Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book 1

Book review by
Karen Wirsing, Common Sense Media
Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Violent tale of assassin nun seeking revenge on men.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teaches kids about the middle ages and culture during that time. Includes true historical events.

Positive Messages

Messages about forgiveness and the strength of female bonds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although Grave Mercy shows men as power-craving brutes and women as mere objects to be abused (which isn't inconsistent with cultural beliefs during the Middle Ages), the main male character is an honorable, chivalrous man, and Ismae demonstrates an ability to rise above the unfortunate circumstances she was born into, proving her strength and independence.

Violence

The main character, Ismae, is physically abused by her father and husband. She becomes an assassin who kills men for revenge. There's an attempted rape, which is Grave Mercy's most disturbing scene. Many battle scenes take place involving swords and daggers. A horse is stabbed and killed.

Sex

Some sexual innuendos and references to mistresses. Men are displayed as womanizers who are always lusting after a quick encounter.  

Language

The word "bastard" is used, but only in the literal sense of a child born out of wedlock. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking of wine and beer. Ismae's husband is an alcoholic who's extremely violent when drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Grave Mercy has many violent scenes that may be too mature for tweens. The opening pages describe the main character, Ismae, almost being raped by her drunken husband. She's also brutally beaten by her father and goes on to become a major assassin. Her victims are dishonorable men for whom she feels no remorse. There are also battle scenes with swords and daggers, and a character's horse is stabbed and killed.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11, 13, and 18+ year old Written byAndye March 19, 2014

Fantastic

I'm not sure the reviewer has the "sexual content" right....there was quite a bit more than she described. (I'll add it to the end of my rev... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHeq073198 May 23, 2012

MUST READ!!!

Y'ALL HAVE TO READ THIS IF YOU ARE READING THIS BOOK. SEXUAL CONTENT IS EXTREMELY PROMINENT. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this book, and it is one of the mo... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byAndreea Diaconescu May 4, 2016
Grave mercy is a great book. The novel is filled with many historical details, mostly about medieval France, Brittany. The story is extremely entertaining and n... Continue reading

What's the story?

Ismae is a 17-year-old girl who survives her mother's attempt to kill her at birth. Since that day, she's known in her tiny village in Brittany as the daughter of death, a survivor. Ismae spends her life trying to escape the blows of her brutal father and the man he arranged for her to marry. Then, on her wedding night, after suffering another torturous beating, a stranger comes to take Ismae to the convent of St. Mortain, the saint of death. There a group of nuns teaches Ismae the arts of war, intrigue, and persuasion -- all of which she must put to use as an assassin for her country, even if it means killing the man she's falling in love with.

Is it any good?

GRAVE MERCY is a wonderfully written novel that pulls readers into medieval France, specifically Brittany, with descriptive scenes of palaces, towns, and village people. Although the plotline (revenge-seeking woman becomes man killer) will attract some feminists, others may find it a bit overdone.

But the story is entertaining and filled with accurate historical details. The characters are likable and complex, and fans will be glad to know the book ends with the possibility of introducing a love story in the second installment. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the history of the Middle Ages. What were some cultural differences between that time and ours? Do you think Grave Mercy accurately depicts the era?

  • Why are the men in the book portrayed as such bullies?

  • How does Grave Mercy compare with other medieval fantasies?

Book details

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