This is book number 1 in the His Fair Assassin series.
At first glance, this is a well researched series about an order of medieval assassin nuns sired by Death Himself, so I was pretty much already sold. But THEN I started reading it, and could not stop. For weeks. I burned through all 3 books (and the related upcoming February 2019 release Courting Darkness) in like a week and a half.
The series takes place in 15th century Brittany, a time when everyone is at war, the duchy has been inherited by a 12 year old girl, and the Catholic Church chose to actively subsume pagan beliefs in order to gain acceptance among a reluctant populace. It is one of these old pagan gods, Mortain, now considered the patron saint of death, that our heroines worship and struggle and fight for. But they are also fighting for themselves.
The history is fascinating, the trauma is brutal but very well handled, the romance is the healthy and supportive (but fuuun) kind that you want your teens reading about, and the weapons are historically accurate. Don't you want to read about young women finding self actualization and liberation through violence and subterfuge and epic battles? DON'T YOU?
— From Anje
Trained by a convent of assassins under Death's employ, Ismae learns the many ways of anger management. Alternative history with fantastic costumes, intrigue, betrayal, and a satisfying conclusion (in that I proceeded to read the rest of the series right after). Excellent!— From Alex
“In the name of St. Mortain, the god of Death, killing a man is justified. Each with their own special ability, girls from around the land are called upon to train to be assassins in his name. Ismae has her own power, one very useful for killing men who have sinned, especially those who have wronged women. Full of intrigue, romance, and blood-racing action, Ismae's journey is one to remember. The next book in this series cannot come fast enough!”
— Hallie Wilkins, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, IL
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?
Robin LaFevers, author of the New York Times best-selling His Fair Assassin books, was raised on fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and nineteenth-century poetry. It is not surprising that she grew up to be a hopeless romantic. She was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in California. Visit her online at robinlafevers.com and on Twitter @RLLaFevers.
Cynthia Leitich Smith, New York Times best-selling author of the Tantalize series:
"A delectable simmer of intrigue and ferocity, passion and compassion. Grave Mercy sates and fascinates, even as it leaves you craving more."
Elizabeth Bunce, author of Starcrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold:
"Chilling, deftly plotted, and with a thread of subtly crafted romance. Readers will be seduced by LaFevers's deadly snare of haunting magic and courtly intrigue."
Laura Whitcomb, author of A Certain Slant of Light:
"Atmospheric, romantic, and gripping."
Ten Teen Reads You Can't Miss, Entertainment Weekly.com, October 2012:
"Prepare to enjoy LaFevers' tasty court intrigue and one badass heroine."
Starred review, Booklist:
* "With characters that will inspire the imagination, a plot that nods to history while defying accuracy, and a love story that promises more in the second book, this is sure to attract feminist readers and romantics alike."
Starred review, Kirkus Reviews:
* "LaFevers' ambitious tapestry includes poison and treason and murder, valor and honor and slow love, suspense and sexuality and mercy. A page-turner-with grace."
Starred review, Publishers Weekly:
* "Rich in historical detail, well-realized characters, political machinations, and enticingly prickly scenes between Ismae and Duval, LaFevers's complex tale incorporates magic both sparingly and subtly. This powerful first volume of the His Fair Assassin series should attract many readers."
Starred review, School Library Journal:
* "The book is well written and filled with fascinating, complex characters who function realistically in this invented medieval world."
Starred review, Shelf Awareness:
#3 on Kids' Indie Next List, spring 2012
An Amazon Best Teen Book of 2012