Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) – Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) – Robin LaFeversTitle: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin Lafevers
Publishing Info: April 3, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Library
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 21, 2012
Related Posts: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2), Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3)

    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 follows the story of Ismae who after escaping the terrible fate of an arranged marriage to an oaf of a man is delivered to the convent of St. Mortain, the patron saint of Death. There she learns how to fully embody her true calling as the daughter of Mortain and learn the ways of death from her fellow Sisters and nuns. Upon the abbess’s approval, Ismae is sent out on her first big mission to protect the duchess of Brittany and to assassinate any traitors to her beloved country. When Ismae gets tangled up in the people of the court of Brittany, she finds it more and more confusing on who to trust and how to best fulfill Mortain’s will with her own feelings mixed in, especially when that means possibly betrayal of a man she may be falling in love with.

Once again, this is a book I probably would not have picked up if it were not for the glowing reviews of my fellow bloggers. This is what makes me so glad that I started my blog and am able to find such great books out there that I never would have known about otherwise!

First off, I really loved that this story was about the handmaidens of Death, but somehow had a positive spin on it. It wasn’t sinister or cruel — Ismae and her fellow Sisters are trained to assassinate those who have been “marked” by Death himself and are only the vessels to carry out His will. These are the traitors, the brutes, the tyrants – All who are deserving to suffer Death’s revenge. And even still, the story takes on so much more than pure assassinations and executions.

I really enjoyed the character development. I was surprised to see more time spent developing the minor characters that were of questionable intent versus what we usually see of the minor characters as sidekicks to the heroes. But in a way, it was actually perfectly fitting to the story. We are dealing with royal politics here and there were many hidden motives and people not to be trusted!
My favorite thing, of course, was the development of Isame & Duval’s relationship. Duval seems like one of those guys who just gives you his crooked smile and has you instantly hooked! I love any love interest that is played off as sly, witty, and sarcastic, making our strong heroine question the “weakness” of falling in love and finally bringing down that wall. And we get all of that and so much more from Duval!
Ismae really reminded me a lot of Katsa from Graceling — They had very similar natural talents (killing, fighting, etc) and that sense of surprise when they find themselves falling for a guy! Silly girls. We all swoon – It’ll happen to you even if you’re a badass! I found myself making quite a few comparisons between these two awesome heroines.

I was really interested in the whole plot of the duchess Anne and how young she was (thirteen!), yet really stood her ground, knew her politics so well, and was the head authority of all of the court. Usually the side stories (or main stories I guess in this case…) about politics and warring strategies usually don’t interest me, but this was written extremely well and it really helped that we got to know Anne so well. If she wasn’t prominently featured in the book and we were hearing of her story from afar, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. She brought a nice aspect to the story and made a good friend for Ismae and softened her character a bit as well.

I thought it was great how deeply the story really took us, constantly turning our loyalties as to who we could really trust. It was just such an interesting concept and a really original story that it really had me hooked. I couldn’t guess as to how it would finish!



Wow, I was so impressed by this book. It started off just a teensy bit slow but totally swept me away!


  • p 31: “Good intentions are only lies the weak tell themselves.”
  • p 161: “I kick my right foot out of the stirrup, swing my leg over the saddle, and send both feet into the face of my attacker.”
  • p 454: “Like the tumblers in a lock, my mind shifts and moves.”
  • p 549, Last line of the book: “For while I am Death’s daughter and walk in His dark shadow, surely the darkness can give way to the light sometimes.”

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE GRAVE MERCY


Hi, I'm Brittany!
Hi, I'm Brittany!

I'm an avid reader, candle-maker, and audiobook lover! Here you'll find book reviews, fun blog posts, and my other loves of photography & craft beer!

