Dark Triumph by Robin LaFeversDark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Dark Triumph

byRobin LaFevers

Hardcover | April 2, 2013

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New York Times BestsellerSpring 2013 Kids' Indie Next List Sybella's duty as Death's assassin in 15th-century France forces her return home to the personal hell that she had finally escaped. Love and romance, history and magic, vengeance and salvation converge in this thrilling sequel to Grave Mercy . Sybella arrives at the convent's doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge-but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reasonto live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?
Robin LaFevers , author of the New York Times best-selling His Fair Assassin books, was raised on fairy tales, Bulfinch's mythology, and nineteenth-century poetry. It is not surprising that she grew up to be a hopeless romantic. She was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in California. Vi...
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Title:Dark TriumphFormat:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1.29 inPublished:April 2, 2013Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0547628382

ISBN - 13:9780547628387

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Original Story This was a surprising read, right from the first chapter it draws you in wanting to find out more about the story. The story line was set a good place and there was lots of detail added to the story to make it easy to follow. I loved having the cheat sheet at the front of the book to who all the characters were since some of the names are hard to match with who they are, especially with the nuns at the convent. I can't wait to find out about more of the characters in the next two books!
Date published: 2018-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So so so good! This is honestly one of my favourite books now! I'll admit it's a slow read but I found that there was still action because I'm super interested in the character development that occurred throughout the entire book. Hoping to start the sequel soon :) #plumreview
Date published: 2018-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW What do you say about a book that started off with a bang and ended with a big BOOM? This book kept me up all night, I could not put it down....the twist and turns in the storyline was like a roller coaster ride, the character's so well developed, they jumped off the pages. You would think a book over 500 pages would have some slow moments or detail that was just not necessary....NOT THIS BOOK it flowed with every page turned, not one moment I was not memorized with this story. I would recommend this book to everyone! And Love the cover too!!
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Takes you in, and won't let you go! This book was the perfect mix of mystery, romance and era for me. I read in in 3 days, could not put it down.
Date published: 2017-12-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Didn't enjoy it There was not enough action and it was very slow. There are way better books out there regarding assassins.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good! I expected great things from this book and I was not disappointed! It was very intriguing and well written.
Date published: 2017-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Great story with accurate historical touches and references. The characters were extremely interesting and the chemistry between the two main characters interested me throughout the whole story. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great novel It seemed as if I were actually in the past in this story-the detail and plot was amazing
Date published: 2017-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! Love the story, I was hooked right from the start and couldn't put it down!
Date published: 2017-05-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Such a good read! Great book in this series of three and dives more into the political tension and action of the country. Great read way better than my lame review writing skills make it sound!
Date published: 2017-04-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great story! Great book about the power of women acting as spies, assassins, and political activists. I loved the action and intrigue in this book and the other two in this series and the little bit of romance kept things interesting.
Date published: 2017-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love this series Robin Lefevers writes an interesting and new series about young women trained to be assassins for Death. Lovely historical fiction with characters youll love!
Date published: 2017-03-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love This Book The first time I recommended this book to someone I said: it has assassin nuns. That was all I needed to say. They bought it immediately. At it's heart this is as much a story about political, courtly intrigue as it is a historical fantasy. Some people might find the first 50-100 pages a little slow but to them I'd say, keep going. It's totally worth it.
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favourite YA novel As a lover of historical fiction I loved this book. The descriptions of Brittany from the landscape to the historical figures is very apt, it was like I was seeing it with my own eyes, LaFevers has a great way with her words. The first couple of chapters were a bit slow but after the serious and clever Duval was introduced the book kept on getting better and better, not to mention that Duval has become the hero that I hold the deepest in my book loving heart. Ismae and Duval were written so wonderfully and endearing and their romance was one of the greatest things about this book. I've read this as a teen and now as an adult I still appreciate and enjoy this novel. Definitely great for both teens and adults to read.
Date published: 2017-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read Robin Lafevers weaves an interesting plot with unforgettable characters. A good story line that is interesting and complex.
Date published: 2016-12-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good book, Looking forward to the next one. Easy Read...
Date published: 2016-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ah-ma-zing The romance, mystery, and historical aspect of the book was wonderfully written and reminded me very much of Graceling (one of my favourite books) and the Seven Realms Series (my favourite series of all time). I was very hooked in with the premise and was not disappointed. My only problem is that it was kind of hard to understand and keep up with since it is partly historical and had a lot of things going on. But other than that, this book has come to be one of my favourites.
Date published: 2016-11-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Cool historical fantasy I am a little late beginning this trilogy, but I enjoyed the first book and it probably won’t take me too long to catch up. What I liked: The characters. Ismae is strong of spirit and is very observant and clever. She really developed and changed throughout the book. True, her position as an assassin is ruthless, and often times I questioned her bloodthirst, but she became more merciful and discovered a different path for herself. This part of the book is perfect, in my opinion. I don’t want to give too much else away about this. I also really liked Duval. He had a couple of rough moments, but nothing truly worrisome, and I appreciate that he wasn’t a jerk like so many YA love interests. He was noble and angry and smart and he tried very hard to make things work out for the best of everyone. Plus, he is a good big brother, and who can resist one of those? Another thing I appreciated was the use of actual history and political conflicts. It did make some aspects of the book predictable, but it was cool to think “Hey, I’m reading the dialogue of someone who actually existed.” One of the strongest points, and one that should have been played on far more, in my opinion, was the mythology of the nine old saints. This world building played on existing Celtic and Greco-Roman mythologies, but it was unique at the same time. One more thing I liked: the ending. So squee! What I disliked: Not enough mythology! This was one of the strongest parts of the story and it should have been more present. I was expecting this book to involve more of the supernatural and was disappointed that it didn’t. Also, the court stuff got a bit boring/confusing at times. It could have used some clearing up, and I think Lafevers could have done more to make us care about Brittany and not just the characters because the predicament, bad as it was, didn’t quite feel urgent enough. Also, although I ship Ismae and Duval, I think the love story was a bit too easy. Ismae was not trusting of men because they abused her, and then she spent three years in a convent away from any men. I don’t think she’d fall quite as easily as she did. The romance built slowly enough, but the attraction/stirrings were far too early. Last thing: a lot of telling and not enough showing. I grew a bit impatient/disinterested when Ismae simply stated what she was feeling. It distanced me from the story, I think. Overall, a pretty fresh book. I don’t quite think it deserves all the hype, but it’s worth checking out.
Date published: 2016-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Addicting I started reading this book and I COULD NOT put it down. I desperately needed to know how it was going to end. I feel like the plot could have been a little better and more unique, but it was so well written that almost didn't matter. I would recommend this book to anyone that is a fan of the Graceling series or the Hunger Games. An amazing read.
