by Robin LaFevers
Plot Summary: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?
Review:This story started off really strongly - there's so much going on with Ismae - from her forced marriage to the marks she bears on her back and her estranged relationship with her father - her character is set up so strongly in the first chapters. I was fascinated by the strength Ismae needed to build to become an assassin, and although she has trained for it, her naivete with men gives her character more room to grow throughout the story. And with her relationship with Gavriel Duval, the romance is easily the best thing about this novel! It's given room to develop and mature - they distrust each other at first, and both have to work hard to overcome that because both of them have been hurt and don't trust easily. I loved that they are thrown together so much (because Ismae is pretending to be his mistress) and while that intimate pretend relationship is the furthest from their minds initially, it gradually becomes a temptation to them. The tension between them is fantastic!
There were a couple of things I wasn't as happy with in this story - first that the pace slows down a bit in the middle - there's times when I wish there were less introductory information with the Duchess's plans, and more active uncovering of who is trying to betray her. And the second thing more confused me af first than anything - the fantasy element was a bit of a surprise because I was more expecting this to be a historical YA thriller and I thought St. Mortain more of an ideal all the nuns worshipped than an actual deity who makes an appearance in this story. And one more thing I didn't quite believe was the deus ex machina solution for the predicament Gavriel found himself in towards the end of the novel. It was kinda um... weird.
The book really picked up towards the end though, and the solution to the mystery was definitely not expected! There's also plenty of twists and turns in the royal court drama, and Ismae is a wonderful character to get to know. Ismae and Gavriel make a great unstoppable pair! This was a fantastic read!