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?
Ismae is an assassin who serves Mortain or Death. She is rescued from a horrid, brutal husband and learns to embrace her heritage instead of feel shame. The women at the convent teach her about poisons, weapons and seduction until she qualifies as an assassin. During her first assignment she meets Duval. The two do not trust each other, and Duval is upset because Ismae kills the man he wants to interrogate.
I really enjoyed this story—in fact there was nothing at all that pulled me away from Ismae’s tale. I liked the unusual occupation of the heroine and the way she picked herself up, even after her horrid childhood. I enjoyed the initial distrust and suspicion between Ismae and Duval, and the gradual change in their relationship from dislike to respect.
The author has done a wonderful job with the setting, and I felt as if I were at court, immersed in historical details—in a good way. The politics and maneuvering at the court—the intrigue and the distrust, the suspicions of treason really helped the characters to shine. Gradually Ismae sorts through the deceit and learns who is behind the plot to force Anne, the duchess, to marry one of the French. There is the odd time when I questioned Ismae’s age because her reactions didn’t feel age appropriate. As a reader, I explained this away by saying it was a different time when people grew up more quickly.
Grave Mercy takes the reader on an exciting journey to the courts of Brittany, allows one to experience the intrigue and deceit and wonder as Ismae discovers love and the identity of the traitor. Highly recommended.
This ARC was received via NetGalley.
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