Date published: 2015-10-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing Grave Mercy was similar to Throne of Glass to me. Not so much in plot, which albeit did have some similarities, but in outline. Badass assassin girl gets sent on a mission to bring down some people, but ends up just wearing a lot of pretty dresses, playing politics she knows nothing about, and ultimately falling in love with the one who "saves" her from the life she was currently living. Don't get me wrong, if done well it can work, but I think the pitfall for Grave Mercy was that nothing really happened. Just like where many other first books fall short for me, it was heavy character development with the plot coming in second and the world building being non-existent. Ismae was so frustrating. She just blindly trusted the covenant and did as she was told. She never questioned anything, which would be fine EXCEPT the only reason she did start questioning the covenant was because they wanted her to kill Duval and his family. So, of course, when a man is involved you don't want to do what you have believed your whole life without question. I personally think it would have been better off that she never questioned anything and just did whatever she was told. I think that would have made for a better story, imo. But at the same time, I did like Duval. Gavriel Duval was a pretty great character, actually. He was loyal and dutiful to his sister and I loved every aspect of that. However, I do think that he was almost TOO perfect. He did everything wonderfully for all the women in his life (save his mother, I guess). I just felt as though everything that he did and had happen to him was too conveniently perfect. And do NOT get me started on how freaking ridiculous it was that [to save him from poision, Ismae had to have sex with him. Like come on. I am all for characters in YA books having sex, but at least give them a good, BELIEVEABLE reason to do so] Their romance was stunted to me. It felt forced upon the reader and I did not think the chracters actually had that much chemistry. Yes, they were in each other's faces some times, but I did not think they were around each other enough or communicating enough to fall in love the way they did. My heart did melt at Duval's quote at the end. But really I didn't see it. I would have said that Ismae could have just as easily ended up with de Lorney or Beast as with Duval. The narrative didn't naturally lead me to believe that the two of them would be together. The world building was a little lacking for me. I know the majority of the history (although I was taught it a long time ago so I am a little rusty on it) but the author's note at the end cleared up some stuff. I would actually suggest reading that first because then you get a sense of what is happening and why the conflict is there. I understand that it is a historical fiction-fantasy novel and it is set in actual events, but outlining that a tad more at the beginning would have helped clear that up for people who don't know the particular history of Brittany. And I don't mean in an info-dump. There was ample opportunity to drop a bit more information than what was given to allow the reader a fuller picture of the time period, the conflict, and what exactly Ismae needed to do. I also want to mention that I understand girls can be bamfs just by demonstrating their feelings or being vulnerable but when the premise is that she is an assassin, I do expect her to assassinate more than three people in a book. #sorrynotsorry Overall: 3/5 stars. I was a little disappointed with this one because Iwas expecting an action packed display of assassinations and bamfness. But I did not get that.
Date published: 2015-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GRAVE MERCY This book is amazing, it had everything I loved inside of it romance,vioence,betrayel... It was a non-stop page turner, I actually woke up at 1am just to read 3 chapters So I sugest to anyone who wants a great read and wants to ger lost in the weldof the midevil times
Date published: 2015-07-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not worth it. Picture assassins. Picture deadly nuns. Picture intrigue and political games worthy of Game of Thrones. And then stop picturing it. This is a book for people who thought Throne of Glass was a novel about assassins too. I felt very let down by the promise of this book. It could and did start off great. The characters at the convent are intriguing. The friendship so rarely seen in YA is fantastic. But then the rest of the book kills it. The supposed assassin goes to court to figure out which enemies of the Royal family to kill. She actually spends a good chunk of her time staring around rooms at people in the wild hopes she will just happen to see the "marque" that signifies her God wants her to kill someone. She blunders through investigations and is too distracted by the dashing young courtier she had been assigned to watch to bother noticing obvious clues. The romance is grating and unsubtle. A case of lust being wildly mistaken for love. She almost literally falls for the first man she is around outside the convent she has been in for three years. Which I guess explains her desperation, but still. Have some dignity, woman. The only bright side was the plot twist, which gets resolved and almost immediately, so does everything else. Which was a little took convenient, but okay. I'd pass on this series.
Date published: 2015-04-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great series! I enjoyed the series. All 3 books were well written & exciting from beginning to end. It has been a while since I read a book & couldn't guess what was coming next in the story - but all 3 books have surprised me. Worth the read.
Date published: 2015-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Intrigue. Murder. Politics. What more could you want? Ismae gets rescused by a priest from a future with an abusive husband. The two journey to the convent, and is trained by the church to do St. Mortain?s work. But most of all she?s an assassin who is marked by Death himself. She slowly gathers the trust and respect of her fellow mentors and is finally assigned on a mission. I won?t say what that mission will be just because I don?t want to spoil anything for anyone, but let me tell you this book was long, yet I couldn?t put it down. I?m not a historical fiction fan. Probably because I haven?t read a great book that?s kept me awake and entertained, until I read Grave Mercy. Nun assassains trained in combat, and poisons, and seduction?? Now that?s a book that caught my interest!! This was a well written book. I enjoyed Ismae?s journey into the world of espionage, all set in the country of Brittany. There?s romance in this book, that?s enough to keep all romantics happy. At first it?s obvious they?re falling in love, but the readers know it, and the character doesn?t. Ismae is not your average female protagonist. She?s strong, stubborn and beautiful. And the way she hones her powers to take down a life, amazed me. I enjoyed reading Grave Mercy! Assassin nuns and girls who are trained by Death itself?? Yes sign me up!
Date published: 2014-09-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great! Great concept! Entertaining easy read :-)
Date published: 2014-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even Better Than The First! I read Grave Mercy last year and I loved it. I was pretty excited for Dark Triumph and when I received a surprise copy for review I was so happy I did a little dance in the street. Don't judge me. Well I finally got to read it and I loved it even more than Grave Mercy. Dark Triumph follows around Sybella this time and there is less politics and more personal story this time. Which I think is one of the reasons I liked this one so much more. Sybella had run away from home and gone to the convent to escape her evil father (is he ever evil) and the convent sends her back to his household to be a spy. Who better than family? Someone who will be allowed free reign in the household. Her father doesn't really trust anyone though, he is of course D'Albert. All Sybella wants is to kill him, he's evil and deserves it, but she never sees a marque on him. She begins to lose faith in Mortain, since he is allowing such evil to live and is debating even going against her god to ger her vengeance. Then there is Beast, the love interest. I can't help but like him. He's a warrior with a soft spot and he make a great team with Sybella when they are travelling. The two of them together are extremely deadly. Once again, Robin LaFevers writes amazing scenes that you can get lost in, characters that you love, others you hate and takes you on a ride that keeps you wanting more. I just love her writing style so much! This is not a small book, about 400 pages, and I found myself tearing through it. I'm slightly disappointed that I have to wait so long for the next book! This is one of the best series that I've ever read and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction, or even anyone looking to try something new.
