I haven't opened the book at all. Hahaha! I didn't think it wasn't a bad book. I just felt like it wasn't "time" for me to read it yet. (Hands up if you know what I'm talking about!!) Until that fateful day that I was looking for a book to take with me to my parent's office and upon scanning my TBR shelf, my eyes landed on this baby.
DISCLAIMER: I have just finished reading City Of A Thousand Dolls (which I loved) so I may nuance some parts of this book to that one. To be fair, they are quite similar.
At first, I found that using old time-y medieval language was a bit hard to take seriously. I kept laughing and going: "What? *Insert use of analytical skills* Oooh. Hahahaha!!" But I did get used to it, and after that initial grammar shock, I was fine. Actually, I felt like how Ms. LaFevers wrote it was a very good background for the whole story. I mean it being set (correct me if I'm wrong) sometime in the late 1800s or something because the French were trying to invade Britain. Meaning that women weren't given that much attention to. Only when they're to be sold for marriage or taken to be mistresses. I really felt that this book was all about female empowerment, especially during those times. Seeing how Ismae's father beat her up and how she was sold to a husband who also beat her up. Ismae then finds the convent that became her safe haven and it also served as the place where she had her training to become the most badass assasin that had the blessing of a god. I don't know how that could get any better. Oh wait. The book also mentions (lots of times, really) that Ismae "isn't a great beauty" and that she is actually scarred. And that scar is so hideous that that was the reason why her father and supposed husband beat her up. I don't know about you, but a scar so offensive, it makes grown men recoil in horror and beat her makes it quite unpleasant to look at, no? So, not only is Isame a god-blessed warrior, she's also average Annie like all of us. There are no false realities here like extremely beautiful but unwanted girls (ehem Cinderella ehem).
I really enjoyed seeing Ismae grow up and mature. She at first, was a scared little 17-year-old who had a lot of insecurities who then turned into a brave woman who could fight for her life and win. The progression made it all the more realistic. I found that some books had their hero/heroine go from a sad, broken human to being an expert weapon of choice wielder in less than a month and I'm just like: "Mmhm. Yeah." I also had a sneak peek of what may be the coolest nun convent EVER. I never thought I'd use the words "nun convent" and "cool" in the same sentence, but here I am. Ha! What I really loved about Ismae was how focused and determined she was on her task. She never let anything get in her way. She knew why she was there and she was eager to fulfill her task. But like all YA novels, we learn that a little distraction can be good, too. Enter not a prince and a not so charming love interest. I really disliked him in the beggining. He was such an asshole! But then people change especially when they're both working so close together. So badass feminist protagonist and hunky man candy? Check. Possibly the coolest training ground ever? Check. Saving the British empire from the French? Check. This book awesome! You've got action, drama, *slight* romance and a happy ending! If you don't check this book out, you may be missing one of the best ones yet. I hope to get my hands on the next book soon!!
Sad Note: I find it quite sad that most books shun the training of the "female arts". I mean, for me, it can be the most powerful tool we have. Like A City of A Thousand Dolls, the whole House of Pleasure and seen here with a nun who teaches the same (I know!! So cool), both Ismae and Nisha find it unappealing and iffy. I, for one, would like to see a book that focuses more on women learning the art of pleasure. Maybe they're trying to avoid the stigma of objectified women, but I believe that if delivered properly, it wouldn't be seen as an oppression but rather as an empowerment. Especially now in the 21st century that we all have our different stances on such ideas.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read, but I'm leaning towards giving this one to action or thrill-seekers. Enjoy reading!!