Wait, what?! No Nunchucks?!

Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

God's Teeth, look at that cover! Pretty girl in a gorgeous red dress carrying a motherchucking crossbow. And what's that? She's a nun?! An assassin nun?! How could this be anything but awesome?!

 

Honestly, my motivation to pick up this mammoth YA historical book was just rooted in what that blurb promises. You add nuns in the picture, the coolness potential just amps up exponentially. Think about it for a second: If Fraulein Maria wasn't a nun, The Sound of Music won't be as fun as it was. Now let's arm Julie Andrews with knives, poisons and shit, then send her out to kill the bad men intent on selling out Brittany to the evil Frenchies and call her Ismae.

 

 

This may be the one instance I wouldn't have minded a bit of singing wedged in. Because holy hell I remember the pain of reading through the 500 something pages of this one a little too vividly.

 

It took me a while to warm up to Ismae as a heroine. I feel like this would've worked better if told in a third person POV instead of solely her own. There wasn't enough effort to allow me to forge an emotional connection with her. Which is a terrible waste because I find her past and her path to understanding her purpose very interesting and ripe with potential. I also wish that Ismae's training to becoming a full-fledged assassin wasn't glossed over by jumping three years after her arrival at the convent because after a few glimpses of life in the convent, this one jumped right into the action.

 

Or well, as much action as you can expect from court intrigue, political manipulations, murder mysteries and scandals.

 

I still think this was a good book with a very particular audience to which I sadly didn't belong. It worked partially well in meshing the historically accurate events (well based on Wikipedia anyway) of Brittany's resistance to France's invasion with the fictional and mysterious Order of Saint Mortain by crossing the lines of paranormal in slight doses in opportune moments. However, the fictional, awesome flavors that was supposed to make the 15th Century European History aspect more palatable was severely thin leaving a stale aftertaste in my mouth.

 

 

Mostly I think this was because I couldn't really feel the gravity of everyone's troubles. I mean, what's so bad about the French really? They didn't come off as ominous big bads because the threat they posed was more in the lines of "you can't be duchess and do duchessy stuff without our blessing." I mean, if Anne cannot be bothered to suck it up and deal with marrying an old baron to keep the Frenchies at bay and keep her duchy intact, they mustn't be that bad right? Especially with someone who has such lofty ideals at 13. Sorry, I am far from being an expert at European History so this was a big disconnect for my simpleton mind.

 

Which leads me to my frustration over Duval and Ismae playing matchmaker for the duchess. Do you really use an Apache helicopter to be the security escort of the president's daughter to the prom?

 

 

“St. Brigantia’s bane, so named because Brigantia is the goddess of wisdom and this poison does not kill its victims but instead eats all the knowledge from their brains, leaving them babbling simpletons with no memory of who they are.”

 

She's armed with that and you send her to play matchmaker??? Half the time, I feel like this book was just teasing me. See all the cool things Ismae is armed with, the things she can do? Now watch her be aggrieved of the duchess' love life. Frustrations all over!!!

 

True there was some moments of Ismae on assassin-mode, but it felt too distantly spaced, losing whatever momentum to moments of plotting and playing chess, thinking out loud and ankle touches.

 

Speaking of, the romantic relationship with Ismae and Duval wasn't bad but isn't my cup either. Their loyalty and dedication to their purpose (Ismae with her order and Duval with the duchy) while admirable also put a damper on the intensity department. Their relationship was presented as passionately as a well-meaning handshake.

 

I'm still wavering if I'm picking up the next book despite the good feedback because Sybella didn't really pique my interest here. But to say I was disappointed is putting it mildly. I was expecting something closer to Timur Bekmambetov's Wanted with medieval nuns.

 

There wasn't even a bend the bullet arrow moment, smh.