January 30, 2014

Epic Recs Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Feature created by Amber and Judith, Graphic created by Judith
For our first ever Epic Recs, Lisa insisted I read Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. I think it took her 30 seconds of scrolling through my Goodreads TBR to decide this. Of course, her excitement got me all revved up to read an AMAZING book. And, because Lisa is awesome is totally gets me, I got just that.

Title: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Page Count: 549
Source: Purchased
First Reaction: O.O Whoa.
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?

[Summary Source: Goodreads]
 Ismae is the daughter of St. Mortain. Her father hates that she's not his daughter and treats her terribly for it. When Ismae is married off to the highest bidder, she is beaten and left for dead. But instead of dying in her new husband's basement, she is saved and brought to the convent of St. Mortain - her true father - where she is taught to be an assassin. Once her training at the convent is complete, Ismae is sent on three connect missions, the third of which being the biggest obstacle she has yet to face - the one that completely challenges her beliefs and shows her a life outside of the convent of St. Mortain, yet still allows for worship. Oh, and this obstacle is pretty much a really attractive, smoulder-y guy named Gavriel Duval. Yum.
So this book is historical fiction and it's kind of supernatural as well. I might call it fantasy? Maybe historical urban fantasy? I don't even know. It's not even worth it to try and set a genre to this one. But whatever you'd categorize this one as, the setting is amazing. There's the medieval element that I love and was so completely authentic. Then there's the magical assassin bits that are so wonderful and complex and serious that I just cannot get enough. I mean, normally I'm not that interested in supernatural stuff - especially when it comes to the questioning of religion, but Robin LaFevers really kills it with this book. 
Like I said, Robin LaFevers kills it with the serious religion stuff. I'm still thinking about the religious themes and messages in this one. I mean, there's Ismae, who is saved by the convent of St. Mortain and, as time passes, becomes totally devoted to said convent and it's Saint. And then, when she leaves the convent and encounters the real world, who beliefs are tested. Of course, lot of the times, a protagonist will either drop the religion or overcome and become even more committed when tested, but Ismae finds a third option and totally makes it work in the best way possible. 

Now, I know this sounds like a lot of religion and "ugh, Gaby, religion is the worst and complicated and I don't want this in my books, why would I ever want to read this?" But, you guys, it's amazing. The religious conflicts can be interpreted so many different ways. I honestly think I saw it the way I did because I grew up religious, have faced these internal conflicts myself, and majored in religion in college. So, like, duh I would feel this way. But you really can apply this conflict to any part of your life. And it really makes you think. When I finished the book Lisa asked me how I felt about it and I was like: "Lady, I'm still digesting ALL OF THE THING give my brain some time to process my mini theology lesson and all of the feels!" To be honest? I'm still processing.
Y'know how some books have a crazy sudden twist and you're like WUT? Well, this is not really that book. There are some awesome twists, but it's kind of a slow, gradual build. The mysteries slowly unfold themselves and when the big reveals take place, you kind of roll with it and are ready for it. It's like, Ismae didn't just stumble upon the answers. No one pulled the ground out from underneath her. She did the necessary sleuthing, put all the pieces together, and shared with the class (which was inevitable because this book is from her point of view). Honestly, the plotting this book must have taken to make sure all of the little bits lined up right is insane. I'm not sure I could have done it even with an extensive outline. Bravo for real, Robin LaFevers. Bravo.
Well, I guess there were some swoony-ish moments in this book.


I don't know why, but I feel like really good YA historical/fantasy/medieval based stories are required to have deliciously delicious kissing scenes (if there's a romance involved - which, like, there almost always is). I'm not complaining of course, because Ismae and Duval are just so perfect and wonderful I can't stand it. I mean, Duval is this tough, guarded guy and Ismae and this tough, frightened-when-it-comes-to-men girl assassin. There's such a huge obstacle between the two of them that the breakdown of the obstacle as well as the chemistry and tension that exist between these character really make me plug in the fan in the middle of winter. I mean, really. I'd say get a room, but they already have it and we're the ones happily invaded said room.
Lisa had a couple of questions for me once I finished the book. Check them out!

1. In three words, Grave Mercy is: 
Thought-provoking, magical, and worth-every-page (that's one word, right?).
2. If you were training at St. Mortain, what would your specialty be? 
Oh jeeze. I am not an athletic girl but going to private school my whole life totally taught me how to gossip (as in, find out information I'm not supposed to know), so I'd say I'd be head of espionage, or whatever.
3. If you were to choose one character from this book to be your BFF, who would you choose and why? 
More with the hard questions. I think I'd want to be besties with Anne, Duchess of Brittany. She's so brave and fantastic and I admire her very much, even though she's fictional (well, not really fictional, but fictional as far as her characterization in this book is concerned).

Okay, so, after all that, was this an Epic Rec?
The answer is yes! Be sure to let me know if this book was truly epic for you too in the comments below!

PS: Be sure to read Lisa's review of SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen to see what she thought of my Epic Rec pick!