A funny thing happens when you follow a handful of blogs for a long time: people start to feel like good friends. They talk about their lives, career and freely assume an authoritative role in your life – you should eat this, wear this, climb this mountain I just climbed, but if you can’t here’s the view. Bossy friends.
I started reading WriterUnboxed long ago when a real world friend contributed, and stayed because it’s awesome. Back in April, a mid-list author posted about her bumpy path from the mid-list to a fantastic career re-launch with her newest book Grave Mercy. You should check it out, her new book rocks as only medieval nun assassins can.
Saved on her wedding night from a life of continued abuse at the hand of a man, Ismae is taken to a convent on an island. Not many like to go here. This convent serves Mortain, God of Death.
Sired by death himself, Ismae can do a lot more than take a beating. Heal fast, for instance. And see someone fade before they die. Joining the convent means Ismae will serve Mortain. Her duty: to carry out his will. At 17 she completes her first two assignments leaving bodies, and the stormy Duval behind.
From here the Gothic tale starts twisting into a myriad of romantic almosts and political conflict. Duval is the young Duchess’s bastard brother and the only one she trusts. Their father died, but not before promising her hand to every man around with money and arms. Who she marries very much determines the fate of their vulnerable country. Too bad the prospects are all super creepy.
Ismae’s mission is to accompany Duval to court and pose as his cousin/mistress and weed out traitors. As an old God, Mortain’s interest is to keep Brittany sovereign from France, she’s told. France continues to inch closer from all directions as the Duchess’s council connives. By night, Duval inches closer to Ismae’s bed.
My favorite line is Ismae’s:
I comfort myself with the knowledge that if Duval ever feels smothered by me it will be because I am holding a pillow over his face and commending his soul to Mortain.
The love story here is a fun one because it’s actually believable that she doesn’t want him in her heart. It would be in direct conflict with her position at the convent, which has been her salvation. Yet Duval persists.
The twists and turns weave so much that I lost the sense of impending danger posed by the French troops encroaching on the court. LeFevers does do an excellent job in painting the medieval setting complete with courtiers, gowns and battle history. I do wish we got to spend more time at the convent or that Ismae completed more assignments because those were the most exciting parts for me.
For a story with two strong female characters, whose actions are both largely a response to an oppressive/abusive male society, the plot is oddly centered around a marriage. But I was happy to go along. I loved Ismae’s voice and casual attitude about death. There were so many directions the premise could have taken, but her arc into mercy works, too. Highly recommend Grave Mercy. I gobbled it right up and kind of want to read it again.