I'm so glad I read this book. Before I wasn't completely sure I was going to like it, but once I started reading it was very hard to put Grave Mercy down again.
Ismae is no stranger to death. Her mother tried to kill her still in the womb, leaving her scarred for life. After she's been saved from a disastrous marriage and taken to the Convent of Saint Mortain (one of the old Breton Gods now served as Saints), where she learns she's one of His daughters and trained to be a Handmaiden to Death. Or, in other words: an Assassin! Ismae has to take her place at the Breton court trying to make sense of the webs of lies and political intrigues that surround her everywhere. Can she keep the young Duchess safe and keep Brittany independent from France?
I really liked it. The setting of Medieval Brittany worked great and was very original as opposed to yet one more England-like country. At first I was a little bit disappointed at the fact the books skips over Ismae's training at the convent, but in the end it didn't really matter as we get to see enough of her tricks during the book. In a way, with all the political intrigues and many hidden agendas it reminded me of Game of Thrones (especially since Death's Handmaidens seem really similar to the Arya's training), but at the same time it's completely different as well. Except for Ismae's paternity, ability to withstand poison and be able to see the marque of Death, this novel is far more historical than paranormal.
Ismae was a nice character, I quite liked her. Her uneasiness at court and her transition during the book were done well. As a trained assassin she knows how to defend herself and luckily isn't waiting to be saved from one danger or another. Her relationship with Duval and the revelations at the end of the story however, were unnecessary for me, and I think the ending might have been stronger otherwise. But still it was a very enjoyable read. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.
One small thing I was wondering about. Ismae is supposed to be able to carry a crossbow underneath her dress. I don't see how the one on the cover is supposed to fit underneath that dress. Just saying.
Grave Mercy is the first book in the His Fair Assassin Trilogy. Dark Triumph (Review to come soon) and Mortal Heart are the other books and they feature Sybella and Annith, respectively.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!