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

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

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.


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.


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


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

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


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


Teen, 13 years old Written byMaster_Dia November 8, 2019

This is officially my new favorite book.

I literally don't know how to write this since I'm dreaming of Ismae and Duval right now. I mean, sure,the book has content that many parents are not... 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure and history

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate