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Grave Mercy: Guest Reviews + Author Interview + Giveaway

Grave MercyGrave Mercy
By Robin LaFevers
April 3, 2012
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

Read Our 5 Star Review of Grave Mercy

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?

See what various bloggers have to say about Grave Mercy!

“This is not a read for the faint of heart. Grave Mercy offers non-stop action with a kick-butt heroine out to serve justice to those who deserve it. I believe fans of The Hunger Games will really enjoy this series…”
Booking It With Hayley  | 
Read more of Hayley’s Review

“Ismae’s story is as engrossing and action-packed as it is intelligent and emotionally driven…”
Inklings Read  | 
Read more of Sarah’s Review

“I immediately liked Ismae. She’s a great example of a non-victim character. Even though she’s really dangerous, and you definitely wouldn’t want to be around if you bore “the mark”…”
Emily’s Reading Room |
Read more of Emily’s Review

“Richly written, full of action, intrigue, political power struggles and betrayals, Grave Mercy makes you wonder why LaFevers hasn’t strayed from juvenile fiction sooner…”
Unwasted Words |
Read more of Anne-Marie’s Review

“To say this book was addicting is an understatement – the fast paced plot added to the fabulous writing kept me hooked…”
Beneath the Moon & Stars |
Read more of Marissa’s Review

Making the Grade is pleased to welcome Robin LaFevers, author of Grave Mercy, for an exclusive interview here on the blog. In addition, Robin is allowing us to host a giveaway for a SIGNED copy of Grave Mercy as well as various book swag! You can enter to win right after the interview!

THE INTERVIEW

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’ve led a happy, stable, rather mundane life as an adult, but my early years were tumultuous and full of upheaval, which is no doubt why I write for those ages–that is where my most fertile material comes from. My parents divorced when I was young and I had a series of stepfathers and quite a lot of stepbrothers. When I was twelve, my mom packed me and my two brothers and all our dogs up in the station wagon and we ran away in the middle of the night to a new town and a new life. It was absolutely the right thing to do, but it made for quite an adjustment! I still live in that small town. It is also where I met my husband and raised our two sons.

What do you do when you’re not writing? (For fun, that is!)

Writing is my full time job, my hobby, and my obsession. I am really trying to add some other hobbies and activities into the mix for balance!

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you either growing up or as an adult?

There were two. I read the Chronicles of Narnia when I was eight years old and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. It was my first experience with fantasy (that wasn’t fairy tales or myth) and I was stunned that writers were allowed to make things up. The second huge influence was Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave. It was the first time I’d read historical fantasy, where fantasy elements were woven so seamlessly into an historical backdrop, and it immediately became my favorite genre. It remains one of my favorite books to this day.

What are you currently reading?

Christianity: The Origins of a Pagan Religion by Phillipe Walter, Tender Morsels by Margo Lannagan, and Going on Being by Mark Epstein (because I need a little Zen in my life right now!)

Regarding Grave Mercy: What ever gave you the idea to turn nuns into assassins? Can you give us some insight into your ideas?

Well, I went to Catholic school for the first few years of my live, and the nuns absolutely fascinated me with all their mystery and suppressed passion and enigmatic rituals. It seemed like surely they must be up to something much more intriguing than simply praying and living quietly behind those cloistered walls! So I let my imagination begin to fill in the blanks.

Also, I really wanted to write a story that explored a big sweeping canvas with life and death issues. Somehow those things came together in the stewpot that is my subconscious and Grave Mercy was born.

What was your favorite chapter (or part of the book) to write and why?

Oh there were so many favorite parts! Really loved stepping into the mind and skin of a medieval nun who served Death. What shape would her devotion take? How would she demonstrate her faith? But I must also confess that the scenes between Ismae and Duval were some of my very favorites. I loved writing about a relationship where two strong people were able to love and be loved and still be independent. While Ismae might be occasionally flustered by Duval, she doesn’t have to give up vital parts of herself or act less than she is to win his love. That was a core part of the book for me.

If there is ONE THING you would like readers to know about the book, what would it be?

That I believe love can be a transformative experience, whether it is love of duty, friends, country, spiritual devotion, or romantic love between two people. I wrote this book to explore that transformative journey as a young girl steps away from the thoughts and beliefs of those who raised her and begins making her own choices and decisions about life and love.

