Saturday, February 9, 2013

Grave Mercy

LaFevers, Robin. 2012. GRAVE MERCY. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780547628349 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

Married off by a cruel father to a frightening brute, Ismae is rescued by priests and transported to the abbey of Saint Mortain. Here she learns that she is the daughter of Death Himself; she has come to the convent to train to serve Mortain as His assassin. Given the chance to leave her miserable life and the malicious men behind, she eagerly agrees. “It will be no hardship at all to kill the likes of” those who wronged her.

After years of training, Ismae is sent as a spy into the high court of Brittany. She is to keep a close watch on noble Gavriel Duval, to test his loyalty to the kingdom. If he proves a traitor, Ismae must assassinate him. But, Duval is like no man she has ever known. How can she keep her eyes on her target, when, to her great surprise, he has stolen her heart?

This atmospheric novel expertly depicts the splendor and intrigue of a high court. The writing is rich and sophisticated; it has the feel of a historical British novel while creating a wholly original enchanted setting. The character of Death and the role of assassin add an appropriate darkness to the tale without becoming too heavy. Ultimately, it is the story of a strong, independent young lady coming to terms with her past and embracing her future. 

Readers can explore and compare other tales of high courts, both true and fictional. They can also investigate faiths and different beliefs on death. Some might even research real world assassin training.     

Other novels about teenage assassins:
Cashore, Kristin. GRACELING. ISBN 9780152063962
Maas, Sarah J. THRONE OF GLASS. ISBN 9781599906959

By Jill Bellomy

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