Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I got this book as an advanced readers copy from an ad in Shelf Awareness. Later on there was an ARC on the table at the bookstore where I work too. It sounded really good. But then it sat on my shelf for a month or so. The back of the book said the publication date was April 3rd, so I picked it up the 2nd to last week of March, and when I walked into work that week, it was already out on the shelves! So this is not an advance review I guess. As I said, the book sat for awhile, other books seemed more interesting, and thinking I had till April, I waited. Well, I was crazy. Once I picked up the book, I was hooked from the very first page! Such a good story. The characters are so well developed, the back story is all there, and I thought the action and plots were good. I was on the edge of my seat at the end when Ismae was trying to help Duval. Of course you knew she would fall in love with him, but she knew to be cautious the whole time not knowing what he might really be up to. Ismae's life was horrible. Her father didn't want her, he even tried to make her mother miscarry her with homemade potions. It didn't work, and Ismae came out with scars. Everyone in the village thought she was cursed because of that. And finally her father got her married off to a man that was even more vile, and on the night he saw her scars, she was rescued by a priest, who passed her through the ranks until she came to the convent of St. Mortain. This was a time when the old gods had become saints in order for them to still be given respect with the new church. St. Mortain was the god/saint of death. And the girls here are trained to be assassins. Something that really appeals to Ismae, to be able to get justice on men who do things like were done to her. Who are traitors to their country. She is told who to kill, and she knows she is to do it when she sees the marque of Mortain on them. And quite often the marque is in the spot where they will be killed, the neck, the head, around the mouth for poison. One good thing Ismae has is that she is immune to the effects of poison.
Her first two assignments go well except for one small issue with each one. In fact, as she is getting assigned her 3rd person, it turns out that person shows up, and wants their help. It is Duval. She is assigned to show up as his "cousin" which during that time, is assumed to be a mistress. And she must help him protect the duchess from the French and help her find the correct suitor to save Brittany, their country. Duval is under suspicion though. And there are traitors and subplots going around the high court. Ismae must figure her way through all this intrigue and also deal with her feelings for Duval and knowing if that is why she trusts him, or if he is really trustworthy and has the duchess' best interests in mind. She learns that maybe Death's mark isn't always the end and that people can redeem themselves in St. Mortain's eyes. And she tests this, and finds it true.
I could just go on and on about how good this book was. Now, I feel it ended in a way that doesn't leave for a sequel, and this is part of a series. But from the blurb at the end of the ARC I see that we will follow one of the other convent girls, Sybella, who had become a bit of a mystery once she left the convent. So now I look forward to reading her story. My only complaint, not about the story, but that my ARC was missing pages in two places. The first place is where we learn that Duval is a bastard brother to the duchess, the 2nd part is where Ismae has finally found the marque of death on someone she has been ordered to kill, and she decides to test her theory of redemption. But we miss out on the whole thing, just getting in at the end. I will have to figure out how my ARC pages match up the real copy and go read those sections.
This will count as my "G" in my A-Z Reading Challenge.
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