Set in 1487, the French territory Brittany, a duchy, is trying to gain its complete independence from the French Crown. Amidst all the political chaos, Ismae is in for some chaos of her own. Escaping a terrible arranged marriage, Ismae is brought to the convent of St. Martian, a nunnery of assassins, and learns that she is a daughter of death. After years of training to kill, seduce and mix poisons, she finally is given an assignment at the Brittany Court, where she will act as a mistress of Gavriel Duval, as the eyes and ears of her convent.
I found this story very refreshing; not only do I love historical fiction, but it is rare to find a story that mixes fiction with historical events so beautifully. Many of the people and events in this novel actually did take place; mix in some female assassins, old gods, death himself and you have Grave Mercy.
Ismae is an interesting character, but from the very beginning, she is a fighter. She is blindly faithful to St. Mortian and her God, and also not the best at the art seduction, but she is learning. She is excellent with potions and quite skilled with daggers and crossbows that she hides under her satin skirts. She is smart and never loses sight of her mission, well, almost never loses sigh of her mission. I extremely enjoyed her relationship with Gavriel; it never felt rushed or insensitive, and there was always an air of mystery to him.
I was disappointed with the lack of relationship building with some minor characters, mainly Beast and De Loray, whom she suddenly has strong feels about (positive or negative I will not say) without being developed. Her relationship with Anne was more developed than any other minor character, but it was very timid and respectful.
The plot overall was intriguing and always kept me guessing. The political dance was enjoyable and never being able to fully trust a character was fun. The pacing was admirable, but at 549 pages, there were times where I felt it was just too long for its storyline. I’m never against a long book, mind you, but only when it’s appropriate. I was never bored, however, but there were areas that did drag. I was a bit questionable about a certain “cure” near the end….
Overall, Ismae & Gavriel are fun, interesting characters. The historical and supernatural aspect is great and woven together nicely. I recommend it to those who love kick ass females, medieval times, french history, or all three! A female assassin posing as a mistress at a medieval court? Yeah, pretty awesome.
I’m excited to read the sequel, I’ve heard it’s even better than the first!