Date published: 2013-08-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 3.5 stars Meggie highly recommended this book to me and even though I knew she liked historical fiction and I didn't, I gave it a chance because she liked Ismae a lot... and I'm glad I did. I didn't like part that she has a huge scar on her back and can't undress in front of anybody. I mean, the biggest asset you have when you're a female assassin during those times is your body, charm, and beauty. Being a woman is a powerful thing and it would have made more sense if that was the very first thing the covenant taught their assassins. Just batting your eyes, smiling, and giggling can make a guy fall head over heels and not think of you as danger. She didn't even know what she was feeling when Gavriel touches her when in fact, she should have been trained especially in this area. And how can she bed men and spy around when she can't even undress in front of anybody? It was also kind of boring at times and it was a very long read. Definitely not a YA book, as most young adults wouldn't finish it. I kept falling asleep reading the first half - literally two nights ago I couldn't sleep and I was restless so I thought it would be a good idea to read a bit more of this book so I could fall asleep, and I did! There are also times when I had to whip out my dictionary - thank god for Kobo making it easier for me, just highlight the word and dictionary will open up. It was also frustrating when Ismae spent more time talking about all those cool weapons o
Date published: 2013-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Breath taking sequel! What a beautiful sequel! I loved Grave Mercy so much I didn’t even bother to read the description for Dark Triumph. So it was a pleasant surprise when I realized I was in for yet another totally unique adventure. Whereas Grave Mercy was the story of Ismae, Dark Triumph turns the lens to Sybella and her adventures. Even though her appearance was rather brief in Grave Mercy (in the grand scheme of things) I found Sybella incredibly interesting. She was broken and angry and you wanted to know why. We come to her in Dark Triumph long after her training is completed. The covenant has sharpened her anger and thirst for justice and turned her into a dangerous killing machine. But then they send her right back to the place it all started. To the man that caused all that damage – her father. Dark Triumph is a personal story. It deals with questions of trust and family and guilt. You’ll often find yourself wondering if Sybella will ever truly be able to move past the sins of her father. I think despite the extreme nature of Sybella’s situation the internal obstacles she faces regarding her perceived guilt and her instincts to distance herself from those who may love her are not unfamiliar ones. They’re themes many people will be able to relate to in varying degrees. Since Dark Triumph is more of a personal journey it takes its time to unfold. It reveals all its twists and surprises when it’s good and ready too. The action heavy scenes – those ones that generally make the pages fly – are few and far between. Though I really enjoyed the sort of slow burn that is Dark Triumph, I have to admit I didn’t lose myself as completely as I did with Grave Mercy. Grave Mercy captured my heart right away and I read it all in one sitting (all 549 pages). Dark Triumph on the other hand took me a couple of days. It’s not a book you can binge on. It’s a book you need to set aside time for and dig into bit by bit. Recommendation: Dark Triumph is yet another example of Robin LaFevers brilliant writing. It’s beautiful and layered. There’s action, deceit, murder and a little bit of unexpected romance. There’s no middle book syndrome here, no useless filler. LaFevers has earned a place on my list of favourite writers for life. This and other reviews at More Than Just Magic (http://morethanjustmagic.org)
Date published: 2013-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Flight of Phoenix Great I like these books! (8 year old son)
Date published: 2013-02-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Flight of Phoenix Great I like these books! (8 year old son)
Date published: 2013-02-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Flight of Phoenix Great I like these books! (8 year old son)
Date published: 2013-02-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Flight of Phoenix Great I like these books! (8 year old son)
Date published: 2013-02-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Historical Fiction and Fantasy in One Book I love historical fiction and I love fantasy, and Grave Mercy is both. The concept is thrilling: an assassin nun who is immune to poisons and knows how to kill people hundreds of different ways, old saints (gods), political intrigue surrounding the betrothal of Duchess Anne of Brittany to several different candidates, and conniving advisors and siblings that weave in subterfuge and plots. I’m sorry to say, it kind of fell short. First of all, the book needed a map. I was so confused with the fusion of English and French last names. Were they supposed to be French? But they belonged to Britain . . . Okay, so some background to what Brittany is (because I just thought that just meant Britain); it was actually a kingdom, then a duchy, and then a province in the North-West of France (Wikipedia). I had no idea. Maybe I’m just a dummy, but I was pretty confused. Once that’s cleared up by research (and not by descriptions in the book, which it sorely needs), you have to familiarize yourself with the history slowly over the course of the book. I didn’t want to read any of the history to see what was actually going on because I didn’t want it to spoil the ending. I shouldn’t have worried. The ending is pretty much spelt out. It was kind of obvious who the conniving ones were and towards the ending there are so many hints. Okay, onto the gods. This I was really disappointed in. If the old gods and saints were supposed to be these ancient Celtic deities, why did they have so many correlations with Roman gods and goddesses? Maybe they weren’t as old as the people thought they were? But Romans generally didn’t enforce their beliefs on others, rather adopting other beliefs into their own. However, the mythic stories about Mortain and Amourna that Ismae talked about have very strong similarities to the myths about Hades and Persephone. Amourna’s mother is supposed to be Dea Matrona, who mourns for her daughter once a year, which makes it winter. Sound familiar to Demeter? And Arduinna, Amourna’s sister, is exactly like Artemis. I would have preferred gods that had more ties to Celtic or indigenous forms of worship rather than borrowing from a mythology that has already been exhausted. I think what happened in this story is this: the history Robin LaFevers is using is fixed; she can’t change events, which limits Ismae’s agency. She can only kill small, meaningless people like assassins and servants rather than doing what would be rational. Her type of character was really never meant to exist in this type of setting, so yes, she comes across as helpless. Ismae is carried on the whims of history, so instead the only change she can enact is change within herself. This was the one aspect of the book that yielded positive results for me. Her character is very dynamic and she comes to some very powerful conclusions near the end about her place in the convent and with Duval.
