Sunday, May 6, 2012
Review: 'Grave Mercy'
By Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Ismae escapes the prototypical fate worse than death – an arranged marriage to a brute – when he sees her scars that mark her as a daughter of Death in medieval Brittany. She is sent via an underground railroad of priests and herbwitches that still worship the old gods to a convent, where she is trained in the arts of the poisoner, the assassin and the courtesan to serve Mortrain, or Death.
After some minor successes, circumstances force the abbess to send her to court to serve the teenage duchess by keeping an eye on the royal bastard brother. Duval is neck-deep in intrigue that surrounds the orphaned duchess and as many attempts to marry her off as Elizabeth I juggled two hundred years later.
The questions of trusting him as an ally and potential lover fit well within the plot, which balances historical fiction with the palace intrigue and battle maneuvers (not shown but discussed), romance with the attraction Ismae and Duval feel for each other, and high fantasy as Ismae comes into her heritage as the daughter of Death.
What follows may be seen as spoilers by some:
Ismae has to save Duval by sleeping with him. As Death's daughter, she draws the poison from him this way. Psychologically, this is a fascinating view of sex. Equally fascinating would be a conversation for older teens for their views of this action. The book is marketed for readers 14 and up, but public school libraries may have to take into account their communities' feelings.
Enough is written about Ismae's two friends to set up their books in the series as well.
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