Friday, April 13, 2012

L for lamb to the slaughter? - Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers (fiction)

Handmaiden to death.
Fair assassin.
Death's own true daughter.

At the convent of St. Mortain in old Brittany, Ismae finds her calling, her gift. She can see the Dark Lord's mark plainly on those guilty ones she's assigned to kill...and she can communicate with souls after death.

Her training at the convent has molded her into a subtle instrument of Death's justice, yet she is unprepared for the intrigues of Anne's court. Will her skills be enough to protect the young duchess from traitors?

I studied in Brittany years ago, land of ancient standing stones and long-held traditions, living down the block from Nantes' massive cathedral where Anne must be crowned to keep Brittany independent (and just found my apartment balcony on Google Earth - wow). Folks in the countryside still identify themselves at Bretons before they say they're French...

First in His Fair Handmaiden series, you can find this exciting tale at your local library or independent bookstore now.

Do you believe that relationships can persist despite mere distance...or death?

Book info: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, book 1) / Robin LaFevers. Houghton Mifflin, 2012. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Smuggled in boats and hidden in wagons, Ismae escapes a forced marriage to arrive at a remote convent. Here, the sisters of St. Mortain are dedicated to the Lord Death, a cadre of assassin nuns trying to keep Brittany and the old gods from being swallowed by France and its intolerant Catholic priests.

Oh, death has long whispered around her, born with long red scars claimed by the herbwitch as the mark that Ismae was fathered by the dark Lord himself. She trains with other novices in deadly arts both subtle and sudden, preparing for her first test as an assassin who can see Mortain’s dark sign on her target, a sure signal that the person’s guilt has brought Death’s final justice.

As the French regent pressures Brittany’s young ruler to marry him, Ismae is brought into Anne’s castle to carefully remove disloyal nobles who would betray the twelve-year-old duchess before her coronation. Her protector amid the royal protocols and complex alliances is Duval, Anne’s older half-brother, born to a woman not their father’s wife. Information travels back and forth to the convent by raven, but can hardly convey the wisps of rumors sliding along the castle corridors.

When the Reverend Mother orders Ismae to kill Duval, she searches for Lord Death’s mark to show her the method of assassination, but finds none. How can this be? Every other victim has displayed a clear mark. Is someone intercepting the secret messages? Is there a traitor at the convent? Are her growing feelings for Duval clouding her most important gifts? Could Duval truly wish harm to the royal sister whom he’s sworn to protect?

This first book in His Fair Assassin series takes readers into the complex world of duchies and alliances, to the days when Brittany’s old gods still wandered its woodlands and rocky coasts. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.


  1. Interesting premise, and it sounds like one would learn a lot about a period in French history. Nice! I'm over from A to Z, and glad I found your blog. Following you now. Cheers, Catherine

  2. Think we all hope this... the after death thing, I mean. Sounds a fascinating read.

  3. So cool idea - a book review a day! Great theme!
    Best wishes,
    Anna's A-Z, the letter M

  4. Wow! That synopsis gave me the shivers. Very intriguing.


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