Date published: 2013-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Story Like No Other Grave Mercy has reached the top ten of my favourite books. I am completely astounded by how much research, planning and thought went into Grave Mercy. If you don't like reading anything in old English (even if it's not difficult, using normal sentence structure just older words) I wouldn't recommend this book to you. The story takes place in the late 1400's in a country called Brittany which is now North-West France. The way the author wrote it takes you back to that Era. She gives you a great view into their politics, religion and culture. She talks about the changing of times when the Old Gods started to be referred to as Saints with the rise of Christianity. There's plenty of murder, backstabbing, plotting, assasins and human error. But the main reason why this book ranks so high on my favourites list is because of the lack of a love triangle! The main character Ismae is introduced to a guy named Duval and throughout the book they get to know each other. They build up trust, push each others limits, help each other out none of that "love at first sight" mush. It's real and it is absolutely beautiful. I find Lafevers created characters you can connect to and love. She has built up a lost world from the ashes and breathed new life in it for the people of the present to see what it was like in its days of glory. There is heartbreak, questioning of loyalty and during the entire book the country is on the brink of war. I cannot wait for the sequel to come out! I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2012-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Review of "Grave Mercy" Review originally posted at: litupymworld.wordpress.com Also more notes + information of the novel can be found there! Overall rating: 5/5 stars! Due to my undying curiosity, I asked LaFevers on my personal Twitter about Gavriel Duval’s age and to let you all know he’s “24-ish” while Ismae is 17. “Good intentions are only lies the weak tell themselves. I will not be caged.” Grave Mercy has about 500 (+more) pages, give or take. My reading pace doesn’t matter on how many pages it has but on the content of the plot and Grave Mercy took me almost the longest to read it because it is just filled with all these heavy politics, religion and history and some terms thrown here and there that I just had to do a bit of research to understand it further. By saying that, I rate Grave Mercy a five out of five stars because of many factors of the novel. One is that I truly admire the amount of research Ms. LaFevers has applied to her first Young Adult genre novel. The plot itself, I find is something beautifully new. Secondly, the plot progression: the readers witness word per word the maturing of Ismae. The story begins when she’s fourteen then she’s taken by the convent that serves St. Mortain (don’t worry, this isn’t spoilery—it’s actually found on the book jacket cover) and then by chapter five or six we are fast-forwarded three years later. My sympathy fell on Ismae on the very first chapters. It makes her understandable in the matter why she so easily gained strong faith for the convent of St. Mortain. You couldn’t blame her, joining the convent was something she could think of to pay her gratitude to the people who have saved her lives. However, the beautiful plot growth shows that her undying faith bows to the wrong people. Also, the story progression is admirable because we also see the bond between her and Gavriel Duval grow stronger each time, rather than a Romeo and Juliet gig of I love you overnight, therefore I will take my life for you (especially because the story is set in the time, somewhat, of Romeo and Juliet). I also appreciated the fact that Gavriel Duval isn’t the “hottest” boy in the story. Also, after finishing Grave Mercy, I laughed to myself because I was so surprised how many times I felt tears on my eyes and I actually wept like a heartbroken teenager that my mom had to ask me what’s wrong for about an hour or two (slight spoiler, sorry… but it is hinted on the book jacket!) “Remember, true faith never comes without anguish” Although the novel is mostly a serious tone kind of story, I found myself laughing frequently because I just love, love, love the chemistry between Duval and Ismae and having to witness each chapter the growth of their relationship really tugged at my heartstrings, therefore, it wasn’t difficult to have Duval and Ismae close to my heart. “Hurry back down to Hervé when you are done, eh?” Just reading that line again makes me laugh hysterically and make my stomach filled with an insane amount of butterflies. “What is my fair assassin so afraid of?” ‘My Fair Assassin’ the series’ title is probably the one that captured my interest as I was book shopping. I loved it so much I changed my personal URL on Tumblr to that. Harhar. So irrelevant. But c’mon, who doesn’t find that such a nice line? Happy Reading Everybody!
Date published: 2012-08-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read! An excellent story and I look forward to the next installment.
Date published: 2012-06-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing story! I love a good historical ficition novel and I will climb mountains for an enchanting fantasy novel, so when they expertely combine into the unique genre of historical-fantasy, as is the case with Grave Mercy, I couldn't be happier. Grave Mercy is based on a thrilling and bizarrely unique premise. Assassin nuns. Who has ever heard of such a thing? But it works and it works well. Dedicated to the (fictional) St Mortain - the covenant acts as the messengers of death, stealing out into the night to finish off their next victims. It hooked me right from the beginning. I kind of wish a little more time was spent on their training. They have all these classes involving weaponry, poison, "womanly arts" etc. I wanted more time to learn what they learn. Maybe I'm a little bit morbid... The reader follows this crazy story through the perspective of Ismae. Now this is one kick ass heroine. And I mean literally. She knows ten different ways to kill you before you even have time to blink. I like a girl who can fend for herself. She has to face a number of difficult decisions and for the most part she stays remarkably level headed. It's something to admire. There's also a romance of a star-crossed lover variety. An assassin and the man she is sent to spy on. What's particularly nice about this romance was that it wasn't shoved down your throat. I hate when you're reading a really good YA fantasy/dystopia/sci-fi etc and then the romance takes over the entire story. The romance here is gradually developed and slow burning in the background. It doesn't distract from the much more serious matters at play. Finally I have a little tiny design critique (which is not at all a reflection on the writing). This book is a brick! It's 549 pages. Which would be fine except that the margins were ridiculously wide and the spacing between lines was huge. This means that this book was made to look a whole lot longer than it actually was. I'm not sure why they went this route as it made the book bulky, heavy and difficult to hold. A poor design choice. Final recommendations: An amazing book that can be enjoyed by fantasy fans, historical fiction fans or anyone looking for a really well crafted story. I also think this is a great book for both YA and adult readers.
Date published: 2012-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome! It's books like Grave Mercy that have me asking myself why don't I like historical fiction novels. I'm still not sure why I'm so wary about reading them but coming across a book like this one and being totally enraptured definitely makes me want to try reading more of the genre! Grave Mercy takes place in 15th century England, a time of royalty and courtly intrigue. Ismae has been inducted into the convent of St. Mortain, nuns who follow the orders of death himself. She's intrigued and eager to learn how to defend herself and prove her worth after the horrible childhood she had and the people who teased her constantly. Her first real mission has her sent to the high courts of Brittany to protect the duchess Ann and find the traitor in their midst. Problem is she's been assigned a babysitter of sorts, and he's proving to be a bothersome, but exciting, distraction. First off, this book was completely awesome. The summary alone piqued my interest, what with a girl assassin and this "target who's stolen her heart". It's gold! Then I go and fall in love with everything about the book. Ismae was amazing. She's had a crappy childhood to say the least, so to become an assassin and possibly take vengeance on the men that have hurt her sends her spirit soaring. But even though she does kill people, she isn't by any means cold or spiteful. She's still a young woman trying to find her place in the world. She was tough yet still vulnerable, and it was a joy to read about her. Then there's Duval, the aforementioned babysitter of sorts. Oh Duval, you *giggle* He is the epitome of a man of the times, brave, strong and incredibly loyal. Clothed in armor, riding a horse, brandishing a SWORD *cough*. He admires Ismae's fondness for battle and they go from annoying each other to a mutual respect to something more. I loved that the romance wasn't the forefront of the novel but it was steady and in the background just waiting to show itself. And they were pretty darn perfect for each other, though I wished they had come to that conclusion sooner ;D Their bantering was super amusing though. Pent up sexual tension makes for great scenes. As an aside, even though Ismae is seventeen, and Duval nineteen (I thiiink), they definitely seem older, perhaps as a result of the times they're in and that they were forced to grow up quickly. It sort of reminded me of the Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder--another series I love! They are similar in some ways but the strong characters definitely stand out. And I especially love strong heroines! This isn't by any means a short book but for the most part I flew through the pages. Learning about Ismae's inductance into the convent and what she learned there was fascinating, and all the sneaking around the courts and murder mystery that was going on kept the drama and anticipation high. The only parts I tended to lose myself were when court politics came up. I sort of floated through those scenes but everything else was fantastic! Apparently I need to give more historical novels a chance! Ismae is a handmaiden of Death, sent to the courts of Brittany to protect the young duchess long enough to get her in the throne. Things aren't as easy as they seem and Ismae isn't the only assassin in the castle. Throw in the determined and handsome Duval and things get even more interesting. Grave Mercy is a must read for sure! Review from my blog: http://allofeverythingforyou.blogspot.ca/2012/04/review-grave-mercy-by-robin-lafevers.html
