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review 2016-11-07 13:00
Bullet-Listed Thoughts: Grave Mercy
Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy

by Robin LaFevers
Book 1 of His Fair Assassin
Audio book narrated by Erin Moon



**See Also:  Collective Updates for Grave Mercy

I liked this book more than I expected to like it, and while there is a lot of monotony to be had between certain events, I surprisingly found those quite intriguing and nice anyway.  Being that this book focuses a lot on history and politics of Brittany during the pre-Renaissance era, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it if only because I’m usually bored by books that are heavy with politics.

So, kudos to Ms. Robin LaFevers.  I really loved this book in spite of the political conspiracies and the drawn out history lessons--in fact, these were the things, aside from the characters, that I found most fascinating.

But anyway, as I had let this book sit on my mind for a long time (a very long time), and then subsequently went back and "skim-read" it (via audio book) to refresh my memory before diving into reading what I thought were the last two books in this series (there have since been two more books added to the series), I really don’t have much in the form of a review.  So I decided to just bullet-list my thoughts and then call it a day.

Actually, a lot of these notes and thoughts had been written back in 2014 when I first finished reading this book.  Following, I decided to wait until the last book of the then-trilogy was published before reading the rest.  Time ended up eluding me and I never got around to finishing the last two books until this time in 2016.

Anyway, moving along now...

The Story:
Escaping the brutality of a forced marriage, Ismae finds sanctuary with the convent of St. Mortain who serves the God of Death.  She learns that she is blessed by the God of Death and that all the sisters of this convent serve Mortain as his handmaidens, meant to mete out his wishes as trained agents in the art of Death.


Ismae receives her most important assignment in the high court of Brittany where she comes across deeper intrigues of conspiracies and deadly games of treason.  Her initial assignment is to uncover a possible treasonous plot taking place at court.   Her overall mission is to serve and protect the Duchess.

Oh yea, and she meets a man named Gavriel Duval who, knowing what she has been trained for, is Ismae’s means of remaining at the court to complete her assigned mission.  There’s also romance, but it’s quite subtle and not at all in the way of the actual conflict taking place in the story.

Meanwhile, Ismae slowly learns that maybe there is more to being a handmaiden of St. Mortain than simply killing in his name, and that her teachers at the convent may not always know what the God of Death truly has plans for.

What I liked:

  • Once again, I give kudos to the fact that the book’s political-historical intrigues managed to hook me rather than put me to sleep.   It’s not the fault of fictional politics, it’s really just me.  While I like a bit of history here and there, I’ve never fully been able to care for politics, so books with court conspiracies and political intrigue tend to become boring to me. (I’ve spent my childhood watching old Chinese historical television series that involve court politics; after a while, every treasonous plot just starts to sound the same.)


  • This book was a page turner--I hardly noticed this book was 500+ pages and actually yearned for more when it came to an end.  The "re-read" of the audio book had me hooked as well--I found myself unwilling to stop the player long enough to read other books, or even to go to sleep.


  • The subtle romance between Ismae and Duval was sweet and nicely developed.  I like that they started off as friendly rivals in the game of their court-related missions, and I like that they were a witty set of Bickering Romance love birds slowly building their chemistry from friendship to lovers as they continuously got on each other’s nerves.  And I like that once they got over their own stubborn prides and agreed to work together, they made a pretty powerful team.


  • Ismae is strong, intelligent, and knows her priorities.  When she realizes that she is in way over her head, she takes her self-proclaimed impatient ass back a step so that she can listen and learn and figure out what she needs to understand before she acts.  To be honest, even though it is described that Ismae is often too eager to mete out death and punishment and too impatient to wait for something to happen, I actually found her to be quite sensible in her actions.  And on top of that, romance does not tie her down and she knows what needs to be done first and foremost to best serve the Duchess and her God of Death.


  • The writing is beautiful.  Descriptions are vivid.  The historical atmosphere is palpable.


What I didn’t like:

  • There isn’t as much action as I would have liked.  Because the book deals more in politics and history and world-building, the amount of fighting and action and even the number of people Ismae has killed in this book seem quite sparse for a book about NUN ASSASSINS.


  • This wasn’t the gritty, gory, badass NUN ASSASSIN book I had been expecting.  It’s much better than the other nun assassin book I had read previously, but it’s a lot calmer than I had expected.  In fact, if the whole NUN ASSASSIN thing hadn’t been my first “OMG!  I want this book so badly!” tagline, I might have just read it as a historical with political intrigue and there'd be no capitalization of NUN ASSASSINS to be had.


  • As much as I liked the sweet and quiet, friendly bickering chemistry between Ismae and Duval, in an overall romance rating, the love story was actually kind of lukewarm.  In fact, the two seem to mesh well better as friendly partners in crime with a sizzling undertone of attraction and unacknowledged chemistry.

Final Thoughts:
I had decided that was probably time for me to fit in Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart somewhere (this will happen soon)--it has been a very long time since I finished Grave Mercy (see above introductory confession).  I need to be able to, like, read twenty books simultaneously and take about two months worth of vacation to finish my reading list.  Because while I found Grave Mercy to be immensely enjoyable, despite being a genre I don’t normally touch at all, I’ve noted that many reviewers have stated that the next two books are supposedly even more awesome.  And so I really should have made time to finish reading the next two books to join and bask in the glory of having read the His Fair Assassin series.


This is a book I would definitely reread over again, to be totally honest.  And it got me curious enough about the history of Brittany as well as the Duchess Anne to want to do some genuine research.  Of course, so far, I’ve only done a Wiki search...



