Not-So-New Books: Grave Mercy

In an alternate medieval Brittany, Ismae finally finds a home where she belongs — in a convent of Mortain, the god of death, where she studies the delicate art of assassination. But her first assignment calls on all her will and wiles as she's forced to team up with Gavriel Duval, half-brother to the Duchess of Brittany and potential enemy, to take down a plot to overthrow the young Duchess.

If you've ever read a book, it won't be a spoiler to learn that Ismae finds herself increasingly drawn to Duval, even as she suspects him of complicity in the plot against his half-sister. Ismae's convent upbringing has prepared her well for the intrigues and treachery of court but not for her feelings for Duval or for her growing sense that the convent's orders may not be as unequivocally right as she's always believed. As the political tension at court comes to a head, Ismae must choose between her training and her heart.

Honestly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Grave Mercy. The plot is nothing special, and Ismae is very much a character in the Katniss vein — she remains stubbornly oblivious to her own emotions and manages to navigate every perilous situation she finds herself in (and there are plenty) through a combination of good luck and natural skill. But the idea of a convent where young women who have no place in medieval society learn to help Death in his duties is engaging, and LaFevers gives it enough detail and nuance to make it believable. Some characters, such as the villainous Count d'Albret and the kind-hearted but determined Duchess Anne, border on caricatures, but they play their part in the story well enough. And Ismae's evolving understanding of what it really means to be "a daughter of death" is pretty fascinating. This one's a good addition to your young adult library.