Date published: 2012-04-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Suffers from lag This and other reviews can be found on http://readingbetweenclasses.blogspot.com/ Cover Impressions: Pretty girl in a pretty dress, but wait! What's this? A MASSIVE CROSSBOW?! This just got much more interesting! I love the look on the model's face and the hair and makeup are well done (though I do wish it had featured Ismae's fancy poison pearl hairnet.) I particularly enjoyed the tagline "why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?". The Gist: Ismae has been sired by death. At the hands of the Sisters of the convent of St. Mortain, she learns the art of dispatching a man from this earth and finally finds the strength to stand against the men that have filled her life with cruelty. Sent to on assignment to the court of Brittany, she must wade into a world of secrets and intrigue and follow her own guidance about who to trust, and who to kill. Review: This book gets an A+ for the originality of the idea. A convent of nuns trained in the deadly arts and willing to assassinate based on the will of their God - now that is something I have not read before. In fact, I so loved this idea that I am a little disappointed that LaFevers did not spend more time describing Ismae's training. The opening was incredibly strong, but then instead of watching Ismae learn the skills that will allow her to kill a man in seconds (or stretch his agony out for days), we get a three year time jump which was more than a little unsatisfying. I enjoyed most of the characters (and the glimpses of Sybella made me long for the next installment in this series). Ismae is strong willed, though young and inexperienced. I loved her cold hearted certainty and willingness to follow her convent's orders without question. However, I found her less enjoyable as she developed a conscience. I was also thrilled to read descriptions of the weapons that she carried rather than the diatribes about sumptuous gowns that one often finds in period novels. Despite the strong opening and a very interesting premise, the plot had a tendency to lag. For a book about an assassin, it was sorely lacking in assassinations. I like politic intrigue as much as the next reader, but after pages and pages of political maneuvering I was practically foaming at the mouth for some bloodshed! As for the mystery element, it is laughably transparent who is to blame for the current state of affairs and I kept waiting for some plot twist because surely it couldn't be this obvious, alas - it was. I will be back for the second book in this trilogy, mostly because I am intrigued by Sybella but also because I am too in love with the concept of deadly nuns to give up hope for a dark and compelling sequel. Stay Tuned. Teaching/Parental Notes: Age: 15 and up Gender: Female Sex: One instance, tastefully written Violence: Domestic abuse, garotting, poisoning, shooting with arrow, knife play Inappropriate Language: None Substance Abuse: Drinking of wine Additional Notes: This is a decent introduction into historical fiction
Date published: 2012-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A most unique and interesting book. Well, I expected a mediocre book about a simpering young girl who finds refuge within a strange convent that practices dark magic. I was very suprised. the main character, Ismae, is understandable and strong and believable. the story is also one of complications and dark medieval politics. Many times she is unsure of what to think and who to believe and who to trust but she handles it well. It was also interesting to watch her slowly come to love Gavriel Duval. It was much more realistic than in many novels. I also greatly enjoyed that the book was written in first person perspective. It gives us a personal connection with Ismae's character, views, and thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and can't wait for the next one,"Dark triumph" It was well written, well described and was a story of adventure, mystery, history, dark magic, trust, loyalty and a little romance. I recommend it definitively.
Date published: 2012-04-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mystery, Intregue, History, Politics, Romance... I have to admit, I was intrigued when I read the tag line for this book: Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? And then to see the book was about assassin nuns... well, I knew I had to see what this was about. The book has an explosive start and certainly captures the attention. The setting is the late fourteen hundreds and there is huge amounts of political intrigue and rules about how people act at court. It is a time when women don't have much power over their own lives and Ismae takes the only option available to her that would lead her from her traditional, expected life. It is obvious the author has done a lot of research because the politics and backstabbing at court was so crazy and convoluted, it is nearly impossible to keep track of it. For the most part, I really liked Ismae. She had a certain realism to her. She was tough and ready to take action, passionate in her beliefs. But she was also conflicted and imperfect, which is something I love. I also like how she grew in the book to make decisions for herself rather than always following orders. However, I did find her a bit repetitive in some of her concerns. The romance part of the book isn't bad, though it is pretty obvious. I am happy that she got to stay strong and didn't have to give up who she was through the romance. It is a big part of the book, but there are also so many other parts, which all add to the richness of the book - the mystery, adventure, history and the paranormal aspects. I have to admit, I really liked the paranormal part and all of the parts about the god of Death. Disclosure: I received an egalley of this book for review from NetGalley.
Date published: 2012-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Up-There! Grave Mercy is UP-THERE! Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is extraordinary in every sense. It is a brilliant and captivating story with highly well developed characters and plot. It is a story where war, love, justice, free-will, trust and loyalty intertwines in an exquisite and completely seductive medieval adventure that can easily become one of the 2012 favorite reads of teens and adults alike. The original concept of Death handmaidens (assassin nuns) has certainly created one of the most kick-butt heroines in the YA world. In Grave Mercy, gifted girls are trained in a convent to server their God -Death himself- by obeying his word and bring death to those who deserve it (or so they think). Ismae is one of those girls, but her second and first big assignment turns her entire world completely upside-down. Grave mercy is full of complex politics of the 15th century France. I loved the historical background LaFevers used to set this story and I loved the intrusion of the convent into this world as well. In addition, the characters are excellent. In Grave Mercy, Ismae is placed in a very complicate situation between her loyalty and heart, and even though she is grateful and loyal to the convent, she is not blinded by her devotion nor by her heart. Ismae is extremely brave, intelligent and sensitive enough to know what is right from wrong. Then, there is Duval. He is one of the most loyal characters I have come across in a long time. I really tried to find something negative about this character but I couldn't. However, this perfect image of a man doesn't disturb the credibility of this character. Actually, Duval has no powers, nor he posses the face of a fallen angel. He is just a very honorable man whose values excel among those of most man. In other words, Duval's soul is a diamond. A diamond that exist thanks to the infinite love he feels for his little sister. Robin LaFevers has a marvelous way to build-up the atmosphere of the story. It is so powerful and bewitching that you can easily be transported into the 15th century. In addition, I think that LaFevers' exquisite prose makes of Grave Mercy a true gem among YA books! I can't express enough how much I love this book. Romance, intrigue, politics, action, drama, free-will, justice vs. vengeance, and women's right are some of the topics and themes you can find in this book. Grave Mercy really has it all! LaFevers really surprised me with an excellent and well portrayed historical novel with a strong scent of fantasy that will forever remain as one of my favorites reads. Grave Mercy certainly deserve to be UP-THERE along with Poison Study, Finnikin of the Rock, Graceling and The Demon King! This one is a must-read that you will entirely devour in just one seat!
Date published: 2012-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An amazing read! FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. As I sit here trying to think of what to write after finishing reading Robin LaFevers’s Grave Mercy, I’m at a loss. And it’s not because the book sucked — rather, it was such an incredibly good read that I find I’m at a loss for words as to what to say about it! Grave Mercy is about Ismae, a young girl who was forced into an arranged marriage by her father. She manages to escape and join the convent of St. Mortain, the god of Death. After learning she bears great gifts towards her god, Ismae is put to task at the high court of Brittany. Honestly, I had no clue what to expect from this book. I had gotten an email from NetGalley about a special 2-day promotion for this book and I was so utterly in love with the cover that I had to say yes. Of course, when I opened it up to read it, I was a little intimidated because the book is not a small tome. In face, it’s close to 600 pages! My attention span is too short for such a book, but I decided to trudge on and read it anyway. Little did I know that the book would fly by! Robin LaFevers is such an amazing writer. I was instantly sucked into the story, reminded a bit of Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, both books I absolutely loved. It was hard not to fall in love with Ismae, not to feel such sorrow towards her in the beginning when she is forced into her arranged marriage to such an unbearable oaf of a husband. I enjoyed reading about her as she found herself in the novel, and discovered what she truly wanted to do in life. And yet, she’s not the softest character in the beginning. I have no comparison, but she had lived such a hard life that she was hard on the outside. It wasn’t something that detracts from her character, though. In fact, you feel empathy towards her and only want to wish her hope on her journey. Though, I wouldn’t classify this as a coming-of-age book — oh no! In fact, I would deem this more as a historical fiction / romance / action / religious young adult book. There was just so much going on in the book that I had a hard time putting it down, though indeed I did, since I wanted to read it slowly and savour the whole thing. I was pulled into the atmosphere and I could see everything playing out in my head like a movie — I could smell the horses, I could feel the warmth of the fires, I could instantly picture all of the characters in my head. It was truly an amazing read. The only bad thing I have to say about the book is that the sequel won’t be released until 2013. How on earth will I wait that long? Read this book — read it now. Full of suspense, murder, intrigue, humour, and romance, it truly is an adventure worth falling in love with.
Date published: 2012-03-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Historical Fantasy Pros: interesting setting, brilliant assassin school/convent idea, characters all have realistic motivations (including the antagonists) / Cons: I didn't understand why Ismae was chosen for the mission / Ismae is 17 years old and about to be married off to a man who is likely as boorish and abusive as her father, when she's spirited away to a convent. There she learns that being the daughter of Death is not a curse but a blessing and is trained in the ways of assassins. / But she skips out on her lessons on courtliness and seduction, lessons that would have helped with her third assignment, at the court of Brittany's besieged twelve year old Duchess. A Duchess whose hand in marriage was promised to a boorish, brutal man. This is a marriage alliance that her older half-brother, Duval, the man Ismae is to accompany to court, and whom she must watch for signs of treason, intends to prevent. / As she tries to see through the various plots at court, Ismae discovers she has feelings for Duval. But Death's Handmaidens are not trained for love. / Late Medieval Brittany is a fantastic setting, with all the political intrigue at the Duchess's court as well as the threat of attack from the French. There's even the threat of attack from her suitor should she break the betrothal agreement her father made with him. The countryside is suitably rustic and court extravagant. / The convent to the old God of Death, Mortain, now called a Saint after the Christianization of the land, and its training of assassins who work for His cause, was brilliant. It feels more like a boarding school setting, with the girls learning the different arts they will need. The only off note here was the inclusion of Eastern style martial arts, which would have been unknown in those parts at that time. But as it's historical fantasy, one cannot fault the author for wanting to include throwing stars (or rondelles as they're called in the book) and the like in the arsenals of the girls. / The motivations for each characters actions is realistic, even those of the bad guys. Indeed, the book shows court life in all its complexity, with few being trustworthy and everyone working towards their own aims - even when those aims are in direct opposition to those of their sovereign. It also shows the power and lack thereof of women. Though Duchess, due to her age and sex Anne's voice isn't held in high esteem. And her council members try to make the best decisions for Brittany, even though they may not be the best decisions for Anne herself. / My only real complaint with the book was that Ismae shouldn't have been sent on this mission. She didn't have the understanding of court life required nor was she sufficiently adept at hiding her identity or mission. I was surprised that no back story was created to explain her meeting Duval, and she was constantly jumping to conclusions, or assuming that events could only point to one answer, while I often saw other options that she missed or only considered in passing. This pushed me out of the story on many occasions, when I wondered why the convent would send her, as a novice, when they must have had more experienced women they could have sent who would have done a much better job. She was also accepted at court more readily than I believed possible (given her peasant upbringing and her lack of comfort with court/city life) and allowed to wander everywhere, something I doubt a real court would have allowed of a high ranking officer's mistress (which was her cover story, and an odd cover story for a woman who is trying to hobnob with ladies-in-waiting). Ismae was surprisingly bad at talking to servants, which given that she was looking for gossip, seemed a serious failing. She also tuned out the gossip of the Duchess's ladies on those few occasions when she met with them. I was surprised that their gossip was always passed off as being frivolous, when in reality there would have been some political undertones to their conversation. / The book ended well - indeed Ismae came into her own for the last hundred pages and I liked her a lot more for it. / If you can overlook Ismae's unsuitableness for the mission, it's an interesting read.
Date published: 2012-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I have to start out by saying this book is absolutely AMAZING!!! I was finishing it on my way to work and almost missed my stop because I didn't want to stop reading it. This book is huge (since I had an eBook version I didn't realize how big it was), but I found I flew through it. Do not let the page count scare you away, every page is absolutely engrossing. This is already one of my favourite books of this year. I wanted to turn back to the first page and restart the book, that's how awesome it was in my eyes. I was hooked from the opening of the story where the first line is: "I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch's poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb." I love that it opens with the reader able to see such a personal side of Ismae. Where throughout the book she tries to hide this scar from everyone because of what it resembles. Right from the beginning you see that Ismae has been dealt a crappy hand but that she does not just let everything happen to her, she fights for herself. And I love how strong she is, she is definitely a female character who knows what she is doing. From the beginning you can see that there will be quite a lot of action happening throughout the book, and Robin does not disappoint. There was a lot going on but it does not take away from the fact that Ismae is a "handmaiden to Death", she works her gifts in many ways throughout the book. There is so much about this book that I fell in love with! I really felt relationship between Duval and Ismae grow as the spent more time together. There were a lot of cute and funny moments that made me laugh out loud. The great thing was having a female lead character who does not know how to act womanly, she is so used to fighting and sneaking around that she doesn't know how people normally act. I found that there were a lot of interesting twists throughout the book that definitely took me by surprise. It kept me interested in what was going on, I kept wondering what would happen next. I also found that I could not figure out who to trust throughout the book. I definitely felt like I was Ismae, being in a place where I can't trust anyone, and don't know what is the truth. I liked that the novel took place at the royal court. Robin has a great flare for writing, and I definitely felt like I was there in the court experiencing everything that Ismae was. I also really enjoy my historical fiction novels, and add in some paranormal magic to it, and you have me at a loss for words. This is exactly what this book has done. I also really liked the ending, Robin leaves you with a lot of questions still to be answered, but it's not a jaw dropping cliffhanger. I'm excited to see what is next for Ismae and the rest of the characters. I recommend that you all run out and buy this book when it hits shelves on April 3rd. I know I will be!
