Scribbling about the best (& worst) YA books around.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Review of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Books for Children
Grave Mercy His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)by Robin LaFevers
This is no average Cinderella story, although Ismae does rise up from the ashes. Sold into marital slavery by her father, she manages to escape with the clandestine help of furtive holy men who deliver her to the convent of Saint Mortain—a.k.a.— Brittany’s god of death. There, Ismae becomes a nun who serves death. And how does she do this? She’s an assassin who is charged with killing anyone who comes in the way of her country’s independence. The novel begins with heart-stopping action. Ismae faces the consummation of her marriage to the filthy, pot-bellied drunk her father sells her to and immediately engages the reader’s sympathy. Prepared to love Ismae, the reader will follow her through her training in the convent and yearn for that first assignment. However, when Ismae makes her first kill, a great deal is lacking from the description. First, Ismae’s reaction to the kill seems nonchalant at best, making it difficult for the average reader to relate, even if the convent has trained her for this mission. Wouldn’t even the most calloused assassin feel something powerful after their first kill? From this point, Ismae is faced with infiltrating the Duchess’s castle as a noblewoman, becoming a spy, and murdering traitors along the way (which she does quite well). It isn’t until later in the novel, after several kills, that Ismae begins to question her task as a killer, and not entirely for the reasons one might expect. Furthermore, the romance that blossoms in the story is a stretch given Ismae’s hardened nature. Some writers can take a hate-hate relationship and turn it on its head in 200 short pages, not so in this case, not even with 400+ pages. I really, really tried to connect with Ismae, to feel those flutters with her when she finally opened her heart to love, but her distant affectation was perhaps written too well. That being said, the plotting of the novel is quite solid. The mysterious traitor is not easy to spot, several plot twists and skirmishes create interest along the way, and the setting is authentic. I am planning to read LaFevers’ second novel, featuring Ismae’s fellow sister-in-death, Sybella, because I felt that even in the brief time readers knew her, Sybella’s character was quite well-developed. I sense that Sybella has a magnificent story to tell! Overall, this is a valiant effort at a new series with an intriguing concept.