Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday Review: A GRAVE MERCY Indeed!

I've been seeing this book a while now at the library. It looks gloriously sinister: gray dark cover with a young woman in red holding a crossbow. You don't know if she's going to be a sort of Robin Hood or Buffy, but you know it's going to be good.

Once I checked out GRAVE MERCY (Robin LaFevers) by the cover alone, I read the first page to see if it would truly grab me. It did. First person usually does, and this author wastes no time getting down to brass tax. (It probably means something too that in her acknowledgements she's good friends with Barbara O'Neal. For some reason I think writers tend to congregate with writers who "get them" or sorta kinda have similar voices. Anyway, whether this is true or not, I immediately assumed this author was probably going to be bitching awesome at description and atmosphere, and Fellow Readers, she was.)

The year is 1485 and as you might imagine, it's grim. Especially if you're a girl. And Ms. LaFevers doesn't sugar coat just how bad our heroine has it. We learn right off the bat that her own mother tried to have an abortion to get rid of her, but found out too late that she was the daughter of St. Mortain and therefore a demigod, of sorts. St. Mortain is a Brittany-esque/Celtic-esque god that the people of Brittany still worship, even though everyone is supposed to have converted over to Catholicism and not be worshiping these false gods anymore. He's basically your Hades god; and he's even got a Persephone god he's paired with. I'm not sure where Ms. LaFevers got her lore or if she created it outright, using hybrid blends of gods we know from Greek/Roman/Celtic and making them her own for the purposes of the nunnery where our heroine ends up going to and learning the arts of being an assassin.

When I first read about the nunnery, I laughed. Not only are they not your typical nuns, but they practice the martial arts as part of their training. (Okay, sure.) Still, as improbable as this is, there is a bit of fun plausibility to it. It could have happened. Plus there is the work with poisons, knives, crossbows and archery, and all the other various ways to kill a man. You want to believe these marginalized, ill-treated women could have found a nunnery that would teach them how to kick ass.

But Ms. LaFevers isn't content to give us a heroine to root for. Oh, no, she has to give us a hero to swoon for. Meet Gavriel Duval. [insert swoon here.] But can we trust him? [swoon again]

Now we get to the actual historical portion of our book: a princess named Anne, of Brittany, who is in danger of being married off to the nearest French guy so France can take over Brittany like it wants to so badly. Apparently once upon a time before countries, there were a bunch of duchies (sp?)--anyway, Brittany was probably one of the last good ones and this story revolves around this young girl's fight to keep it. Our heroine (Ismae) needs to protect the princess and also keep an eye on Gavriel, Anne's half brother on the wrong side of the blanket.

The book wraps up nicely despite some rather fearsome near death experiences, and I'm excited to learn this is a trilogy, but it seems each book will have its own heroine. Excellent! You're not missing out on anything! I believe the stories can stand alone.

Anyway, if you want some history, but you don't want to be bogged with it--this is the novel for you. I enjoyed it immensely!

The second book in this series, DARK TRIUMPH, comes out next April.

What are you reading this week?

22 comments:

Maureen said...

I'm reading Aunt Cindy's second cruise ship romsus, His Reluctant Bodyguard. I read a Kristin Higgins last week, Just One of the Guys. I'm looking to get the newest Richard Castle book... ;-)

quantum said...

This sounds like another all action Young Adult novel.

I tried 'Hunger Games' after your magnificent review and rather enjoyed that, so I might try LaFevers when time permits. The assasin breeding nunnery sounds a bit over the top though, given that real historic dates are used. Sort of thing I would expect in a James Bond novel!

Great review though .... you have a talent for this! *smile*

Currently I'm visiting Brenda Novak's 'Whisky Creek', following recs on 'Just Janga' ..... enjoying it a lot so far.

TerriOsburn said...

This book sounds like a fun adventure with plenty of dark undertones. I showed kiddo the blurb and she was intrigued. She's currently reading The Demon Trapper's Daughter but we might get this one next.

I'm reading MY ONE AND ONLY by Kristan Higgins. I have a feeling this hero is going to steal my heart.

P. Kirby said...

In a reading slump, again. Been stuck on Halprin's A Winter's Tale and H.P. Mallory's Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble, neither of which is blowing up my skirt. The first is just slow, slow, slow. With the second, the voice is sorta flat and the hero is handsome, and sexy, and handsome, and plastic as a Ken doll. Gave up and read Alice Hoffman's Second Nature, last week, which was okay, but not her best. Haven't gotten beyond chapter four of The Life of Pi (blah, blah, blah, zoos and swimming...Zzzzzzz).

I'm thinking I need me some YA. Usually way more accessible and rarely as boring.

TerriOsburn said...

I've never read The Life of Pi but saw the trailer for the movie this weekend. Looks kind of interesting as a movie, but nothing I'd want to read.

MsHellion said...

Mo, I read JUST ONE OF THE GUYS and enjoyed it! Do you like the Castle books? I think it's neat to write books that are part of a TV series--I think it's a neat promo idea.

MsHellion said...

Q, I agree the nunnery assassins are rather over the top, but I was still able to go with it. As I said, as grim and gritty as she was making the reality of these young women, you sorta wanted an alternate reality where they had another option.

