By: Robin LaFevers
Published: April 3, 2012 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Personal Kindle Library
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?MY REVIEW:
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?
I'm probably one of the few remaining bloggers who has yet to finish this series. I'm not entirely sure why it took me so long to check it out because I've heard a lot of praise about it. Add to that the trusted opinion of my SNL, who finished this series recently, and after her 4.5/5 star rating of each book in the series, I finally decided to purchase it for myself.
This story is rich in detail and given that it takes place somewhere around the Middle Ages, beginning of the Renaissance period, there is much to describe. From the clothing to the weapons to the castle, LaFevers does a perfect job of painting the picture for the reader of this elaborate story.
The first 10% of the story was slow and blah for me. I understand it was necessary back-story information for the reader to learn how Ismae came to be in the convent. I was just more interested in what she did AFTER she became an assassin than her life prior to learning the art of killing. Call me morbid.
The story really picks up with intensity and intrigue once Duval comes on the scene. From that point on I was hooked and blew through to the end.
The story goes that Ismae was fathered by Death himself and bears a scar on her back from her mother trying to expell her from her womb with a potion. At 17 years old her "father" sells her for 3 coins to a brute, who upon seeing her scar wants to have her put to death. She narrowly escapes with the help of an herbwitch and finds herself at a convent run by sisters who all have sworn service to the god of Death, St. Mortain and service to their realm of Brittany and its duchess.
It's here at this convent that Ismae learns how to be an assassin. She learns the art of weaponry, potion making and seduction. She will face three trials, three kills, before she can say her final vows. Upon her second trial she meets Duval, someone who the sisters are suspicious of. The sisters send her as a spy of sorts back to court with Duval, acting as his mistress. It's here at court where she learns about the depth of betrayal that is going on as Brittany is facing war with France.
There was a couple irritations that I had. Nothing major, but were things I noted while reading. It seemed to take Ismae a really long time - longer than it took me, to piece together who the ultimate betrayer was. It was bothersome that she never questioned the motives of this person until relatively late in the story. It also bugged me that Ismae wrote letters to a sister at the convent, Annith, three times at least, asking questions each time, and only hearing back from her once. I'm curious to see if the next book addresses what is going on with Annith and why she seems MIA.
Overall, this was a really great story and I look forward to reading more! Good thing I already have book two, Dark Triumph, in my possession!
"However will you play the game of seduction if you flinch so?" His voice is soft velvet along my skin. "You will be hard-pressed to gain my secrets if you cannot bear my touch."
This is what I want to be. An instrument of mercy, not vengeance.
Final Rating - 4 stars