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20 thoughts on “Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) – Robin LaFevers

  1. Tina

    I have this on my TBR pile but I don’t actually know that much about the series so my expectations aren’t too high but I hope I enjoy it! Great review! 🙂

  2. Tess Foster

    Well… I’m incredibly slow at finding cool books. I’ve been vacillating over whether or not I should read this one. Congrats you pushed me over the edge.
    If I win your birthday giveaway, I would love to receive this one!
    Oh and Happy Birthday! (this is like a weird easter egg hunt, search for the birthday wishes throughout the blog)

  3. Amanda

    I really want to read this one, and your review makes it sound even better to me.

    If I win your birthday giveaway, I would love to receive this one! Also, on that note, Happy belated birthday!

  4. Molly @ wrapped up in books

    Love this review! I absolutely adored this series, and this review made me want to re-read it. I love the comparison of the duchess to the empress form Neverending Story! It’s funny to think that back in those days, 13 was quite a bit more grown up than it is today.

  5. Kathy L.

    I must read Grave Mercy! I have heard such great things and your review just makes me desperate for it!

  6. KateB

    I love the look for this book. And I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s one of those books that every time I go to the book store I consider buying it but put it down for whatever reason – usually because I’m over budget 😛
    But I think I’ll have to get my hand on a copy soon because you’ve made it sound too good to resist any longer.

    1. Brittany

      Oh good! I really enjoyed it 🙂 I’ve bought way too many books recently and I need to start working on my shelf. I put myself on a library ban for now lol. Happy reading 🙂

  7. Candice

    LOVE that you compared the Duchess to the Child-like Empress! I’m in total agreement with you there! This is honestly one of my favorite reads this year and I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Brittany

      Haha I was wondering when someone was going to comment on that. That’s how I pictured her! At first I didn’t realize how young she actually was and then when I finally got it, I couldn’t get that picture out of my head!

  8. Alyssa

    AHH I LOVED this book!!! My friend read both Graceling and Grace Mercy and told me that if I liked GM I would LOVE Graceling as well so I might have to read that one next!! I really liked Duchess Anne as well and I’m not going to lie I kind of skim over politics in books a lot but this one was presented in a way that made it interesting (another book that did this was Seraphina – go read it!!) I also obviously LOVE Duval. I swooned all over the place. If you like the slow burn romances like this one, go read Juliet Marillier!! I won’t stop pushing her until you try!! Great review! 😀

    1. Brittany

      Yes! Okay, I trust your suggestions. We’re usually pretty similar in our tastes! Which book should I start with?
      I think you’ll like Graceling! I’m not a big fantasy person, but it wasn’t too deep in the fantasy-type world, really. I saw so many similarities between Ismae and Katsa that I think fans of Grave Mercy will like Graceling and vice versa.
      I’ll definitely have to add Seraphina to my list as well. I was a little hesitant about it, but I have been seeing good things everywhere!

      1. Alyssa

        Well, her Sevenwaters series is the best. My friend Heidi reviewed the first book in her series. You can find the post here:

        I reviewed two of her other books on my blog, one a Beauty and the Beast retelling titled Heart’s Blood and one a 12 Dancing Princesses retelling titled Wildwood Dancing…Her Sevenwaters series are kind of addicting and awesome. Check out the reviews and decide! I LOVE THEM ALL!!

  9. Tales Untangled

    After your review I am adding this one to my reading stack! I would be interested to know your opinion on age appropriateness for this book and others that you have reviewed. I love a good romance and so does my teen, but some books get too intense for younger teens.

    1. Brittany

      Hm. Well, the book doesn’t go into detail when things start to get romantic. I don’t think it gets intense, but there are those references in there. What I liked is that it was all the tension that built between Ismae & Duval and we didn’t really get in the details. I’d say maybe mid- teen range? I’d still recommend reading it first because I’m not sure what really crosses the line of being appropriate for a younger teen. Hope you enjoy!

  10. Kelsey

    I loved this book, and I’m glad you decided to read it thanks to others! I read Graceling after this one, but both were definitely strong girls. 🙂

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