Fortunately there is not a lot of her "skills building"--and it's more about the story with her trying to figure out who is betraying the young duchess, which is more truly historical because that woman was doublecrossed at every turn. In the author's note, the author even says "Actually she had about TWICE the number of people double crossing her than I had in the story." *LOL*

I saw the Whiskey Creek the other day at the library and nearly picked it up to read. I should give it a shot. Thanks, Q!

MsHellion said...

Terri, you know how I feel about MY ONE AND ONLY. Best. Book. Ever. I hope the heroine is finally less annoying to you now, but maybe not. *LOL*

The Demon Trapper's Daughter sounds intriguing too. I'll have to see what that's about!

MsHellion said...

P.Kirby--ha! That's how I feel about YA. Far more accessible and not as boring. *LOL* I'm also reading J.K. Rowling's newest and I've been struggling. When I read it, I can read for quite a while, but it's not blowing my skirt up as you put it. I don't really care about any of these characters; I'm not sure I'm supposed to.

TerriOsburn said...

I just met the hero's idiot step brother. The heroine now seems very likable next to that asshole. Glad I stuck with it.

Maureen said...

The Castle books are entertaining. I like the whole reading a book that is based on a cop/author relationship that isn't real, written by a author who isn't real, following a cop around who isn't real...

Just blows my reality meter all over the place.

And since I think I'm the only pirate who stuck with this season's Castle...I'm just doubly enjoying the whole back and forth...

I have read all of the books based on the series Quantum Leap, Babylon 5, CSI (all of them save for Miami, I really can't stand that one), the books Bones is based on... A big chunk of the Buffy books... ;-)

Maureen said...

I'll look for My One and Only. I enjoyed Just One of the Guys...

Maureen said...

I gotta get up earlier...

P. Kirby said...

I have read all of the books based on the series Quantum Leap, Babylon 5, CSI (all of them save for Miami, I really can't stand that one), the books Bones is based on... A big chunk of the Buffy books... ;-)

Interesting. I don't usually read books based on television series (or movies), because, honestly, they read like dull fan fiction. In fact, sometimes fan fiction is better. IMO, of course. OTOH, I really liked Babylon 5; maybe I should look up some of the books.

I'm also reading J.K. Rowling's newest and I've been struggling.

Bummer. I was sorta looking forward to eventually reading that.

TerriOsburn said...

Count me in as wanting to read the Rowling book too. And though I know nothing about those sci-fi shows, my first thought at the mention of Babylon 5 was that Sheldon hates that show. LOL!

Maureen said...

Pop culture strikes again!

Marnee Bailey said...

This book looks great! I love the idea of a nunnery raised assassin. LOL!! And historical stuff always makes me smile.

I'll have to check it out.

I read the latest Tiffany Reisz a couple weeks ago. THE ANGEL.

Le' Sigh....

Maureen said...

Pat, some of the books are good, some are bad... When I was reading them, there was little fanfic readily available. I bought all the books at my local bookstores. Especially with Quantum Leap, the internet was barely a blip on the screen then.

I used to buy printed fan fic of Ladyhawke and Sherlock Holmes when I'd go to scifi conventions... Still have those somewhere...

Janga said...

I never thought I'd be writing these words, but I gave up on the Rowling. Reading it felt like punishment.

I'm reading three books, two of them outside my usual genres. I just started Renegade, Nancy Northcutt's fantasy. I know Nancy from the Romance Bandits, and the action takes place in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp--two reasons to read it. I've only read a couple of chapters so far, but I'm hooked. I'm also reading a non-fiction work a few chapters at a time that is utterly fascinating: Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love. Both are ARCs. I'm rereading Poor Splendid Wings by Patricia Veryan. Carrie Lofty's His Very Own Girl left me hungry for more WW II romances, and Manda reminded me of this one, which I haven't read in nearly twenty years. It's 500+ pages. No one is publishing romances like that these days.

MsHellion said...

Terri, maybe Higgins' CPs told her to add that guy just to make the heroine more likable. *LOL*

Mo, see, I could follow that train of thought and I do think that's awesome, but the books would have to still be compelling enough for me to want to read them and buy them.

P.Kirby, I've had that feeling before with books connected with a TV series or movie tie-in. They're just not as good. (With the exception of the book tie-in for Braveheart. The screenwriter also wrote the book, and he had a nice poetical voice that went well with the pageantry of his story he was telling.

Marn, you going to do a book review of THE ANGEL? *hopeful hint, hint*

Janga, I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling that way so far. *LOL* I felt like a traitor for even thinking that. Despite all the warnings she gave about the book. It's just a harsh book--but not gritty in the same way literary fiction is, but not entertainingly compelling in the way commercial fiction is. *sighs* And I agree: there is too few books in the WWII era. I would love to read more books from that time period. Morning Glory (Spencer) and Sentimental Journey (Barnett) are the two WWII standouts for me.

Marnee Bailey said...

Sure! I'll do the book review of THE ANGEL. You mean I get to fangirl gush all up in here? Oh, twist my arm.

*ouch*

It's a figure of speech people!!!

Premium SEO - Colorado Springs said...

I love it when the fantasy/magical element is an added layer onto actual history. It's exactly my kind of book.