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?
The summary for this story didn’t really grab me, and I might have passed on this book if I hadn’t already read the author’s Theodosia series. I thoroughly enjoy those books, so I decided to give Grave Mercy a try.
I am *so* glad I did. I wasn’t so sure I was going to like it when I first started reading it, but then it grew on me until I could not put it down. Seriously, could NOT put it down. Ismae is a little flat in the beginning and I didn’t fully feel her suffering—which kept me from connecting with her—but when she’s sent out on her first assignment, everything changes. That’s when this book hooked me.
I love the way the romance progresses, on both sides. Ismae and Duval start off hating each other, but in a believable way (not over-the-top dramatics, just normal dislike and annoyance that made for some funny dialog). Gradually, they grow to understand each other, and that’s how they make a connection. It was wonderful to see.
Ismae’s belief in Mortain, the god of Death, and her obedience to the convent was also well done. She starts off the story as a blind follower, but then grows into herself and pursues what she believes is right. There is no fairy tale ending, and she ends this story by putting herself on a new, unknown path, which I loved. After all, that’s the way of life.
I do wish we’d have gotten to see her at the convent a bit more because I wanted to see the friendships develop between Ismae, Sybella, and Annith. And, I think I could have connected more with Ismae’s skewed view and dislike of men, which would have made her transformation that much stronger. I also wanted to see instruction from more of the Nuns in the convent to better understand their views and beliefs. Not having that made it difficult to get into, but once I got past that I was sucked in.
FYI—I am currently reading the next book, Dark Triumph, and can’t put it down. It’s from Sybella’s perspective, and picks up where the first book leaves off. I’ll be writing a full review when I’m done.