Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 560 pages
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Source: ARC giveaway contest
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?
First thing's first. I must admit that I skimmed this book. I skimmed it hard. I was also only semi-consciously reading certain bits, and I may have fallen asleep with eyes wide open a few times. In my defense, however, this book was not at all what I was expecting. Plus, it was long...and draggy...and soooo incredibly boring (in my personal opinion of course). Truth be told, the only reason I continued reading Grave Mercy through to the bitter end was because I've been DNFing way too many books lately, and consequently I guilt-tripped myself into finishing this one.
So what lured me in and convinced me to read Grave Mercy in the first place? I've got two words for you: Assassin Nuns. We all know that assassins are damn cool and totally badass. And those of us who have attended Catholic school at some point in our lives also know that the convent can be full of some really interesting & unique characters.
Take for example Sister Elizabeth. She may have been 90-years-old, 5-feet-tall, legally blind in both eyes, and extremely hard of hearing, but the woman had a surprisingly fine-tuned spidey sense that alerted her (without fail) to all of our mischievous behaviors. Additionally, she had the uncanny ability to appear out of thin air like a super-sneaky ninja whenever we were up to no good. Another example would be Sister Richard, who looked like John Goodman in drag and who we suspected had narcolepsy since she repeatedly fell asleep in the middle of class. The woman would go all She Hulk on us whenever we came within a foot of her prized ceramic miniature animal collection, but she had a wise-cracking sense of humor and an arsenal of inappropriately funny jokes that would make any standup comedian very proud.
Unfortunately, no such fascinating, eccentric personalities were present anywhere in this book. Barely any time at all was devoted to the convent at which Ismae, the heroine, was trained and the nuns were very briefly introduced by short definition of their teaching roles/titles. In fact, all of the characters in this book seemed underdeveloped, and most of them were barely two-dimensional, possessing one single predominant trait that defined who they were (aside from being categorized as one of the good guys or one of the bad guys). I also had no freakin' clue what anyone actually looked like. Descriptions were provided, but the characterizations were so superficial that I could never concretely picture them in my mind.
This brings me to my biggest issue with Grave Mercy...it lacked heart & substance. The plot dragged along a linear path with unclear significance. Characters popped in and out of the story, but I was never given the chance to really get to know them. And thus, I didn't give a damn about what happened to them or how they impacted the heroine's life & mission.
Speaking of Ismae, I never connected with her either. Her characterization seemed inconsistent & wishy-washy. She went from hating & fearing men to fixating on, drooling over, and falling in love with one at a drop of a hat. She was frustratingly closed-minded and (despite multiple red flags waving right in front of her face) didn't really stop to question who she killed & why until she conveniently fell in love with a man she was later ordered to assassinate. Moreover, she was supposedly taught how to kill a person in a hundred different ways and yet she constantly allowed herself to be manhandled by Duval (aka McBroody)—the most boring love interest eva.
And while I'm on the topic of things that bored me out of my mind, let me warn you that contrary to what the synopsis might imply, there was very little assissiny action in this book. In reality, majority of the story revolved around the predictable, cliched romance between Ismae & McBroody as well as a whole lot of tedious yawn-inducing court politics. I kept waiting for Ismae to get in touch with her inner La Femme Nikita, but the girl mostly just played dress up in cleavage exposing dresses, redundantly argued with McBroody, and eavesdropped on boring conversations between boring individuals.
On top of all of that, the dialogue between the characters was often stilted and at times pompous to the point of sounding silly & lame. And there were several things (like the ridiculous "sexual healing" scene) that made no sense to me whatsoever...and made me laugh when I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to be laughing.