By Robin LaFevers
Genre: Fantasy, Historical
Reading Level: 6th grade
Interest Level: 9th-12th grade
Awards: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature (2015), Georgia Peach Book Award Nominee for Honor book (2013), RITA Award by Romance Writers of America Nominee for Young Adult Romance (2013), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2013), and Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (2015).
Teaser: Ismae is trained to do what most other girls cannot do. Whether she is willing is a completely different question.
Summary: Ismae is only seventeen, but she has already run away from an abusive arranged marriage and the convent of St. Mortain takes her in. There Ismae finds out that the convent is more than what it seems. The sisters serve the old gods and it is revealed to Ismae that Death himself has gifted her with abilities that make her a dangerous assassin. She stays at the convent and trains. Her first assignment is to weed out a traitor in the duchesses court. The suspect is Gavriel Duval and Ismae finds herself falling fast for someone she was ordered to kill.
Information about the Author: On LaFevers website, her bio says, “Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry. It is not surprising she grew up to be a hopeless romantic. Though she has never trained as an assassin or joined a convent, she did attend Catholic school for three years, which instilled in her a deep fascination with sacred rituals and the concept of the Divine. She has been on a search for answers to life’s mysteries ever since. While many of those answers still elude her, she was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in the foothills of southern California. In addition to writing about teen assassin nuns in medieval Brittany, she writes books for middle grade readers, including the Theodosia books and the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series.”
Critical Evaluation: The only issue I had with the story was that I felt that it could have been longer. The story was often summarized in key parts that would have been interesting chapters to read. For example, in the book Ismae is just all of the sudden a badass assassin. It skips over her training. Some people might think that that part is irrelevant, but training her as an assassin definitely did change who she was as a person. The reader does not get to see her personal growth or her change from the woman who was beat up and abused by her gross husband to the killer assassin who is trained in arts other than fighting as well.
Curriculum Ties: N/A
Booktalk Ideas: This book is set in medieval France. In what ways would it be different if it was set in modern times?
Challenge Issues: Violence, Sexuality, Death, Murder
Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association
Why Did I Pick This: I picked this book because of it’s historical setting. Teens can enjoy fiction while also gaining insight on what medieval times were like in France. Teens will also like reading about the strong female protagonist.
LaFevers, R. (2013). Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I. Boston: HMH Books for Young Readers.