Summary (from Goodreads):
When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge - but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.
But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for...
This book was rather intense. It reminded me a lot of Bitterblue by Cashore. Except poor Sybella suffered a lot more bodily harm than Bitterblue did. Sybella lives in a world where women are beaten and raped for the slightest wrong, sometimes even for no wrong at all. And when she finally feels as though she’s found some kind of refuge (with the assassin nuns from book 1), she is sent back into her nightmare of a household.
Granted, she agreed to go back –for the chance to assassinate her father. She goes on a revenge mission. However, she’s not supposed to kill anyone until they have the mark of death on them. And her terrible father never has the mark. In the process of helping with a side mission, Sybella is forced along on a different journey that will reunite her with Ismae and remind her that she deserves more in life than what she been stuck with.
The book reads as part historical fiction/ part fantasy. The fantasy parts are in relation to the supernatural aspects to certain gods and saints. But the rest reads as rather historical. There’s a lot of war and war strategy. And while there is eventually romance for Sybella, hope and love are not things that come into the story for a long time. I definitely think Grave Mercy was more of a romance.
But, like the first book in the series, this one has a lot of murder, death, politics, and brutality. I was both glued to the edge of my seat, unable to stop reading the action and afraid to keep reading, terrified of what new terrors would befall Sybella. I loved her love interest, Beast. Watching Sybella learn to love and be loved was part of what made this book so special. I can’t imagine going though all of the stuff this main character has. And then being able to trust any man at all seems rather impossible.
I loved all the scenes where the main character was in disguise. She was always helping out (finding traitors, killing rapists, avenging farmers, etc.) I find it so cool that someone with so much dark history can learn to fuel her emotions into the offensive so well. This main character kicks serious butt and I’m kind of a sucker for a revenge story. This was the ultimate revenge story. No one deserves revenge more than Sybella’s father.
Robin LaFevers does an excellent job painting the scene. I kept forgetting this was a fantasy because everything seemed so real. The world building was amazing. I have so many questions about the abbess and everyone that serves Death. And I can’t wait to read the next book to get some much needed answers.
I’m not sure how loyal these female assassins will continue to be to their church in the next book. And I can’t wait to read about any small, yet justified rebellions that might arise. There isn’t anything negative to say about this book. It gets a 10/10.