Genre: Historical, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy
Date of Release: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Summary: 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? -Goodreads
Someone on Goodreads said,"Assassin Nuns." Hehehehe... that should be a oxymoron.
Ismae was handed off to marry a pig farmer by her father. But her father didn't tell the to-be-husband that Ismae has a big, red scar on her back. A scar symbolising that she is one of Death's Handmaidens. At night, the priest takes Ismae to a covenant for girl's like her. There she learns from the Sisters to train as a assassin for Death or also known as Saint Mortmain.
Sent on her third mission, Ismae acts as a mistress to Gavriel Duval. She is sent to seek out the traitors to Brittany. How does she do that? Death has gifted her the skill to see 'marks' on the traitors and it helps her assassin the right people. But how can Ismae protect what matters most? She knows how to kill a man a hundred ways, but what about her heart? It's up to Ismae to decide if she can kill the man she loves or follow her heart and Death's way.
Sorry, for the small summarising but seriously this was a long novel. Since it was so long, sometimes my eyes moved but I wasn't seeing the pages. Don't worry, it was still a pretty exciting novel.
I absolutely loved Ismae! I mean who wouldn't want to be an Assassin?! She grew up in a world of torturing and abuse, but she turned pretty special. Ismae had such a strong sense of right and wrong. Though, I think the covenant Sisters put some false information in her head. I don't think everyone who is marked should die? What if they were a traitor, but now is a good guy? Ismae learns that in the end she doesn't always need to make such rash decisions.
The covenant scares me a bit. I mean, all these middle-aged women or even older than that teaching how to kill someone, make death potions or to get away from the scene of crime is a bit creepy. It's still cool. Being a Death maiden and that. It was a new twist of a tale in old Brittany. It reminded me of demi-gods, since the girls are Death's daughters.
The romance in this story was very slow-building and finally in the last 50 pages do Duval and Ismae declare their love for each other. I think that should have been sped up just a bit. The romance was interrupted by the court. There were so many details of the courts decisions and who would marry Duval's sister or who was a traitor, it just blended in together. I was well-written though, I could picture myself in the court, sitting there watching every thing happen. Some things were confusing, because I'm not of a history fan, but I still got most of it.
Madame Hivern's story was a bit confusing. I would have to read a paragraph a couple of times before I kinda got it. I could see why she turned out so nasty and such. At least she finally stops planning against the to-be-queen in the end. I thought that was a mini-revolution inside Ismae. It was nice to Ismae finally realise she had control over her decisions and how she could use her gifts for better.
Gavriel Duval is a amazing person. He has so much love for his sisters, not so much for his mother and his love for Ismae just grows stronger and stronger. You could tell he was a solid character and was an important figure throughout the book. I actually thought he was going to die in the end. With the traitor poisoning him through a game of chess and him dying slowly. It was heartbreaking to see, Ismae try her hardest to get him better but couldn't help.
Pushing all of that aside, the mystery in the book was awesome!! I always love it when there is some mystery and romance together! You would never have guessed who the traitor was until the last 100 pages or so. I can't write any more without revealing the whole plot. So I'm going to end this with saying that this should be a must read on everyone`s list.
Make sure to be on the look out for His Fair Assassin #2, Dark Triumph. Which is Sybella's story. Sybella is a character seen a couple of times throughout this book.
He is tall and cloaked in black. And still. He holds so very,
very still. My hand does not move to my knife, for I now recognize
His presence, a light, lingering chill and the faint scent of
freshly turned earth. With my heart thudding painfully in my
chest, I rise to my feet. my gaze never wavering as I walk toward
-Grave Mercy, pg. 522