Description from Goodreads:
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?--
Oh boy, I don't even know where to start. The beginning of the book was phenomenal and extremely engaging, and I was so excited about it because Grave Mercy had all the potential to become one of my treasured, favourite YA fantasy books. But. Something went terribly wrong, and after reaching the halfway of the book, it was just dismal to continue. I don't usually like to make as strong arguments as "hating" a book but I'm really close to giving this book only 1 star.
Like I already said, the book was so intriguing in the beginning. I mean assassin nuns? How could that go wrong? Well it did. Somehow. The setting was so great - we have the main character, Ismae, who has been traumatised by her horrible family, but with a hint of luck and help, she manages to escape her appalling future with her drunk fiancé. She starts attending the convent of St. Mortain, where she becomes familiar with the mysterious art of Death. Ismae learns about poisons, combat, and deception, making her future looks bright as a promising assassin.
But then when she is assigned to go high court of Brittany for a mission, everything starts to go downhill. And I don't know where to start! First of all, in the beginning of the book, I adored Ismae: she was sassy, intelligent, self-reliant and self-efficient, strong emotionally and physically, as well very likeable. She had the whole package of a great heroine! But then all of a sudden, she becomes this love sick puppy and the great personality the author has created seems to go down the drain. Ismae becomes almost obsessed with Gavriel, the love interest, and even though she tries to hide, it is so painfully obvious that he is all she can think about. And this really frustrated me. I can understand that once you are in love with someone, your world can starts revolving around this person, but I just didn't want that to happen to Ismae. She was so much more than a young woman in love, and the whole romance seemed to swallow it.
It actually took me over a month to read this book, just simply because I kept postponing the reading. I think I could have forgiven the romance-that-was-straight-from-a-harlequin-cover, but the world lacked quite a bit of depth. There was very little if any description of the physical and cultural world Ismae inhabited, and it bugged me so much. The story could have bloomed with all the details and uniqueness that is often associated with historical fiction, but the only depictions we get are about Gavriel. No, thank you. I could have forgiven this as well, but then when the readers were thrust into "the deadly political game", which to be honest was just an attempt in such, was a sore disappointment as well. There were some scheming and mental (and physical) maiming, but it didn't feel very authentic or original to me (maybe I can thank A Song of Ice and Fire series for this?).
I know that some people are just absolutely smitten with this book, and that's completely fine with me. Maybe I was the one to miss that something that made everyone else fall in love with the novel? I expected a story filled with political scheming and assassination attempts, but I feel like the only thing that the book could offer me was a mediocre romance between Ismae and Gavriel. I don't want to give Grave Mercy only 1 star, because I did enjoy the beginning as it was very entertaining and original. Nevertheless, the book one of His Fair Assassin series didn't reach its whole potential.