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4 Stars: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

I had been seeing mentions of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers all over the place late last year, and so you can imagine my excitement when I found a Kindle copy available through my library’s Overdrive! I seriously love that service <3. I was a little nervous about Grave Mercy since it’s mostly historical fiction with a fair bit of mysticism thrown in, but not nearly as fantastical as I’m used to. However, I’ve been saying how I wanted to stretch my reading zone, so it was the perfect opportunity ;-). Also female assassins are pretty much an auto-read for me, haha!
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers Goodreads | Amazon

Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Length: 549 pages
Genre-ish: Mystical Historical Fiction
Rating★★★– awesome premise, got a little slow

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? — Goodreads


  • First of all, the ending of Grave Mercy is freaking transcendent. It increases the mysticism level and fixed some of the hang-ups I had been having previously. It is so worth sticking it out to the end of Grave Mercy, even if you find yourself having some trouble in the middle. 
  • I had some feminist issues with the “handmaiden of Death” thing, but they were also resolved by the end. Rest assured, things are not as they appear >.>.
  • Ismae’s special powers have to do partially with poison, which is freaking awesome. I don’t know why, but I just love poison-related abilities these days :D.


  • The middle of Grave Mercy got quite slow for me. This is where my disinterest in typical historical fiction plots became a problem. There is a lot of court intrigue that just didn’t do it for me.
  • I had a big problem with Ismae leaving her “master” husband (because she wouldn’t have had any rights married to him) for another master in the form of the convent and their god. She was told outright that she would have to follow her orders no matter how she felt about them, and so she had no freewill in her new life either. This does get resolved somewhat at the end of Grave Mercy, but it was a big annoyance throughout.
  • I just never fell for the romance fully. I wasn’t all swoon-y, and in fact didn’t really want any romantic development to happen. Perhaps I’ll be more convinced in the next book ;-).


On the whole, branching out of my comfort zone a little bit paid off wonderfully with Grave Mercy! I’ve learned that I’m not a big fan of court intrigue based plots, but that was a valuable lesson ;-). Given that I wanted more development of the supernatural powers throughout all of Grave Mercy, I probably should read a fantasy book now, haha. In any case, if you are someone who is more interested in historical fiction than I am, but also loves the idea of female assassins with supernatural powers, then you should definitely check out Grave Mercy. This is especially true, since the sequel Dark Triumph is coming out next week :D.

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Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – A


 Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

© 2013, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. I liked this book, too. I haven’t read the last part of the series yet but I want to, soon.
    I agree with you on the courtly intrigue part – all the names and their reasons for acting kind of blurred together after a while. I have this problem with very complex world-building in fantasy novels, too, not just historical novels. I guess I’m an action-oriented reader :)

  2. Really happy you liked this one overall Anya, I’m thinking it’ll be one of my next reads! I had heard that the plot did slow down in the middle so I (hope) I’m already prepared for that bit…it almost has to be slow somewhere because it’s a pretty monster book!!

    I’m glad the issues you had with some aspects were resolved at the end too…nothing worse than having unresolved bits when you finish a book. Like you though, I worry that I’ll sorely miss more fantastical elements…at least there are some and your idea of reading something high fantasy right after sounds perfect ;)

    • Yes, if you’re prepared, I think that will help. I was trying to read really fast to make the library deadline, so it was frustrating when it was a slower pace.

  3. I had troubles with the historical plot too. I don’t think it fit well with what Ismae was trying to accomplish. For me this book was okay. I liked it, but I don’t know if I’ll read the next one.

    • Yeah, I think I would have liked it more if it was a bit more fantasy, but that’s just because I’m a fantasy nerd ;-). There were a bit too many historical details that I just couldn’t follow and didn’t much care about ya know? I’m pretty sure I’ll have to read the next one because Sybella is such an interesting character :)

  4. I am looking forward to reading this one!

  5. Glad you liked it overall! I really liked it too. (She had me at assassin nuns. :D) I think the second book in the series will be out soon, if it’s not already. Great review!

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