Date published: 2012-03-27

Read from the Book

Chapter OneNantes, Brittany 1489   I did not arrive at the convent of Saint Mortain some green stripling. By the time I was sent there, my death count numbered three, and I had had two lovers besides. Even so, there were some things they were able to teach me: Sister Serafina the art of poison, Sister Thomine how to wield a blade, and Sister Arnette where best to strike with it, laying out all the vulnerable points on a mans body like an astronomer charting the stars.   If only they had taught me how to watch innocents die as well as they taught me how to kill, I would be far better prepared for this nightmare into which Ive been thrust.   I pause at the foot of the winding steps to see if I am being watched. The scullery woman scrubbing the marble hall, the sleepy page dozing against the doorwayeither one of them could be a spy. Even if neither has been assigned to watch me, someone is always willing to tattle in the hopes of earning a few crumbs of favor.   Caution prevails and I decide to use the south stairs and then double back through the lower hall to approach the north tower from that side. I am very careful to step precisely where the maid has just washed, and I hear her mutter a curse under her breath. Good. Now I can be certain she has seen me and will not forget if she is questioned.   In the lower hall, there are few servants about. Those who have not been driven out are busy with their duties or have gone to ground like clever, prudent rats.   When at last I reach the north wing of the palace, it is empty. Quickening my pace, I hurry toward the north tower, but I am so busy looking behind me that I nearly stumble over a small figure sitting at the base of the stairs.   I bite back an oath of annoyance and glare down to see it is a child. A young girl. What are you doing here? I snap. My nerves are already tightly strung, and this new worry does them little good. Where is your mother?   The girl looks up at me with eyes like damp violets, and true fear clutches at my gut. Has no one thought to warn her how dangerous it is for a pretty child to wander these halls alone? I want to reach down and shake hershake her motherand shout at her that she is not safe here, not on these steps, not in this castle. I force myself to take a deep breath instead.   Mama is dead, the child says, her voice high and quivery.   I glance to the stairs, where my first duty lies, but I cannot leave this child here. What is your name?   Odette, she says, uncertain whether to be frightened of me or not.   Well, Odette, this is no place to play. I nearly stepped on you. Have you no one to look after you?   My sister. But when she is working, I am to hide like a little mouse.   At least her sister is no fool. But this is not a good place to hide, is it? Look how easily I found you!   For the first time, the girl gives me a shy smile, and in that moment, she reminds me so much of my youngest sister, Louise, that I cannot breathe. Thinking quickly, I take her hand and lead her back to the main hallway.   Hurry, hurry, hurry nips at my heels like a braying hound.   See that door? She nods, watching me uncertainly. Go through that door, then down the stairs. The chapel is there, and it is a most excellent hiding place. And since dAlbret and his men never visit the chapel, she will be safe enough. Who is your sister?   Tilde.   Very well. I will tell Tilde where you are so she may come and get you when her work is done.   Thank you, Odette says, then skips off down the hall. I long to escort her there myself, but I already risk being too late for what I must do.   I turn back around and take the stairs two at a time. The thick wooden door on the landing has a new latch, stiff with disuse. I lift it slowly to be certain it will not creak out an alarm.   As I step into the cold winter sunshine, a bitter wind whips at my hair, tearing it from the net that holds it in place. All my caution has cost me precious time, and I pray that I have not been brought up here only to see those I love slaughtered.   I hurry to the crenellated wall and look down into the field below. A small party of mounted knights waits patiently while an even smaller party confers with that braying ass Marshal Rieux. I recognize the duchess immediately, her dainty figure poised on her gray palfrey. She looks impossibly small, far too small to carry the fate of our kingdom on her slender shoulders. That she has managed to hold off a French invasion for this long is impressive; that she has done so in spite of being betrayed by a full half of her councilors is close to a miracle.   Behind her and to the right is Ismae, sister of my heart and, possibly, my blood, if what the nuns at the convent told us is true. My pulse begins to race, but whether in joy that I am not too late or in panic at what I know is coming, I cannot tell.   Keeping my gaze fixed on Ismae, I gather up all my fear and dread and hurl them at her, like stones in a catapult.   She does not so much as glance in my direction.   From deep in the bowels of the castle, off toward the east, comes a faint rumble as the portcullis is raised. This time when I cast my warning, I fling my arms out as well, as if I am shooing away a flock of ducks. I hopepraythat some bond still exists between us that will allow her to sense me.   But her eyes remain fixed on the duchess in front of her, and I nearly scream in frustration. Flee, my mind cries. It is a trap. Then, just as I fear I must throw myself from the battlements to gain her attention, Ismae looks up. Flee, I beg, then sweep my arms out once more.   It works. She looks away from me to the eastern gate, then turns to shout something to the soldier next to her, and I grow limp with relief.   The small party on the field springs to life, shouting orders and calling to one another. Ismae points again, this time to the west. Good. She has seen the second arm of the trap. Now I must only hope that my warning has not come too late.   Once Marshal Rieux and his men realize what is happening, they wheel their mounts around and gallop back to the city. The duchess and her party move to fall into a new formation but have not yet left the field.   Flee! The word beats frantically against my breast, but I dare not utter it, afraid that even though I stand on this isolated tower someone from the castle might hear. I lean forward, gripping the cold, rough stone of the battlements so hard that it bites into my gloveless fingers.   The first line of dAlbrets troops rides into my sight, my half brother ierre in the vanguard. Then, just when I am certain it is too late, the duchesss party splits in two, and a paltry dozen of the duchesss men turn their mounts to meet the coming onslaught. Twelve against two hundred. Hollow laughter at the futility of their actions escapes my throat but is snatched up by the wind before anyone can hear it.   As the duchess and two others gallop away, Ismae hesitates. I bite my lip to keep from shouting. She cannot think she can help the doomed knights? Their cause is hopeless, and not even our skills can help the twelve who so valiantly ride to their deaths.   Flee. This time I do utter the word aloud, but just like my laughter, it is caught up by the cold, bitter wind and carried high above, where no one can hear it. Not the one it is meant to warn, nor those who would punish me for the betrayal.   But perhaps something has carried my warning to Ismae all the same, for she finally wheels her mount around and gallops after the duchess. The iron band squeezing my lungs eases somewhat, for while it is hard enough to watch these men meet their deaths, I could not bear to watch Ismae die.   Or worse, be captured.   If that happened, I would kill her myself rather than leave her to dAlbret, for he will grant her no mercy. Not after she ruined his plans in Gurande and nearly gutted him like a fish. He has had many days to hone his vengeance to a razor-sharp edge.   It is folly for me to linger. I should leave now while there is no chance of being discovered, but I cannot turn away. Like the rushing water of a swollen river, dAlbrets forces swarm the duchesss guard. The resounding clash is like thunder as armor crashes into armor, pikes break through shields, and swords meet.   