Ah, who can resist a book about the handmaiden of death? Yes, this is another YA book with a killer heroine—It’s becoming a trend I know, but I love it. There’s just something gratifying about giving a teenage girl so much physical power. Maybe it’s because in the real world young adult women are too often the victims of violence themselves, so it feels cathartic to read about one that can kill at will.
And Grave Mercy gives you that catharsis in spades—and in daggers, poisons, and garrottes. The main character, Ismae, becomes part of an order of female assassins who do the bidding of the Saint Mortain (who is actually a pre-Christian god in Brittany). The real action begins when she’s assigned to watch over Duval, the close confidant of the duchess of Brittany. He’s under suspicion of treason, and of course, he’s also very dreamy.
LaFevers has done her homework, and Grave Mercy really does put you in medieval/renaissance France. It’s very interesting to follow all the machinations of a duchess’ court—at more than 570 pages though, it can be a bit exhausting. The book is definitely on the more mature side of YA. Our heroine could have been as easily 22 as 17, but at the time life was much rougher for teenage girls, and LaFevers doesn’t soft-pedal it.
Grave Mercy has a lot to offer: political intrigue, romance, French/Brittany history with a magical twist and even some interesting ruminations on the nature of death. If that all sounds good to you, than I highly recommend it, just be prepared for a rather high body count.