Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFeversRelease Date: April 3, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Borrowed
IBSN: 9780547628349

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?


It saddens me to no end to think that I could have very easily went my whole life without reading Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. It’s not a book I would pick up on my own. For the last couple of years I’ve told everyone that I’m not a fan of historical. Now I realize how wrong I was. I’ve always been a fan, I just haven’t been reading the right ones. Grave Mercy is the right one.

I had a lot of conflicting feelings going into Grave Mercy. It’s long, so I was intimidated. Everyone loves it, so I simultaneously wanted to love it and worried that I wouldn’t. Left to my own devices I probably never would have picked this book up. Thankfully I was able to borrow and then I had an obligation to read it! The first amazing thing I noticed about Grave Mercy was how fast it utterly captivated me. With most historical or fantasy books it takes quite awhile to get fully immersed in the story. This took one chapter.

Robin LaFevers might just be a genius, because this book is a work of art. I really have no idea how to tell you just how amazing this book is. I’m pretty sure most of you have read it already, so you know. I’ll try to articulate a few of the countless things I loved. First was the time period and the setting. Most historicals I’ve read take place in England and I don’t think I’ve ever read one that takes place in France, let alone Brittany. I found it fascinating. I don’t know much about their history so it was all new to me.

The second element I loved the most was the romance, of course. Yum! One of my first thoughts upon reading the summary for this book was, ‘Nuns?’ I can’t be the only person that associated nuns with boring, right? I like kissing in books and I don’t relate nuns to kissing. I was a little worried about that factor. I shouldn’t have been. Ismae is not your typical nun. Romance…and kissing play a very big role in the book and it unfolds beautifully. The connect and passion builds really, gloriously slow between Duval and Ismae. I was never impatient with it because it was done so well. It was one of the most swoon-worthy and fiery match-ups I’ve read in a long time. I loved every second of it.

The thing I adored the most was all the backstabbing. Grave Mercy made me realize that in order for me to love a historical book I need court politics. The more scheming the better. I love it! Grave Mercy is filled with it. Not only is there secrets and murders, but also battles and very real threats. It made the book come to life. At some points I was left breathless. It was just incredible.

I’m going to end this here because this is getting long, or it already is. I haven’t said half the glowing things that I could say but none of them will do this book justice. Just please read it. It will most certainly be a favorite of this year and the sequel is already my most anticipated read of 2013.

Check out my review for book 2 Dark Triumph


  1. I’m pretty sure your review just summed up everything I felt for this book! I’m like you: give me some historical court politics and a sizzling romance and I’ll be a happy girl! I also LOVED the setting! I know very very little about that particular area of France and its history, so to see it in a fantastic novel was really fascinating and makes me want to do a little research on that area. While I knew I really wanted to read this one, I wasn’t in any hurry because I was a little hesitant and didn’t think it would be as great as I’d heard. Boy, was I wrong! Glad you stepped out of your comfort zone and took a chance on this one!
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    • Have you visited Robin LaFever’s site? She has lots of historical facts posted. It was really fascinating to see that so much or the story was taken from actual history.

  2. So great that you gave this a try! I’ve always loved historical and historical fantasy so I wasn’t put off by the genre but I was worried about the length and how much everyone else loved it. That is super intimidating, when everyone else in the blogosphere seems to love a book. Now I can’t wait for the sequel!
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  3. Yay for kissing! I need this one like now.
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  4. I really liked this one too! It was a good read, but it took me a little while to get into!
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  5. I love your review so much that I’m tempted to go give Grave Mercy a reread RIGHT NOW. It was such an amazing read all around, with all the right elements and I’m so eager to jump into the next installment.
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  6. Wow!  I’ve had this book checked out for nearly a month from the library; in fact, it’s due in 3 days, and I had resigned myself to the fact that I just wasn’t going to read it.  But after this review, I’m going to have to!  I was already intrigued by the idea behind it, and I’d seen good things about it.  But your glowing praise convinced me.  Plus, I absolutely LOVE slow-burn romance; tell me that a romance is incredible and that it takes a long time to happen, and I’m THERE.

    I’m off to go start it now!
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  7. You said it! I absolutely adored this book. To say it rocked my world is an understatement. If all historical YA novels were written with as much attention to detail and beautiful writing as this one, I would be reading a lot more of it. Great review, Lori! I’m glad to see you had such a great time reading it. :-)
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    • That seems to be what I love most about historicals. Have you read any of Philippa Gregory’s? They’re not YA but their beautifully written and utterly captivating.

  8. I hope our library gets this soon! I feel like I’ve read the thing from all the reviews bt I still want to experience it for myself.
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  9. You’re right! Grave Mercy IS the right one! It was my first historical fiction EVER and I was nervous too, but I read that chunkster in one sitting. I was captivated. And I agree that Duval and Ismae ARE a swoonworthy and fiery match-up, LOVED them. The court politics was something I had to get used to, but as I’m reading Outlander now, I can see that it is truly a theme with historicals. 

    I’m super excited for the next book in this series, although I ALMOST wish it was just a continuation of the story of Duval and Ismae because I like them so doggone much! So, so glad you read this one and loved it. It was SO SO GOOD. 
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  10. I have this to read and I love the sound of it. Glad you enjoyed even though you didn’t think you liked historical!
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  11. I was afraid that I was going to be the one person in the universe that didn’t love this one too, I had rave reviews from everyone I know that reads even people who don’t normally enjoy this genre. And like you, I found out how wrong I was to worry fairly early on. I was even hooked from that very first line, I had to know what was the reasoning for that! I’m really glad that you enjoyed this one. :]
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  12. Yay! Yay! Yay! I’m SO freaking glad you loved it! I thought this is one you would really enjoy. This review made my day!
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  13. YES! Court politics and nuns and scheming is THE BEST. Seriously. I loved Ismae and Duval and the whole nine yards.

    And sigh, what a tragedy your life would have been without Grave Mercy in it. 😉
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  15. What I enjoyed was that the author used a piece of historical truth regarding Anne of Brittany to build a unique fantasy.  It’s a very clever thing she did with the chess pieces throughout the story, as well, symbolizing court politics, strategy and intrigue.  And that other thing 😀

    I liked it well enough.


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