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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? 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?…

Grave Mercy

by Robin LaFevers

Overall Book Review:

I must confess that I am not a huge fan of young adult fiction so I kept passing over this book.  I just wasn’t in the mood for another fad-driven publication with flat characters and flimsy motivations.  I am so glad I finally picked up this book!  Take a good look because Grave Mercy demonstrates what good young adult fiction can be like.

Robin LaFevers gives us a protagonist who develops over the course of the book, a male character truly worthy of admiration, and a substantial plot line.  The setting is historical in feel (whether some of it is inspired by actual people and events is neither specified, nor important) with plenty of political intrigue, spying, and plotting.  There is a fantasy element in the form of the descendents of the God of Death.  The icing on the cake is a romantic sub-story.  What isn’t to like in that recipe?  In addition, the protagonist, Ismae, grew from a silly girl into a mature young women over the course of events.

Readers who liked Graceling by Kristin Cashore or The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley will likely also enjoy Grave Mercy.  Grave Mercy is the first book in the My Fair Assassin Trilogy, with the next book coming in the spring of 2013.  This time I will not hesitate and pick up a copy right away.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language: 7 religious exclamations; 7 mild obscenities; 4 derogatory names; 2 scatalogical words.

Violence/Gore:  Report of abusive father/husband; character is severely beaten (no details); a few discussions, some extended occur about murder/death and how to inflict it (not-graphic); 3 page fight with swords, knives, etc. resulting in animal and human death (non-graphic descriptions); a frightening dream; character is cut with a knife; brief descriptions of poisons and how they inflict death; character killed by crossbow; a character falls to death; a character is poisoned; a character is strangled; 1 page encounter with knives and crossbow resulting in 2 deaths; a battle begins (no details); ~2 page scene in which character walks through the dead and dying on a battlefield (general descriptions).

Sex/Nudity:  Reference to a character who has “lain with God of Death”; newlywed husband asks wife to remove her clothes; several references to “womanly arts” or “feminine arts”: a few reference to and instances of unwanted groping (no details); reference to mistresses; character poses as a man’s mistress; character makes an assumption (incorrectly) about blood on sheets; 1 frank reference to nipples; clothing partially removed  (woman’s back) so a wound can be tended; characters passionately kiss/touch face/French kiss on a few separate occasions; clothes partially removed to search for something (clinical description); female character lies in bed next to an ill man; ~1 page scene where female removes all clothing and lies on top of man for a non-sexual reason although sexual tension and tones are present.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death, Treason, Assasination, Spouse and Child Abuse, War, Religion and Politics.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

General references to wine and drinking; the use of poisons to kill.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!