I've already seen a few lists of books coming out in 2013 which people are excited for and I was thinking "man, it seems like assassins are the new in thing (which is kinda odd but o-kay)" and then remembered that I had heard a lot of good things about a book which involved an assassin in a medieval sounding setting that came out in 2012. Lo and behold my school library even had a copy of it, hurray!
Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers
Summary: Before Ismae was born her mother tried to abort her but she was born anyway prompting the local herbwife to say that her father was actually Death himself. After a rather miserable life Ismae finds herself at the convent that serves death and is trained in all kinds of things including fighting, poison-mixing, and killing. She has no reason to question the sisters who took her in but when she's on an extended mission to keep the young duchess of her country safe and out of the hands of the invading French she begins to question whose will she is really following, Death's or the convents.
The Good: I really liked Ismae's character, she both loyal to the convent but still thinks for herself, even before all the facts start piling up in front of her. And all of her character development is paced well, it's a thick book (I believe it was a bit over 500 pages) but it never felt like the book was stalling for time or got lost and was wallowing around. The side characters also have some character development, or at least turn out to be more complicated than they originally seemed, and I'm happy that this is part of a series since I really want to see where Ismae goes after her big choice. As a side note, it's actually rather interesting to read this book so soon after Seraphina, both of them have very similar settings, conflicts, and character archetypes yet Ismae and Seraphina come from completely different places and it's interesting to compare how you can have two different characters in similar situations and seeing how they approach the problem.
The Bad: I have absolutely no clue what is up with that tagline across the top of the book, Ismae rarely (if ever?) scorns the people around her for not knowing all the secrets of the court or for living simpler lives and it's almost the opposite of the character development she goes through. Bah, in any case, I'm also quibbling over the fact that the duchess is so young, just 13, I had wondered why she wasn't as active as I had expected but seriously, would it hurt or even change the character dynamics if she had been a bit older? After learning that I'm now questioning what she can really do in the next book or two with such little experience of life, hopefully I'll just be able to ignore it and not let that bother me too much.
So a 3.5 out of 5 for this book, not 100% if I'd buy it (since right now I don't have the urge to re-read it) but I'm certainly excited for the next books in the series (called the His Fair Assassin Series). I'm a little worried since it sounds like the viewpoint is switching over to another character (who did appear briefly so I have no idea where it'll fit timeline wise) and there were a few things left unresolved in this book but I'll just cross my fingers and hope that Lafevers makes it all work!