I am astounded at the ferocity of the duchesss men. They all fight as if they are all possessed by the spirit of Saint Camulos himself, slashing through their attackers much as farmers scythe through stalks of grain. By some miracle, they hold the oncoming line, and their efforts delay dAlbrets forces long enough for the duchesss party to reach the safety of the trees. DAlbrets greater number of men will be less of an advantage if they all must duck and dodge branches and bracken.   From the east, a trumpet sounds. I frown and look that way, fearing dAlbret has thought to arrange for a third mounted force. But no, the black and white banner of the Rennes garrison stands in stark relief against the crisp blue sky as an additional dozen men ride into the melee. When the duchess and the others finally disappear over the horizon, I allow myself to draw my first full breath.   But even with the infusion of new troops, it is a crushing defeat. The duchesss guards have no chance, not against so many. My hand itches for a weapon, but the knives I carry will do no good from this distance. A crossbow would work, but they are nigh unto impossible to conceal, and so I watch helplessly.   DAlbret had only ever planned for a trapa quick in-and-out, thrust and parry, and then return with the prize. Once he realizes the quarry has escaped and he no longer has the element of surprise, he gives the signal for his soldiers to fall back behind the castle walls. Better to cut his losses than waste any more men in this failed gambit.   The battle below is nearly over. Only one soldier continues to fight, a great big ox of a man who doesnt have the sense to die quickly like the others. His helm has been knocked from his head, and three arrows pierce his armor, which is dented in a dozen places. His chain mail is torn, and the cuts beneath it bleed profusely, but still he fights with a nearly inhuman strength, stumbling ever forward into the mass of his enemies. It is all right, I long to tell him. Your young duchess is safe. You may die in peace, and then you will be safe as well.    His head jerks up from the blow he has just taken, and across the distance our eyes meet. I wonder what color they are and how quickly they will film over once Death claims him.   Then one of dAlbrets men lunges forward and cuts the knights horse out from under him. A long, despairing bellow escapes him as he goes down, and like ants swarming a scrap of meat, his enemies are upon him. The mans death cry reaches all the way up to the tower and wraps itself around my heart, calling for me to join it.   A fierce wave of longing surges through me, and I am jealous of that knight and the oblivion that claims him. He is free now, just like the gathering vultures who circle overhead. How easily they come and go, how far above danger they fly. I am not sure I can return to my own cage, a cage built of lies and suspicions and fear. A cage so full of darkness and shadow it may as well be death.   I lean forward, pushing my body out past the battlements. The wind plucks at my cloak, buffets me, as if it would carry me off in flight, just like the birds or the knights soul. Let go, it cries. I will take you far, far away. I want to laugh at the exhilarating feeling. I will catch you, it whistles seductively.   Would it hurt? I wonder, staring down at the jagged rocks below. Would I feel the moment of my landing? I close my eyes and imagine hurtling through space, rushing down, down, down, to my death.   Would it even work? At the convent, the sisters of Mortain were as stingy with their knowledge of our deathly skills and abilities as a miser is with his coin. I do not fully understand all the powers Death has bestowed upon me. Besides, Death has already rejected me twice. What if He did so a third time and I had to spend the rest of my life broken and helpless, forever at the mercy of those around me? That thought has me shuddering violently, and I take a step away from the wall.   Sybella?   Fresh panic flares in my breast, and my hand reaches for the cross nestled among the folds of my skirt, for it is no ordinary crucifix but a cunningly disguised knife designed for me by the convent. Even as I turn around, I widen my eyes as if excited and curve the corners of my mouth up in a brazen smile.   Julian stands in the doorway. What are you doing out here? he asks.   I let my eyes sparkle with pleasureas if Im glad to see him rather than dismayedthen turn back around to the battlement to compose myself. I shove all my true thoughts and feelings deep inside, for while Julian is the kindest of them all, he is no fool. And he has always been skilled at reading me. Watching the rout. I am careful to make my voice purr with excitement. At least he did not find me until after I warned Ismae.   He joins me at the wall, so close that our elbows touch, and casts me a look of wry admiration. You wanted to watch?   I roll my eyes in disdain. It matters not. The bird slipped the net.   Julian tears his gaze away from me and looks out onto the field for the first time. The duchess got away?   Im afraid so.   He glances quickly back at me, but I keep the look of contempt plastered to my face like a shield. He will not be happy, Julian says.   No, he will not. And the rest of us will pay the price. I look at him as if just now noticing he is not dressed for battle. Why are you not on the field with the others?   I was ordered to stay behind.   A brief spasm of fear clutches my heart. Is dAlbret having me watched so very closely, then?   Julian offers me his arm. We need to get back to the hall before he does.   I dimple at him and cozy up to his arm, letting it almost but not quite brush against my breast. It is the one power I have over himdoling out favors just often enough that he does not need to grab for them.   As we reach the tower door, Julian glances back over his shoulder at the battlement then turns his unreadable gaze on me. I will not tell anyone that you were up here, he says.   I shrug, as if it is of no difference to me. Even so, I fear he will make me pay for this kindness of his.   Already I regret not jumping while I had the chance.

Editorial Reviews

* LaFevers is that wonderful sort of storyteller who so completely meshes events, descriptions, and characters that readers get lost in the world she's concocted. It's a place where history mingles with mystery and love is never expected." - Booklist, starred review * "The prose's beauty inspires immediate re-reads of many a sentence, but its forward momentum is irresistible. An intricate, masterful page-turner about politics, treachery, religion, love and healing." - Kirkus, starred review * "Brimming with powerful emotions, thrilling sword fights, and accurate period detail, this tightly plotted tale will enthrall readers of romantic historical fantasy." - Publishers Weekly, starred review "Personal where Grave Mercy was political and comprehensive, this story focuses tightly on Sybella as she seeks vengeance upon the many men who have wronged her. . . . Her romantic relationship with the imprisoned warrior unfolds with a sweet tenderness that romance fans will relish." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "Romantic fantasy with a vengence. . . LaFevers offers a pungent mix of inner torment, costume drama, and dagger-, sword-, poison-, and garrote-play." - Horn Book "An expertly crafted novel, with deep characters and an interesting plot that is, at the same time, fantastic, yet realistic. LaFevers has agazin used great artistry to create an excellent tale for both young adult and adult audiences." - VOYA, 4Q 4P S * "As with the first book, LaFevers has filled the pages of her novel with adventure, and the pace is electrifyingly fast. The characters are well drawn, and even the secondary figures have dimension. Sybella's quick-thinking and fearless approach to terrifying personal and political situations renders her an incredibly strong protagonist with whom readers will identify." - School Library Journal, starred review "