Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book 1
Grave Mercy
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Robin LaFevers
ISBN 9780547628349
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
5 stars
Keywords: 15th-century brittany grave-his-fair-book-1 history monarchy robin-lafevers spies

Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book 1
by Robin LaFevers

Part spy novel, part feminist coming-of-age tale, LaFevers's riveting story set in 15th-century Brittany will keep readers at the edge of their seats.

Ismae Rienne describes a "deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip." It's a trail left by the herbwitch's poison at her birth. "That I survived... is no miracle but a sign I have been sired by the god of death himself," she says. With the help of the herbwitch, Ismae flees a dangerous arranged marriage to find refuge at the convent of Saint Mortain, the patron saint of death. Chancellor Crunard, a member of Brittany's inner council, believes that one of the duchess's most trusted confidants, Gavriel Duval, is leaking the secrets of Brittany's court to France, which seeks control of Brittany. Crunard enlists the convent's help, and the responsibility falls to Ismae.

The convent trains Ismae in weaponry, poisons and "the womanly arts," and teaches her that their victims bear a mark from Mortain that only Ismae and her sisters can see. During one of her early assignments, Sister Vereda, the convent's seer, tells Ismae, "Remember, true faith never comes without anguish." As she gets drawn deeper into court, Ismae begins to believe Duval's loyalty to the duchess. Is her growing attraction to Duval muddying Ismae's perceptions? LaFevers's (the Theodosia mystery series) story of betrayal, intrigue and romance will keep readers burning the midnight oil and leave them impatient for the next two tales, which follow fellow pledges in the convent.

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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