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?
And here is Michelle's review:
The biggest reason I picked up Grave Mercy originally was because of the assassin nuns. Because come on, how awesome does “assassin nuns” sound?
Then I saw it was first-person present tense, and almost held back from getting it. That particular style has been notoriously difficult for me to get into in the past, and I've been getting burnt out on it.
However, I went ahead and got the book anyway, and I'm thrilled I did. LaFevers uses language so well that I sank immediately into her style without the 5-10 pages of struggle that normally accompanies reading present tense.
Here, she's created a fantastic medieval world of gods, saints, political intrigue, and romance that swept me away completely.
And yes, the assassin nuns were pretty much as great as they sounded.
I'm a complete sucker for the “I hate you, and I hate that I'm starting to like you” stories, and that's exactly the way Ismae and Duval start out. Ismae has very good reasons for neither liking nor trusting men, and originally she places Duval in that same category. Their romance comes about in a slow, believable way (interspersed with lots of fun fighting) as they navigate the dicey political situation in the court.
Normally I'm not too keen on romances that are solely in the first-person viewpoint (what can I say, I like to get both POVs), but this one works. It keeps Duval and his intentions a mystery, as the reader is forced to draw conclusions only from what Ismae observes.
I also loved reading a story in which the main character's faith played such a large role in her life. As a handmaiden of St. Mortain, the god of death, Ismae is constantly praying, questioning, and seeking what's true, trying to find the balance between Mortain's wishes and the convent's orders. It's not something I've seen done often or (more importantly) done well, so I really, really enjoyed that aspect of the novel.
If you like historical, fantasy, or romance, then you really can't go wrong with Grave Mercy. It was so, so much better than I anticipated, and I had high hopes starting out.
Besides: ASSASSIN NUNS.