Sunday, May 13, 2012

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?
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?


First Look: ***** I don't understand what people seem to love about this cover.  I don't really like it.  I had a very in-depth conversation about this with the friend who loaned it to me.  She completely agreed, and we decided the factors that made us dislike the cover: 1) Photo quality.  It almost looks a bit grainy or something.  It just isn't very clear. 2) The dress.  I mean, how much more low-cut can you get?  3) The model's expression/photo angle.  This is a combination of two things, we decided.  One, the model's face has an odd expression, making it look unnatural.  Two, the photo almost looks like it was taken from a low angle, giving the impression that we're looking up into this girl's face.  Now, I'm 5'1".  I look up at tall people all the time.  I don't need to to be reminded that the average person is taller than me.  4) Font.  There are three different fonts used on the cover, and it makes the whole thing look a bit over-photoshopped.  5) The tagline.  It really doesn't have much to do with the book, and it sounds like a Twilight reference, except with sheep and wolves instead of lions and lambs. 

Okay, so we really didn't need the cover analysis.  I just find it interesting, and I didn't want to let all that analyzing work go to waste.  I still picked this book up, though, because the premise looked interesting. 

Setting: ***** I liked the historical aspect of it.  I enjoy historical fantasy, and I think it's a very underused genre.  It lacked the sparkle that I like to see in a setting, though.  Nothing really stood out to me about the setting, other than the historical part. 
Characters: ***** The author was definitely going for the strong-female-heroine thing with Ismae, the Katniss Everdeen don't-mess-with-her sort of feel.  Ismae had this, on the surface.  As a reader, I knew she could take care of herself and win any fight that came her way.  It didn't extend any deeper than this, though.  See, there are two kinds of this "strong female lead".  One is the kind where she's tough, as in she can beat up anyone who messes with her.  Then there's the second kind, who goes a bit deeper.  Who is tough on the outside, but also has a kind of emotional toughness.  Like her personality is strong, as well.  Ismae was, for me, the first kind of heroine.  I never really connected with her, and I wanted a bit more from her.  And I didn't like how long it took her to question the convent's orders.  If there's one thing I can't stand, it's people who don't think for themselves and follow everything blindly.

As other characters go, I liked Duval.  I thought he was an interesting character.  And the duchess Anne gets two virtual high-fives from me.  One for being awesome and tougher than Ismae, despite not even being a teenager yet, and the second for having a really cool name. 

Plot: ***** I got into it, at the end.  It had me wondering what would happen next, and I was eager to find out.  The plot moved forward at a good pace, at the end.

The trouble was that it took too long to get there.  For the first three quarters of the book I was getting bored.  It moved too slowly for me, took too long to get into the action.  I would've liked this book a lot more if it would've picked up at the beginning.     

Uniqueness: ***** The blend of history and made-up mythology was unique.

Writing: ***** Honestly, the first-person bothered me a bit. I'm not quite sure why. Also, the present tense really bothered me. Present tense tends to do that, for me. When it's done really well, I hardly notice it's there. But with this book, I just kept noticing and noticing. It just didn't feel all that natural.

Likes: Anne. 

Not-so-great: Duval's healing.  Really?  Really?  Just...no.  Author, was that really necessary? 

Does Ismae really need to have sex with him in order to heal him?
Also, the religion aspect of this bothered me a bit.  I'm fine with fictional gods, usually.  I can deal with.  But having fictional gods and acknowledging the presence of Christ at the same time?  Not okay.  That's taking it too far.  And capitalizing every "he" or "his" that had to do with the god of death didn't help, either. 

Overall: This was an okay book.  I'm definitely in the minority on this.  The concept was quite unique and had a lot of potential, but it just didn't follow through, for me.  The characters and setting were simply okay, for me.  The present tense narration got on my nerves.  The plot picked up, at the end, but the beginning moved quite slowly, more slowly than I like.  I was bored for a while.  The sketchy religious aspects didn't help.  This was an okay book, and I'd recommend you give it a try if it looks interesting, because it seems I'm one of the only ones who didn't think this book was utterly amazing. 


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