Ismae hasn't had the greatest childhood. Abuse has been a constant in her life. As a baby, she was poisoned to expel her from her mother’s body, she received regular beatings from her father and men of her village, then she was forced into marriage with a much older, cruel pig farmer. When she learns that she has been blessed by St. Mortain, the God of Death, she is given a choice: join a convent of assassins and become a handmaiden to Death, or go back to her abusive husband and live out her life powerless and miserable. The choice is simple.
Three years later, Ismae has been trained in the art of poisons, weaponry, espionage, court manners, and seduction. When the God of Death marque’s someone, as a handmaiden to Death, she will receive instruction from the Abbess and assassinate that person without question. At the arrival of a suspicious envoy from the Duchess, Ismae is sent on a mission into the court of Brittany. What begins as an investigation into the envoy's true loyalty quickly becomes far more complicated. Romance, court intrigue, assassination attempts, and back stabbing from every side put every character’s loyalties into question
As Ismae unravels the mysteries of court life, she begins to suspect that not all is as she first thought. Are sworn allies to the convent truly so loyal? And what of the convent; do they truly answer to St. Mortain or do they have some other agenda? Who can she trust if not those who rose her up in her time of need?
Set in medieval England, this book uses real characters from that time period to flesh out the story. What makes this book really enjoyable is the whole concept of Handmaiden’s of Death! I absolutely love the idea of having an entire church of powerful women devoted to dealing out justice through their Patron Saint – Death. Ismae is charming despite having had such a terrible life, the convent is fascinating and kept me wondering at its validity throughout, and the romance between Ismae and Duval is well paced and exciting. I really enjoyed Grave Mercy and am excited to read the next books in the series.
If you enjoyed Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, and Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas Grave Mercy will probably be right up your alley.