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Book Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy is a book about assassin nuns…it’s as awesome as it sounds! Robin LaFevers delivers a solid first novel in the young adult genre.

Book Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

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grave mercy robin lafevers

Title & Author: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Genre: Young Adult Fiction – Fantasy

Release Date: April 3, 2012

Series: 1st book in His Fair Assassin series

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

How I Got the Book: Bought


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?”

Nun on the Run

I absolutely love the premise of Grave Mercy: Ismae is about to married, but this isn’t an exciting event – it’s a horrifying one. Her husband-to-be is hard and cruel just like her father.

Before her new, harsh life can begin with her new spouse, he sees it. The long red scar on her back that marks her as a child of Death. Ismae never believed the rumors that those with a mark like her were marked by Death to do his work, but when she’s providentially rescued from her arranged marriage and sent to a convent, she finds that training to be an assassin is a life far better suited to her than the one she left behind.

Grave Mercy is a highly-engaging, fast-paced book that I really enjoyed. Something that the book had that is not often found in YA is political maneuvering and court intrigue. Although I enjoy this aspect of books, it can make me head ache a bit. There are so many moving parts with planning wars and talking tactics that I get lost at times about figuring out what really is happening plot-wise.

Like many heroines before her, Ismae finds out that the people and institutions she had blind faith in may not have the agenda she thought they did. That struggle between trusting yourself and trusting others is an interesting one, and I admired this character for figuring things out for herself.

Nunya Business

(Sorry about these puns – I just can’t help myself 😉 )

The writing in Grave Mercy is very good and is a first-person perspective from Ismae. Ismae is a likeable character, but I think she could have been a bit more fleshed out. I felt like her reactions and opinions were very predictable at times and didn’t seem wholly original.

Another aspect of the novel that I thought could have been used a bit better was Ismae and her love interest. It’s one of those “I hate John, no I love John” types of things. I usually like that type of romantic set up, but in this case, it still seemed sudden in a way.

The best relationships in Grace Mercy were the female ones. Ismae builds a relationship with the princess and her sister, and has strong ties to her friends back in the convent. Those friendships felt the most authentic and true.


Grave Mercy is a solid YA read. The setting and world-building was great – and I hope we get to see more of the convent in future books. I did get a bit lost in the political aspect of the novel, but…I normally do. Grave Mercy is a great read for fans of butt-kicking heroines and plot twists and turns.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.