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/bullet-listed-thoughts-grave-mercy.html
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review 2015-05-29 04:06
Rock Bottom-Just not good
Rock Bottom - Erin Brockovich

I went into this book not expecting much and got what I expected. I found this to be a hot mess.  You can't just slap the word "environmentalism" on a book and assume that wipes out all its flaws.  It just isn't a good book. It didn't bore me but it wasn't good and I just about rolled my eyes out of my head at the absurdity of it.

The premise is that A.J. Palladino left her home in West Virginia, the coal-mining community of Scotia, years ago when she was 17 under a cloud of disgrace.  She has since then become an environmental activist with a disabled son. She had some successes but is now out of work and a lawyer in Scotia offers her a job to help with his case against the big coal mining company in the area which is removing the tops of mountains to get at coal more cheaply.  It just so happens, of course, that the son of the owner of this mining company is also the father of her son. She comes back to town, has run-ins with everyone including her parents and finds the lawyer who hired her has been murdered.  Fortunately, the lawyer's daughter, who is also a lawyer, is in town and decides to stay and finish the case her father started.

The book is full of stereotypical characters and shallow plot lines.  A.J. brings her son, who is twelve or so, to her hometown and immediately introduces him to his father who is married to someone else.  No build up, just bam, instant love between father and son.  The people that run the coal mine are evil to the core with no redeeming qualities and the good guys are shining lights of humanity.  The handicapped son is smarter and more heroic than all the adults put together.   The coal miners come across as terrible people just for needing to put food on the table for their children.  There's no depth or subtlety.  There are black and white cardboard figures and through all of it, you are being pounded on the head with the hammer of "environmentalism." I don't read mysteries to have my head bashed in.  

I read this because our library discussion group is going to discuss this next month.  I'm very interested to hear what the other readers thought of it.   

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review 2015-03-29 04:10
Death by Didgeridoo-A pleasant short mystery
Death by Didgeridoo (A Jamie Quinn Mystery) - Barbara Venkataraman

I was given this audiobook for review by the author and I quite liked the story.  I did not like the narrator and would probably not listen to anything read by this particular person again but I did like the story. 

The plot revolves around the death of a former rock star who is found murdered in his music store.  Standing over him, holding the murder weapon which happens to be a didgeridoo, is a young student of his who happens to be autistic.  The heroine of the story, Jamie Quinn, is the cousin of the student and a lawyer.  She's not been practicing for a while due to the death of her mother but she's willing to do anything she can to protect her cousin.  This involves going into the victim's past and dealing with ex-band members, fans, and associates.  She's not a criminal lawyer so she also has to get plenty of advice from her friend who is. Cozy mysteries tend to have a quirky character and in this case it was Duke, a private investigator that comes off just a little too weird for me.  It could have been the weird voice the narrator was using for Duke but I could have done without him.  The mystery isn't terribly difficult but this is the debut of a series and not very long so that's not surprising.  It's a pleasant read and I would enjoy learning more about Jamie in future books. 

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review 2015-03-23 21:54
Circle of Influence-If you like your mysteries just a little grittier
Circle of Influence - Annette Dashofy

Henery Press is certainly on a roll with interesting, smart, readable mysteries.  Circle of Influence continues that roll.  It's not a cozy, it's a straight mystery.  It goes somewhere I didn't really need it to go.  But that only slightly lessened my enjoyment.  Overall, this is a very good read with a good plot and likeable characters.

The main characters are Zoe, an EMT and Pete, the police chief. After a very contentious city counsel meeting which ended with a shouting match between Jerry McBirney, Chairman of the town supervisors, and pretty much everyone else. Ted Bassi is particularly upset because McBirney has Ted's mother fired as police secretary.  Later in the evening when Ted is found dead in McBirney's car, everyone from Ted's wife Rose to Zoe herself are considered suspects.

The small town setting of this book ensures that there are a lot of overlapping relationships and deep dark secrets.  Zoe does keep information from the Pete that she should have turned over immediately and I don't care for that but she doesn't do it out of contempt for the police.  She has all the respect in the world for Pete and a growing romantic interest but she feels the need to protect another character.  The atmosphere is winter in Pennsylvania and Dashofy does a great job writing atmosphere that you can feel. Another plus for me is that there is no sign of a triangle!  If you don't mind your mysteries a little grittier than cozy, this is a good one.

Provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2015-03-14 18:30
Killer Image-Good cast of characters
Killer Image - Wendy Tyson

Killer Image is about Allison Campbell, an image consultant.  I find that to be a fascinating profession.  I think I could use one. 

This is not a cozy mystery.  It's grittier than that. Allison Campbell gets involved with a murder investigation when her former mother-in-law's divorce attorney is killed.  That seems a long way around to get involved but the divorce attorney has also represented a number of Allison's clients and she had worked with his ex-wife.  There are a lot of overlapping relationships.  I'm finding it hard to describe the plot for some reason but it wasn't because I didn't enjoy the book.  I really did.  I will put out the warning that there is quite a lot of discussion of Wicca.  I know there are people that will want to know that before reading.

I liked the secondary characters as much as I liked Allison.  Her employee, Vaughn, and his brother were two of my favorite.  All of what will probably make up the regular cast of characters in this series were likeable.  The bad guys were definitely dislikeable.  There was a too much amateur investigating without bringing the police in on their suspicions which is why it is 4 stars instead of 5.  It had good atmosphere and I'll be anxious to see where these characters go next.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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