His fair assassin
I usually don't read YA novels, but Grave Mercy, the first in The Fair Assassin series, contains a number of elements that I do read--history, the struggle between good and evil, political intrigue, character growth, love, strong characters, mystery. The starred review that I read and the offer of a free e-galley drew me in, but Ismae's story kept me reading.
Robin LaFevers's debut novel is about a young lady in 15th century France who becomes an assassin, serving the god of death. With some help fourteen-year-old Ismae Rienne escapes a cruel husband and lands at the Convent of St. Mortain. Here she meets her friends, Sybella and Annith, the protagonists of the next two books in the series. Together these three handmaidens of death learn how to be assassins in the service of Mortain, the god of death. Each has different gifts. Ismae's includes her ability to see Mortain's mark on those he's chosen for assassination. After three years Ismae is sent out on her first assignment--to kill a traitor to Brittany. Just after after the kill she meets someone who will become a big part of her life in more ways than one.
This sets up the major part of the story. The abbess sends her to the high court of Brittany on an information gathering mission. She is accompanied by Gavriel Duval, the Duchess's closest adviser and half-brother. At court she is to keep a close eye on Duval, to protect Anne, Duchess of Brittany, and to gather information on the actions of the court with regard to the duchy's soverignty. This lands her in the midst of politcal intrigue. The young Duchess is walking a political tightrope. She needs to marry well so that Brittany is not gobbled up by France. None of her options are very appealing.
As the story unfolds Isame begins to doubt the whether the abbess is correctly interpreting the signs from Mortain. She begins to trust her own instincts and abilities in her service of Mortain. In addition, she and Duval grow closer. Has Ismae trusted the right people in order to protect Anne? Will she follow the orders of the abbess and kill the man who has unwillingly stolen her heart? Will she find the traitors in time? Pick up Grave Mercy and find out. I look forward to the next book, Dark Triumph, which is Sybella's story.