Review: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1) by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received: NetGalley
Publication Date: April 3rd 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Point of View: 1st person & Female
Genres & Themes: YA, Historical, Fantasy, Assassins, Secrets, Plotting, Romance, Friendship


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?


‘‘So,’’ she says, looking back at me. ‘‘You are well equipped for our service.’’
‘Which is?’’
‘‘We kill people.’’

Everything in this fantasy book approaches perfection.

Maybe I have been bewitched, compelled, but, when I think of this novel, the word ‘‘masterpiece’’ is the first one that comes to my mind. Historical and fantasy make delightful mélanges when the two of them are present in a novel. The story may not have been of the same rare quality as Clockwork Angel, for example, but there is something fascinating about those two genres combined nonetheless.

Sometimes, there are authors that make us ‘think’ and try to ‘convince’ us that their heroine is special when, in fact, she is nothing more than another lucky chick. In this case though, Ismae really was one of a kind and the generalisation above does not include Robin LaFevers. And, when I say that she appeared different and powerful, I do mean it. For instance, Ismae’s body possessed immunition againt poison. No poison on earth was to kill her. Also, she could talk to souls. Needless to say, no body risked outmatching her. Which was not only exciting but also refreshing. I was so tired of whiny heroine that always need their knight in shining armour to rescue them.

I saw countless reviewers complaining about the pacing. I am not going to dare say that it was nothing but fast – since that would be a lie, but, to me, there was no ‘slowness’ really. And that because 1) I was strongly hooked, 2) enjoyed the writing so much – very well adapted to the context and century by the way and 3) in every chapter, there was something new, a different scene which made sure that I was never tired of seeing the same characters over and over again or perhaps fear boredom. But, if the story does not appeal to you from the beginning, I am sure you will find this long and endless.

She leans forward then, as if eager to tempt me with what Mortain offers. ‘‘If you choose to stay, you will be trained in His arts. You will learn more ways to kill a man than you imagined possible. We will train you in stealth and cunning and all manner of skills that will ensure no man is ever again to threat you.’’

The characters, primary and secondary ones, were not always ‘unique’ but they had personality! Of course I had read about many duchesses and men plotting marriage for power and wealth, but those personages being included in this plot, along with everything aside – magic, secrecy and an ounce of mystery – brought the banal situation of scheming to a new level. And a most unsettling one, may I add, for I had no idea what would happen in the end and who will have to die for the situation to be resolved.

One thing I do not seem to read often about is assassins. Not because they are not at the top of my fantasy professions list; it’s just that I don not choose reads in purpose for the story to contain some. If there are, then fantastic! But if none are included, then I will not interrupt my read or skip the book because of it. I admit though that the last assassin book I had read did not appeal to me. It was Midnight Thief and, that one specifically, I stopped reading when I started being annoyed of the romance taking to0 much importance and the heroine risking to go on the path I feared she would take. None of that in this, however! Only fierce, talented and conscious of their missions assassins that might very likely surprise you were featured. And, let’s not forget, they were girls. A lovely plus *wink* *wink*.

Why this book was not one hundred percent perfect was due to Gavriel, the love-interest. Don’t get me wrong, the romance had everything I hoped for – slow-burn, love/hate – but Gavriel was a little too controlling for my taste. He ordered Ismae around a little too often. I assumed he did not realise he was doing it throughout the story, but it does not change the fact that he could have been looser toward her.

‘‘What if I say no?’’
‘‘Then you will be taken far from here and given to a kind, gentle man in need of a wife.’’
‘‘If you think I am fit to serve, Reverend Mother, I will do so gladly.’’

If you are a lover of historical + fantasy + romance stories with a religious vibe, then this is the series for you!

39 thoughts on “Review: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1) by Robin LaFevers

  1. I’ve read bad and good reviews about this, but since the complaints are mostly about the pace, I’ll read it ! In those Twitter times where everything goes so fast you barely have time to register it, it’s good to have some worldbuilding and good writing that takes its time to set a good novel. Great review 😉


  2. AW I’M GLAD YOU HAVE A RARE 5 STAR LOVE! You deserve one, my dear!

    I wasn’t as sold on this book as you though, unfortunately. The whole assassin nuns thing just got me really confused. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, for more reasons than one. And the whole Duval thing at the end left me feeling quite odd. But it was definitely an engaging read, I’ll give it that.

    Fantastic review, girly! ❤ x


  3. I’m glad I got to read this review. I’m reading Mortal Heart at the moment, and I’m feeling a bit lost. I do remember how much I enjoyed this book, though. I hope you’ll enjoy the rest as well. 🙂


  4. I totally agree, this is one of those rare masterpieces. Perfect world building, character development, badassness, and a love story that doesn’t take over the plot!

    I still have to read Dark Triumph, although I haven’t a feeling that no one can top Ismae!


  5. Oh my goodness! I have been reading a few reviews on this book and I’m DYING to get started on it! I have 2 more trilogies to finish, but I’ve decided after reading your review – this is going to be next! Great review! 🙂


  6. I am so happy you tried this series and loved it! Yay! I love this trilogy. The first book and the last were my favorite but that is only because the second is so darn heart wrenching (but in a good way) and it took a lot out of me to read it.


  7. I’m so excited and happy about you loving this book because it actually makes me feel more safe about reading it. I’ve seen a lot of love for this series but I was hesitant to pick it up just in case it didn’t survive the hype around it so knowing you did love it, means I need to read it! Thanks for the review ^^


    • I was fearing the same thing but, sometimes, you just gotta stop thinking about it, you know? If it doesn’t work out than it’s sad but too bad, there are other series out there that might be more interesting. Hahah, it does help telling myself that ;D Thank you!!


  8. wow it’s great to see that you were that blown away by this book. I heard great things about it but I confess that I haven’t tried it. Maybe I really should soon. Great review!


  9. I loved this book too! I picked it up when it was on sale and didn’t expect anything but it was perfect! I didn’t feel the story was slow, I only wished it was longer, not that it wasn’t already long 😉 Everything was interesting and I couldn’t get enough of it! Duval and Ismae ❤ Wonderful review 🙂


  10. I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for a long long time! Especially now that all three books are out and I can just binge read them all. Assassin nuns is an idea that (while odd) I desperately want to read about. LOL


  11. Okay, I will admit I have been on the fence with this series for the longest time. I have seen positive reviews, negative reviews, and I really didn’t know whether I should be giving this book a chance or ignoring it altogether. But this is the final straw. After this review it is FINALLY on my TBR, I just hope I like it as much as you did!


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