Grave Mercy by RL LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
Sub-genre: Swords and sorcery
So basically I heard "lady assassin" and that was the end of it. I loves me some stories about lady assassins. Assassins in general are pretty cool, but I'm especially fond of them in lady form, since a) they don't show up as often and b) I happen to be a lady.
I really, thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was a "it's two hours past my bedtime but just have to get through one more chapter" kind of book. Ismae is a great character, smart and capable, damaged but strong in spite of (or because of) that. Once she gets to the high court she's on her own for the first time in her life, and watching her struggle to realize the leaders she's respected and the lessons she's been given aren't infallible is fascinating.
The book is being marketed as YA, although there really isn't anything YA about it. Ismae is young, but considered a full adult by the culture and time period she lives in, and nothing about the tone would indicate it's primarily aimed at younger readers. Older teens may enjoy it, but I think some of the subtleties would be lost on younger teens. These subtleties are a big part of what made the book appeal to me so much, so it's not a criticism by any means.
So who is the ideal reader for Grave Mercy, if not the teen demographic? If you like strong romantic themes in your fantasy novels, if you like characters prone to thinking before they act, if you like political intrigue and assassins, this is a book you'll want to pick up. It is, of course, a no-brainer as to whether or not I'll be picking up the second in the series. There are more lady assassins to be had! I am so in!