Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
This book is awesome! Sorry to give you the bottom line first, but, well, there it is.
The set-up: The year is…a long time ago. 1845 (just cheated on Amazon.com). The place, Brittany, which is still as yet independent of France. Ismae, a daughter of the god Mortain (also called St. Mortain, the god of Death) has been abused by her father her whole life, until a mysterious convent takes her in. She trains to be an assassin, skilled in the arts of death.
Main character’s goals: Ismae’s assassin skills are required at court, where she must discover who is betraying the Duchess. And, of course, mete out a swift vengeance. Ismae needs to work with hottie Gavriel Duval, but her convent suspects him of treachery. Of course, because he is a hottie, Ismae begins to fall for him, and her secondary goals change throughout the course of the story.
My reaction: LaFevers has done so much that I want to do with my own manuscript! And she makes it look easy! So I’m jealous and impressed at the same time. Plus just plain entertained. The love-hate relationship between Ismae and Gavriel is wonderful, as is her character arc over the course of the story, and the doubts she begins to have about…ahem…certain things (no spoilers!).
Of interest to writers: Again, that character arc. Also, that relationship between Ismae and Gavriel – when is it NOT a good idea to pit the goals of the heroine directly against the goals of the romantic interest? Answer: never. Their conflict is so rich, and their attraction so great, it’s just yummy.
Bottom line: I already said it above. It’s awesome. Good news: it’s the first in a trilogy. It appears the second book features a heroine who is not Ismae, but she sounds just as fascinating and possibly even more complex.
You can click here to read the first chapter on Amazon.