“Grave Mercy” by Robin LaFevers

I read this back in May for a book club I have going with some friends. A mutual friend who read and loved the series highly recommended it to us, so we went in with high hopes expecting an exhilarating story about assassin nuns. But unfortunately, this one didn’t work out and was a total bore for us.


YA Historical; Fantasy


His Fair Assassin, book 1



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? (Goodreads)

My thoughts

“We carry out Mortain’s will when He wishes to alter the warp and weft of life’s weave for some purpose of His own.”

I started Grave Mercy eager and open-minded about what’s to come. I enjoy reading stories about assassins so one about assassin nuns sounded great to me. Also, my friend had assured me that the romance does not overwhelm the plot, which is something I often complain about regarding YA fantasy, and she was right. The romance does not take over the plot, but this was so slow-going and Ismae was so in denial about her feelings for Duval that I actually was hoping for the romance to take over just for SOMETHING to happen.

The story starts out interesting enough. We meet Ismae as a 14-year-old girl in her village being sold off into marriage to a pig farmer by her father before she’s whisked away to the convent of St. Mortain, where all daughters of death go to become assassins. That much interested me. I was hoping for some cool training scenes, but not much of that was included. And, unfortunately, as the story continued, I lost interest until I was tempted to give up on the book. What made me finish it is that I was reading it for book club, and I wanted to be able to discuss it with my friends.

The pace was slow and became even slower when Ismae arrives at court and the political intrigue ramped up. I usually don’t mind political intrigues, but nothing about the intrigues included in this story interested me. I blamed that on Ismae because I didn’t like her as the narrator or the protagonist or a character. For a good bit of the story, she seems to be dragged along with whomever she’s with. It’s not until a couple chapters toward the end that she seems to become more assertive and think for herself.

I was also annoyed at how “innocent” and naïve she is. I get that’s what Duval finds so appealing about her, but… I think I’m now tired of this trope. It also makes no sense to me that a convent that has been around for such a long time and have ordered numerous assassinations over the years and has several assassins in their employ would give someone like Ismae such a task. She was SO unprepared. She was innocent and naïve of so many things that she was unconvincing to me as a capable assassin. I was hoping for scenes that display what a badass she is, but I didn’t get much of that either.

Also, why (WHY!!) would such an old convent rely on only one man, the chancellor, for all their information regarding what’s going on at court or how to direct their kills or who to focus on? It makes no sense to me. From the moment that dude was introduced as the convent’s connection to the outside world, the whole setup for the convent’s organization seemed wobbly to me. I just don’t think an assassin organization that’s been around for a long time would rely on just one source of information or place so much trust in one guy. It made the whole story seem silly to me and Ismae’s character didn’t help much in convincing me otherwise because she seems too innocent to be playing assassin.

I was also put off by the writing. The story is written in present tense, and… ugh!! I find that annoying, especially since the story is set in the past. I… ugh!!! SUCH a frustrating read.

Overall: ★★☆☆☆

I initially rated it 2.5, but I knocked it down to 2 after reflecting on it for this review. I really didn’t enjoy my time with this book.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

I didn’t like it and can’t think of a reason to recommend it, but if it sounds interesting to you then don’t let my bad experience stop you from trying it out.


21 thoughts on ““Grave Mercy” by Robin LaFevers

  1. Sounds like that mutual friend can get onto your ban list now! 😛 This does sound a bit boring. A good assassin + nun type of deal would definitely be Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestors trilogy for me. Might in fact be the only one worth checking out for anyone who hasn’t experienced that idea yet hahah 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hhmmm…. sorry to hear you had to keep plodding through this one. It’s just the sort I’d have also preferred to give up on if not for the group read. I liked the sound of assassin nuns, but honestly I wasn’t thrilled by the book’s blurb, so I’d likely have passed on it. YA is very hit or miss with me, which kinda sucks because when I do enjoy it I really enjoy it. But it’s such an effort to find one I will enjoy.


    1. My reaction to YA books is the same. I’ve been lucky enough to find good ones sometimes, though. However, when it comes to assassin nuns, I do want to try Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. That’s adult fantasy.


  3. I went into this one with high hopes, too, after hearing a glowing review on a podcast, but I found Ismae to be an aggravating bore who couldn’t see the forest for the trees. So frustrating. I gave up around the 40% point or so.


  4. I haven’t read the book, but the description sounded very promising. As a former Catholic nun, I would just like to mention that, even up to our present day, the hierarchy of the church maintains control over its female religious communities. They are accountable to the Bishop or Archbishop within their diocese or country. That the “old convent [would] rely on only one man, the chancellor, for all their information regarding what’s going on at court or how to direct their kills or who to focus on” was highly likely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for mentioning that. It seemed so odd to me that they would rely on the one guy but I guess the author did a great job working that in then.
      I might include a note about that in my review when I get a chance… in case anyone else thought the same as me.
      Thanks for commenting about your experience as a former nun. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry this one didn’t work out for you. I hope your next read will be better. Great, detailed and well-balanced review. I find these type of reviews so hard to write 🙈


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