Can you reveal anything about the next installment? *eye wink*

Book Two will focus on poor embattled Sybella. When the convent sends her an order to free a wounded knight, it sets her on a journey to face her dark past and find a way back to hope and forgiveness and redemption. Book Three will tell Annith’s story.They are sequels in that they continue the drama of the duchess trying to hold onto her kingdom, but the different stages of that struggle are seen through the eyes of the three different girls.

In stark contrast to Grave Mercy, your prior books are written for a middle grade audience. (But we all know that older readers can also appreciate middle grade stories!) Can you tell us about them?

The Theodosia books tell the story of an eleven year old girl in Edwardian London whose parents run a museum. The only problem is that she is the only one who can see all the dark magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts and so it falls upon her to have to research ancient Egyptian magic in order to keep her family and herself safe.

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist is a young chapter book series that centers on a boy who discovers that mythological creatures are real and it is his job to look after them.

The only thing they have in common with Grave Mercy is that they are also historical fantasy. And that they all sprang out of my life long wish that mythical elements were real.

Chocolate or vanilla?

Ooh! Hard! It depends on what is being consumed. I prefer rich vanilla ice cream, but love chocolate (as in candy.) Cake is a toss up.

Pepsi or Coke?

Coke Zero

Tom or Jerry?

Hmm. Which of the two is more like a wolf rather than a sheep? 🙂

Is there anything more you would like to say to fans?

Thank you for inviting Ismae and Duval into your lives and letting me  share their world with you! The magic of the writer/reader connection never ceases to amaze me–or fill me with deep gratitude!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to Making the Grade! I know I speak for all of us when I say that I am already impatiently waiting for Book Two!

Thank you so much for having me!

To learn more about Robin LaFevers visit her web site!

Enter to win a SIGNED copy
of Grave Mercy + book swag!

You must fill out this form to enter.

ONE entry per person.
Giveaway is open US ONLY.
ONE winner will receive the signed book & swag.
Giveaway ends at midnight on Tuesday, April 17, 2012.

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Book Review: Grave Mercy

Grave MercyGrave Mercy
By Robin LaFevers
April 3, 2012
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

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?

JENNA’S REVIEW

I will make this clear from the very beginning: I am an HUGE fan of historical fiction. Typically, my “historical” involves “prehistoric” or the Renaissance Period, but “historical” none-the-less. If you have never before read a historical novel, or if you’re still on the fence as to whether or not you even want to, let GRAVE MERCY be your first entry into the genre. Odds are, you won’t be disappointed and will end up seeking similar titles.

The prose reads like historical fiction, the action plays out like the most thrilling adventure ride and the characters touch your heart as only the greatest of stories tend to do. To sum it up: I demand more from this astoundingly talented author!

Plot: 10

Grave Mercy opens with no mercy (excuse the pun) for either the main character, Ismae, or for the reader. Ismae comes from brutal beginnings that ultimately lead her to a convent of assassins who carry out the deeds of their god (or patron saint to be “politically correct within the novel). Ismae takes to this new life that fits her like a glove. She is honored when she is allowed to act on behalf of her god. Even though their deeds are dark, the sisters of the covenant are good and (fairly) moral people who follow their orders with no question. It is not until Ismae is sent on a mission that leads her to the royal court of Brittany that she starts to question her ultimate purpose… The plot is full of political insight and character conflict. It is at times complicated, yet ultimately it is a plot that can be connected easily as things fall into place while you read. In the telling of the story, Grave Mercy is a beautiful example of the best of historical fiction.

Characters: 10

Every character in this book has their own motives, their own personal conflicts and moments to shine. There are few characters introduced that are not fully explored, and even those who you feel should have been explored more will have their time to shine when book 2 is released. Ismae is at once a protagonist that you can relate to, you first feel sorry for her and her situation, then you admire her as she overcomes the obstacles that are set in her way. Her “duties” aside, she can be admired for her perseverance, her ability to analyze and make difficult decisions as well as for her high morals.

And Gavriel Duval…  Oh my, I think I actually found a man a bit closer to my own age in YA fiction to swoon over. Be still my beating heart. I’d have him be my guardian any day.

As for the other characters, for every action by one, there is a reaction by another. Though it can, at first, be difficult to keep the characters of the royal court straight, eventually you will simply read their names and know their history and situations. I appreciate LaFevers’ ability to create such a large cast of characters, each with their own individual stories, and make me care for more than a handful of them all within one story. In Grave Mercy there are many people to love, and so many lives at stake. You never totally know who to trust, but in the end this reader still wished the best for most of them (be they good or bad).

