Good Reads #43: Grave Mercy


A story about an assassin nun set in 15th century France sent to the local Duchess’ court to ferret out a traitor.

Honestly, why are you still even reading this review? How has that description of this book not caused you to run to your local library/bookstore/online store of choice and pick it up?

It’s an awesome premise and it’s done really, really well.

Ismae, the daughter of a turnip farmer, is sold off in marriage to a local lout. She is spared from a life of certain misery and abuse after he locks her in the cellar and is rescued by the local priest and herbwitch who send her to the Abbey of St. Mortain where the sisters serve Death himself by killing at his whim. We follow her as she goes on her first mission, and then later to a local Duchess’ court to ferret out a traitor.  What follows is a story of courtly intrigue, murder (by and not by her own hands) and even romance all written in an immensely enjoyable way.

I am very fond of Ismae. She is devout, but not afraid to question her convent (in fact, her faith is stronger than ever by novel’s end) and she comes off as quiet, but intelligent. She doesn’t relish the thought of being married to just anyone, but by the of the novel is no longer discounting the notion.

She is what I would consider to be a period-appropriate feminist. She doesn’t fit the usual female role of the era, but she’s not so OMG MARRIAGE IS EVUL!!! as to be laughable. Her objection against matrimony comes from personal experience- her father was abusive (and actually tried to have her aborted, but Mortain’s gifts spared her life even as her mother almost died), the man that her father married her to was abusive. So to go from that to a realm where she was taught to read and to write (this IS the 15th century) and to fight and to take care of herself, it’s hard to imagine anyone necessarily jumping at the chance to go becoming the wife of another peasant.

Once I picked this up I had a difficult time putting it down, and I’ve already got the sequel coming for at the library. I’m a bit hesitant because the sequel picks up where the last left off, but with a new narrator. Still, if this book is any indication, I’m in for a treat.

Amazon did not steer me wrong in suggesting I buy this and I you won’t go wrong either.

Verdict: Buy it

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