I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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?
My book club’s November selection--it was a lot of fun. It may have suffered a bit in my reading experience because it followed right on the heels of an exceptional book, Daughter of the Forest. By contrast, I found the premise and the plot fun and entertaining in Grave Mercy, but the writing was not quite as lovely.
But still, who can resist a convent dedicated to the old god/saint Mortain (Death)? The concept of a convent teaching assassination skills tickled me right from the beginning. The main character, Ismae, is straight from the turnip farm and begins the adventure tremendously naïve, but she orients herself quickly. I loved her self-confidence and willingness to make difficult decisions.
Best of all, I loved her evolution from the rule-following novice to a woman who learns to trust her own brains. She figures out who the real traitor is and deals with the situation without help or guidance from the Abbess. Ismae’s understanding of Mortain develops and grows with her, as she comes to understand that the old god desires more for his followers, not just simple obedience. He wants them to use their heads and their hearts too.