Reread Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

5:00 PM

The release of Courting Darkness called for a complete reread of this series! 


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?

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 stars) 
I'm so ashamed of myself that I hadn't reviewed this series when I originally read it. Someone needs to drag me for that, because there was a time when I literally wouldn't shut up about this series. Oops!

There's just something about the His Fair Assassin series that is so indulgent. I can't explain it, but it is one of those series that I just fly straight through.

Reading the new companion novel/series to it, Courting Darkness earlier this year, I knew I had to embark on a reread of the original trilogy. Because reasons. I just missed this world and the dynamics and--ugh. I just missed it, okay? On a whim, I decided to reread it, and here we are.

Firstly, I have to admit that Grave Mercy was not (And still isn't) my favourite of the series. It's definitely an excellent first installment of the His Fair Assassin series and sets the stage quite well. I found, this time around, that the worldbuilding of it wasn't the greatest (especially in comparison to the next two books) but it still was a blast to read.

The first time that I read the novel, I didn't think much of this. Looking back on it now I found there to be something anticlimactic about how little we knew about Saint Mortain before being thrown into the thick of the plot.

Granted, as the series goes on we do learn through notes that Robin LaFevers' posted on her site.

There is just a part of me that wishes there had been more to it, given how long the novel itself actually was. And that there was more focus on the elements of, well, assassins.

Although Grave Mercy is the least explosive installment, I still found the historical setting to be highly intriguing and Ismae remains a wonderful character to read. LaFevers has this bleak tone to her prose that makes Grave Mercy very atmospheric. It adds an extra layer to the historical setting and leads readers into the gray area of this world: you're neither comforted by it nor are you on edge.

I still love the mingling of actual historical events and the dive into fiction; I love the main romance of Grave Mercy between Ismae and Duval and more. There's something so satisfying seeing how LaFevers laid everything out in Grave Mercy and then thinking about where the series will go in the other two installments.

This was a one-sitting read back in the days of its original release and, fortunately, still remains as such during my reread years later. There isn't enough time for me to say how many feelings the His Fair Assassin gives me, regardless of its flaws, but it still remains one of my favourite "nostalgic" reads and I'm so glad to have reread it.

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