Grave Mercy – Dark YA Fantasy

Posted by on June 4, 2017 in What Pooks is Reading | 12 comments

Originally published on Feb 4, 2016, republished as part of the great reclamation and rebuild post tragic incident of perfidious hackage.

To keep my muse happy, I must feed her delicious books that incite the imagination to riotous pleasure. You know the drill. So let me tell you what is pleasing her right now.
It began when I messaged @melirobles on twitter and asked her if she could recommend any books to people who liked This Crumbling Pageant. Why did I ask Melissa in particular? Because I ‘met’ her when she read and reviewed my book, so I knew she could answer. She reads and reviews so many books, if anybody would have a great rec, she would!
Grave Mercy Dark YA Fantasy “Grave Mercy!” she said.

I slapped my forehead. Because seriously? I read Grave Mercy three years ago and loved it. And somehow… never read the other two books in the series. I was very pleased to be reminded. I downloaded the audiobook from the library and listened to it and enjoyed it all over again. Listening to audiobooks on my iPhone makes loading the dishwasher almost tolerable.
First, from the official blurb:

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.

Dark, much? Oh yes, this is deliciously dark fantasy. The world-building is an exquisite blend of richly-textured historical fiction and eerily-effective fantasy. The characterization is strong, with Ismae being a despised outcast because she is believed to be the daughter of Death. But she’s also a strong and fiercely loyal young woman learning the ways of the heart at the same time she’s learning the ways of the assassin. . It’s a fascinating break from reality and just what I needed, and what I’m happy to recommend to others who love the occasional dark YA fantasy.
When I was teaching I’d sometimes have students say they wanted to write YA (Young Adult), but they didn’t have any idea what today’s YA fiction is. The first and best advice for YA writers is, “Read today’s YA.” You can’t write for today’s readers unless you know what they are reading, and can provide more.
This is a case in point. “Surely you can’t get away with that in Young Adult!” says someone in shocked tones.
Oh, yes you can. And when Robin LaFevers does it, she does it brilliantly.
There are two more young women in this book whose stories finish out the series. I’m really looking forward to returning to this world. [updated: My reviews of the rest of the trilogy, Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart, will come soon.]
Have you read them? What did you think? What other books have you read that have this kind of dark historical fantasy vibe?

Share the wealth!







  1. oooooo Grave Mercy as an ebook is in my public library. It will be the very first thing I download to the free Amazon Fire the library gave me. Actually, Cloud Library gave it to me. Cloud Library was so eager to have our public library convert their ebook collection from overdrive to Open Library that they bought up a lot of the cheapest Firs and give a bunch to our library to give to patrons who didn’t have a compatible Kindle.
    Hmmm… I should check if we have the rest fo the trilogy too.

    • I’m so glad you got a Kindle Fire! You’re going to love getting books from the library for free–that turn themselves in! That’s a great program they started.

      • The books turn themselves?

        I was all set to download it yesterday but realized the Fire only had a 1% charge, so I had to charge it.

        Just wondering, when I type in this comment box, I can barely see what I am typing. IS there anyway to make the type darker?

        • They turn themselves in! You don’t do anything. They just disappear from your Kindle when the loan ends.

          I have no idea what would cause the text to be pale. Let me look into that.

          • So the Kindle Fire is a magical device! Who knew!!

            Thanks for looking into this pale gray color.

          • Mos def magic! But then I think my computer, the internet, and most of the joys of 21st Century life are magic.

  2. love the cover and the blurb sounds great

    • It was good!

  3. Finally got the Cloud Library app installed on the Fire. What a hassle. Have the first 2 books downloaded. The third, while in my library is not available as an ebook. Dang it. I requested the paper version and amfirst in line. Still can’t read what I am writing

    • I’ve got the second ready to listen to in audiobook. [Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that after posting this, for some reason I didn’t move forward in the series. I think maybe the second had a long waiting list at the time and clearly I didn’t get on it. But I have it now!

      • I stayed up until after 3AM thios morning readoing A Grave Mercy. 3AM I could not put it down I have vol 2 to start today and vol 3, not in ebook at my mibraruy on hold. They will send it to my branch.

        Bit no more 3AM. I felllike I am in bits and pueces this morning, what there is left of it

        I still can’t see what I am typin. Gray on Gray doesn’t work for me

        • I’m so happy you liked it! You’ll finish the second before I do, because it takes me a few days to listen to an audiobook usually.

          Still waiting for a reply on the grey text thing!


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