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Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers EARLY REVIEW

Grave Mercy by R.L.LaFevers (His Fair Assassin #1)

Egalley thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Synopsis from Goodreads
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?

Release date: 3rd April 2012

 Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK

 * * *
I have very polar views about this book, so I will tell you all the things I liked about it first.

- Ismae is an assassin, born daughter of Mortain, God of Death and destined to do his bidding. How cool is that?

- The novel takes place in Bretagne (Brittany). Peeps, I've been fascinated with this place since I was a teenager. Bretagne to France is like Wales to England. Old pagan roots, alien language, it's full of mythology and old fairy-tales. I really want to go there one day.

- It's historical fiction with an assassin in it. The woman who could kick ass in such a dominant male society must have been absolutely extraordinary.

So, the setting, the premise and the ideas of this book earn high brownie points from me. It's a light entertaining read, the writing is flowing really well, and I finished the novel in one sitting.

Now, the critique.

That marvellous potential advertised by the setting, premise and the main characters? Never realised. Oh man, it could have been such a treat! Gritty, dark, dangerous and full of marvellous adventures and moral quandaries.

Instead we received  PG13 version of an assassin and an entry course in Brittany history. Why did it have to be so simplistic?! Does young adult means mentally impaired?  At that age I was reading George Sand and Alexander Dumas, surely I could have managed modern historical fiction.

The simplification of everything was driving me absolutely bonkers, - the whole part where Ismae spent few years training to be an assassin was skipped. SKIPPED. The best part. You know, poisons, weaponry, even that part about womanly charms and seduction?

Most of her kills were clumsy, she displayed zero feelings and no moral hesitation about killing someone, it was mostly a robotic function for her.

The characters and their mutual interactions weren't fleshed out, the intrigues and the conflict managed to look boring and underdeveloped. I just don't know how could you take such an interesting premise and such a tumultuous period of history and make it so plain and tamed?

I think this book is very good for a gentle introduction of a very young reader to historical fiction. Mature reader (I mean: fussy reader) will struggle. I would recommend this instead


In the year 1605, a young widow, pregnant and alone, seeks sanctuary at the small Abbey of Sainte Marie-de-la-mer on the island of Noirs Moustiers off the Brittany coast. After the birth of her daughter, she takes up the veil, and a new name, Soeur Auguste. But the peace she has found in remote isolation is shattered five years later by the events that follow the death of her kind benefactress, the Reverend Mother.
When a new abbess -- the daughter of a corrupt noble family elevated by the murder of King Henri IV -- arrives at Sainte Marie-de-la-mer, she does not arrive alone. With her is her personal confessor and spiritual guide, Père Colombin, a man Soeur Auguste knows all too well. For the newcomer is Guy LeMerle, a charlatan and seducer now masquerading as a priest, and the one man she fears more than any other.
Soeur Auguste has a secret. Once she was l'Ailée, "The Winged One," star performer of a troupe led by LeMerle, before betrayal forced her to change her identity. But now the past has found her. Before long, thanks to LeMerle, suspicion and debauchery are breeding like a plague within the convent's walls -- fueled by dark rumors of witchcraft, part of the false priest's brilliantly orchestrated scheme of revenge. To protect herself and her beloved child, l'Ailée will have to perform one last act of dazzling daring more audacious than any she has previously attempted.

* * *
 Ну, смотрю в книгу и вижу фигу. 

Так предвкушала её прочтение! Ну как же! Ассассин, обученная бретонскими сёстрами монастыря Св. Мортэна. сама Бретань Средних веков. Страсти, закулисные интриги. покушения, яды...

А в итоге получился довольно убогий и наивный исторический роман для младших классов. Всё упрощено до невозможности и поэтому сюжет вял и скучен. Сама Исмэ, как тот робот, от убийств ничего не испытывает, никаких моральных проблем, угрызений совести или трепета в самом начале.

Остальные персонажи тоже картонны до жути и сами взаимотношения между ними так и остаются сырыми.

Подготовка в монастыре вообще пропущена. Исмэ попадает в монастырь, и тут же мы её видим несколько лет спустя на первом задании, а ведь это была самая мною предвкушаемая часть.

Однако, несмотря на огромные недостатки, книга всё-равно читается легко и быстро. Поэтому советую для очень юных читателей, которых может и выйдет заинтересовать историей.



Disincentive said...

I really like historical fiction, and assasins... Oh! Sounds really amazing to me :) But I hate when they skip the best parts. Happens in a lot of books, huh? :|

Mel said...

Now you mention it, I suppose it was quite simple but to be honest I read it so quickly I never noticed until now!

Lalaine said...

Ive been seeingn this book lately, and I love historical fiction, so this sounds so good to me, Great review Kara x


Unknown said...

I love this review. I do want to read Grave Mercy, probably for the same reasons you did, because the premise sounds awesome and the time period and setting is intriguing. But there is nothing more frustrating then a book that does NOT live up to it's potential. I think you have made valid arguments and now I want to read it even more so I can compare my impressions to yours! But since I fall into the Mature (ie: fussy:) reader category, this one might not be as perfect as I hope. Oh, and I love the inclusion of the Joanne Harris book as an alternative! I haven't read that particular book, but have read others by her and really admire her work.

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

I've been kind of curious about this one. Thanks for the review. I like the assassin idea, but I usually have troubles with the historical part. Thanks for the review!

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