Grave Mercy by Robin LaFever
This delightful book will be a sure winner with YA readers looking for something with a little bit of fantasy, lots of action, a historical feel and some serious romance. The story takes place in 15th century France when seventeen-year-old Ismae is being forced into an arranged marriage with Guillo the pig farmer by her abusive father. However, when her new husband sees her large red stain birthmark running from her shoulder to her hip, he is sure she has been sired by the god of death and after beating her to the ground, he rushes out to get a priest who will know what to do. Before he returns, Ismae is spirited away and ends up at the convent of St. Mortain, where young women are trained to be assassins who serve the old god Mortain. What attracts Ismae to the dangerous calling is that the head of the convent promises her that after her training, no man will ever be a threat to her again. Following her arduous training, the young woman is sent on her first journey, which is where the story begins to get gripping. She is sent to the court of Anne of Brittany to observe the princess’s illegitimate brother Duval, and kill him if he proves to be a traitor.
This book is full of interesting court intrigue and details and moves quickly from one plot twist to the next. Ismae’s first person narration will draw readers in immediately. LaFever does an admirable job with the budding romance between Duval and Ismae, keeping readers wanting more without giving away too much too soon. I highly recommend this to teens looking for historical fiction, romance, or simply a story they won’t be able to put down. This is the first volume of the His Fair Assassin series, and readers will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.