Years later, Ismae is one of Deaths handmaidens, skilled in the arts of poison and death by weapons. She has lived a sheltered life in the convent, and when she is offered the chance to test her skills in the real world she is eager - but when her first assignment doesn't go quite as planned, she finds herself drawn into the complicated world of the Duchess of Brittany. The Court is a complicated place with plots hidden behind plots, and nobody is who or what they seem. To make things even more complicated, Ismae must work closely with Gavriel Duval, a man with a past as complicated as her own. As things at Court get more and more complicated, Ismae finds herself drawing closer to Duval and growing more attached, more intrigued, and maybe even in love.
This is a massive read at over 500 pages, but once you are buried in the pages it doesn't seem anywhere near that long. The story of Ismae and Duval is played out in exquisite detail, not taking too long to get to the point, but showing a real story of what happens over time between two people who spend a lot of time together when there is a spark of attraction. The intrigues of Court add a layer of suspense and mystery, a challenge almost to try and figure out who the bad guy is or isn't, to figure out the complicated subplots that unfold throughout the story. There is also the element of ancient magic and mythical skills, a belief structure that lies under the whole story and binding it together.
The author claims to be a hopeless romantic, and you can tell that she really understands the importance of a good story rather than two people sparking a mutual attraction and running off together. Ismae is almost tortured at times by her loyalty to her convent, her calling, her god, and her Duchess. She is on a path set for her by her vows, but she also comes to see that the world is more complicated than the training at the convent implied, and that maybe her god is also more complicated than she was led to believe. You can also see the internal conflict for Duval who has sworn an oath to keep his sister the Duchess safe no matter what the cost.
This was an all engrossing story and I look forward to the release of the next book in the series, Dark triumph, which is due for release in 2013. If you like a really solid read, with real depth and storytelling, then try Grave mercy.
If you like this book then try:
- Crown duel by Sherwood Smith
- Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
- Graceling by Kristin Cashore
- Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
- Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
- Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey
Reviewed by Brilla