“Grave Mercy” – Job Title: Handmaiden of Death or Angel of Mercy? Such a Hard Choice!

Book Review : Grave Mercy, His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers
Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?

Spoiler Alert!

Ismae was marked with a scar running across her back that claimed her as being different than average humans. When she escapes from an arranged marriage that offered nothing more than abuse Ismae is taken in by the convent of St Mortain. The sisters serve the god of Death and Ismae is an initiate to become a handmaiden of death. Ismae and the other sisters are trained in over one hundred ways to kill a man, court etiquette and the secrets of St. Mortain. Ismae is quickly thrust into the high realms of Brittany with an important assignment. Once there she discovers that she is ill-prepared for all the dangers, whether it is protecting her heart or discovering the true intent of another’s heart. Her impossible choices have the power to affect all of Brittany, the followers of Mortain and her own destiny.

Adult Point of View

I laughed at the line on the front cover, Why be the sheep when you can be  the wolf? I went into ready this novel warily and I was justified. When I asked my daughter if she wanted to read this book she looked at the write up and she asked me if the main character fell in love and if she was ordered to kill the man she loved. When I responded, “Yes…” Her response was, “NO!” (to say this correctly with her inflection you will need to put in an element of disgust and roll your eyes).

Novels are forgiven for being predictable if they are well written, however, Grave Mercy commits the unpardonable error of being poorly written. LaFevers relies upon cliche phrases and over used descriptions. Ismae is constantly referred to as having ice in her veins, dread and every other emotion in her veins. The initial 85 pages or so feels like the novel is going to be all about hating men because they abuse women. I am appalled at books that over generalize in this way. All the women at the convent hate men and are doing everything in their world to subvert the power of men. I wonder if any of them notice that St. Mortain, the god of Death is, in fact, a man. Their destinies are still completely controlled by men.

It also bugged me that Ismae describes Duval as gentle even in his anger, but then also says he holds her arm so tightly that she is in pain. What does that mean? It’s okay for him to hurt her a little because she loves him and he is not violently abusive? Does it mean that we should overlook is dark brooding nature and underlying brutality because he is suppose to be the hero, and oh so attractive? Yikes! It also bugged me that Ismae is meant to be a world wise assassin and she is so naive. This is excusable because she is only seventeen, but the convent should not send out initiates that are unable to do the job they have been given because they don’t have the skills and tools of experience. Ridiculous.

The best part of the book was when LaFevers delved into the political intrigue and the multiple layers of court life. There were no big surprises. The convent’s contact with the court, Crunard, is the spy. The Beast and de Lornay, the friends of Duval, are eventually won over by Ismae and defend country bravely. Ismae is blessed by Death and realizes she can choose to live a life with love rather than being only a tool for suffering. The second best part of the book was when Ismae has her meeting with her father, Death, and realizes that death is not always about vengeance but death is also a mercy to end the suffering.

I probably liked the book more while reading it than after as I reflected upon the silliness of the whole thing. I think I am too old to enjoy this one. Perhaps younger women will enjoy this one.

I just can’t even give it three stars though I tried.

2.5 out 5 stars

– Michelle

I actually have reconsidered if I should only give it 2 stars.

I recently realized this is the same author who wrote Theodosia and the Serpent of Chaos. I thought this was delightful, so what happened in Grave Mercy to make it a total fail in comparison?

If you like something like this you might also like Nightshade (another novel that I did not love).  If you want something great read The Count of Monte Cristo!


About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow cooked in a tagine. Weekly I get together with friends and go to yoga for a bit of mommy time. Some may find me quirky, I prefer to think I am one of a kind.
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