Setting: 10

Brittany, late 15th Century. What little I know about 15th century Europe, I still believed that I was living in the time period as I read Grave Mercy. Never once does LaFevers sway from the believable period dialogue in her writing. With that said, it is not a difficult book to read. Not one bit. Her descriptions of the places and people involved are impeccable, down to the fabrics they wear to the food they eat. Keep in mind: with the 15th century also comes an old fashioned idea about the place of women in society. Social customs and mannerisms are all kept true to the period. Again, I am not a historian, but I never once doubted the setting and period of this book. If any of you *is* a historian and feels otherwise, please step forward.

Pacing: 8

I personally believe that the pacing is spot on for this type of book. It takes all types of events, both those that progress the story and those that do not, to make a good historical novel. To get the feel for the period and the characters, one must as times sit through interactions that lead seemingly nowhere. But every interaction has a purpose. Yes, it adds weight to the novel, but as I said it is necessary. In addition, Grave Mercy is a mystery. In a good mystery you sometimes go down roads that lead to nowhere. This is again necessary to reach the correct conclusion. So to those who thought that the pacing was “too slow”, I say this: Grave Mercy is actually quite fast paced compared to similar historical fiction. Still, I took two points off for what some may have thought of as a “slow middle” full of royal court proceedings and political strife.

Style: 10

Oh, the prose! In the telling of Grave Mercy every human interaction and description is like music to my ears! I LOVE that we are allowed to meet Ismae from her most brutal beginnings and then see her evolve into a woman who learns from every experience, strong in her convictions. I LOVE how we meet characters and question their motives as the story progresses. I LOVE that nothing is TOLD outright to the reader, instead you are left to guess, to unfold the mystery, along with our protagonist. And again, the prose! The author does not dumb down her storytelling just for the reader’s sake, instead she tells us a complicated tale in a voice as beautiful as the deadly woman who flit around in its pages.

I count Grave Mercy among the best of the books that I have read in 2012. I sincerely hope that this series brings about a revival of historical fiction in young adult novels. It has not been since A Great and Terrible Beauty that I have read something this wonderful in the genre. Perhaps it will catch on. One can only hope. For now, I eagerly await what comes in DARK TRIUMPH, book two in the His Fair Assassin series… Oh dear, 2013 seems so far away…

Grade: 98

We Have a Winner! (+ More Announcements)

Today we are happy to announce the WINNER of the Pandemonium ARC by Lauren Oliver!
But first, some business:

If you have won something from Making the Grade in the past few weeks, I would like you to know that all prizes have finally made it out in the mail today! Be patient, they’re on their way! I am also pleased to announce the giveaways that will be held on the blog this month. Making the Grade will be participating in the following Giveaway Hops:

Lunar Love Giveaway Hop (March 8 – 13)
Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop (March 17 – 22)
Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop (March 20 – 25)
Kick Butt Characters Blog Hop (March 23 – 28)
Charity Hopping Around the World (March 30 – April 4)

That sure is a lot of giveaways, isn’t it?

Grave MercyGRAVE MERCY REVIEW REQUEST:

Making the Grade has an exciting post coming up featuring Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, but we need YOUR HELP! I was planning to do an ARC Tour for this event in order to place ARCs in more hands for the post (and I still am planning to hold the ARC Tour) but I have also since discovered that, much like us, many of you bloggers out there already have an ARC of Grave Mercy, all thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s excellent marketing campaign for the series.

OPEN TO ALL BLOGGERS: If you plan to read Grave Mercy AND review it prior to March 27, PLEASE send me the link to your review! This includes any existing reviews out there. I will be accepting review links up to March 27. If you have already signed up for my ARC Tour so that you may borrow an ARC for review, more information will be sent to you by email this weekend. If you have not yet signed up to receive an ARC as part of the Tour, the deadline to do-so is this Friday, March 9.

PandemoniumAnd now, without further adieu, the WINNER of the Pandemonium ARC is…

Lauren Goff

Congratulations! Please email me at imakethegrade (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address so that I may get the ARC to you. You have 72 hours to respond before I select a new winner.

And if you didn’t win, don’t worry! Stay tuned as we open up new giveaways in the month of March. Fantastic prizes, games, author interviews and more are on the schedule. So be sure to continue following Making the Grade so you don’t miss out!