Holding Grave Mercy in my hand for the first time, I was quite terrified. It’s over 500 pages and it takes place in the 1400’s. I usually hate books that take place in the past, but this one was about an assassin, so I thought I’d try it. And boy, am I glad that I did.
Ismae Rienne has been abused by men all her life. Her father beat her, then he sold her to another man that also beat her. Not to mention that she was unwanted in the first place: her parents tried to kill her while she was in her mother’s womb with a poison that left her grotesquely scarred. The reason that she did not die was because she was a daughter of Mortain, the god of Death. As a child of this god, Ismae was bestowed with amazing gifts, including the resistance to poison: poisons had no affect on her and she had the gift to create poisons, as well. At the age of fourteen, she was led to a convent that served St. Mortain and that taught her all of the necessary skills she needed to become an assassin. The French had invaded Brittany and there was much government upheaval with the recent death of the duke. The new duchess is in grave danger and it is the convent’s duty to help her. So, with the help of the duchess’ half-brother, Duval, Ismae must find out whom to trust and save the duchess’ life, as well as her country.
This book was unlike any other I have ever read, and in a good way. It was fast-paced and entertaining; there was never a boring moment. Although this book took place in the 1400’s, I could still understand the language and it was not hard. Also, it did not go into excruciating detail about the things that would have taken a lot of time during this time period, such as horse rides, boat rides, and numerous other activities; it glanced over the boring things and just mentioned them in passing, while describing the exciting parts in much detail.
Ismae, the main character, was awesome. She could take care of herself in a time where women were completely dependent. She was looked upon with respect, even though she was not noble-born, and she could kick anyone’s butt. She was strong and she thought for herself; she did not blindly follow the orders of the convent and she did not blindly trust. Overall, she was a strong female protagonist that did not rub dirt in the face of feminism.
Duval, the male lead, was also a splendid character. He was chivalrous, as many men were in the 1400’s, but he also did not baby Ismae. He trusted her to be able to take care of herself and did not think that she was weak just because she was a female. He also shows really deep compassion for his half-sister and he is noble in the best way possible. He may have appeared to be the knight in shining armor, but Ismae was really the one who saved him, and he was okay with that. He was not ashamed of needing help and he did not act all macho about it either, which was respectable. Overall, he is awesome.
I loved every part of this book, from its supporting characters to its plot; everything was very entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I must say that the ending was phenomenal. This is the only book where it is from Ismae’s point of view, so it needed to wrap up nicely, which I found it did. I was completely satisfied with the ending and it made me feel happy. I have literally never been satisfied with the ending of a series or a stand-alone book, but this one was fantastic! As proof of its awesomeness, I read Grave Mercy in two days. 549 pages in TWO DAYS. If that doesn't mean that it was fantastic, I don't know what does.