So confession time, I read the first two books in the LaFevers’s YA His Fair Assassin Trilogy: Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph some time ago. But I picked the first book as a reread for this month because the final one, Mortal Heart, is due out November 4, the same day as Waistcoats & Weaponry. I wanted to put these books forward before my book tour madness begins, and also to encourage you to invest in the whole trilogy at the right time to boost the author’s career.
Warning: these books contain triggers including rape and incest. If this kind of thing upsets you, I advise you NOT read along this time around. The Goodreads Fan Group is rereading my first two Finishing School books this month in preparation for W&W. Please feel free to do that instead.
Things I Wish I knew Before I Read Grave Mercy
All of the books in this trilogy follow trained female assassins during the time of Anne of Brittany in 1480s France. All the main characters are daughters of death, literally. They are taken from their homes to a convent and trained to be the best assassins in the world, known as Death’s Handmaidens.
Each book follows a different female assassin in medieval Brittany. I like this convention (one character per book, same world, same side characters). It’s a use-trope more common in romance than SFF. It allows the author to conceive of a full romantic story arc and deal with it in one volume but still revisit her world and utilize favorite characters. Some day I would like to write using this technique. Although they do stand alone, I think the second book is basically dependent on the first and it would be hard to read Dark Triumph without first having read Grave Mercy.
These books are not fantasy. Not really. Nor are they romance, not really. Nor are they historical. Nor do I personally think they are YA. In fact, they are super hard to categorize. (I wonder where RT stuck their review?) I thought from the cover art that they were going to be straight up fantasy with a romance thread. This meant that as I read the first book I kept getting thrown out of the story by the intimacy of the historical detail. In an odd way it was almost too historically accurate. However, once I accepted the alt-history part I filed Grave Mercy next to Mists of Avalon (in my brain) and stopped fretting.
The second book is a closer story, that is: less broadly political, so the detailed historical richness didn’t effect me as much. It wasn’t until the end of the second book in the author’s note that I realized these book are nested in actual real history. This is my fault, not the author’s. Or possibly the fault of the cover art, which is SO fantasy it really focused my expectations. Although, I do think they are great covers.
LaFevers does her research but isn’t heavy handed about it. The reader is settled into place/time without having it constantly thrown at her. The language style is almost modern, making it easy to read, but the location very much late 1400s Brittany. At least so far as I can tell ~ this is not my area of expertise. The only fantasy conceits are: the agency and strength of the main female characters (and the fact that men like them because of this), the existence of the assassin training school, and the actual presence of gods. There is no magic, per-say, and no other real supernatural forces at work here. Don’t get me wrong, I like this. In fact I pretty much like everything about these books.
Why did I pick Grave Mercy?
Since I am assuming, if you read this blog, that you like my books here’s the crossover connections.
If you read my stories for my: romance threads, side characters, snappy dialogue, historical setting, powerful female main characters with self agency and intelligence, than you will love these books. One of my absolute favorite features is that both books have women who are friends with one another, and formulate new friendships with other women throughout the books that are true, honest, and lasting. The main m/f relationship is definitely on the romantic end of the spectrum, but wonderfully so, but don’t expect and erotic sex scenes. LaFevers handles nookie even more genteelly than I do, but it works for the story and you definitely see the characters all the way to the bedroom (if not following them under the sheets).
If you read my books for my: constant humor, farce, ridiculous costumes, LBGT underpinnings, toying with class, and light-hearted text, than these books are not for you.
That said, I am eagerly awaiting the final volume in the series. I shall take it on tour with me. And I really am inspired by the idea of writing books each one a stand alone but all set together in the same universe and tied to one another. It’s a fun technique.
GAIL’S DAILY DOSE
Your Moment of Parasol . . .
|via greatgdean tumblr ~ Paris fashion 1900’s|
Your Infusion of Cute . . .
|Old contest entry from Meghan on FB|
Your Tisane of Smart . . .
10 Modern Kettles & Teapots
Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
Build Your Own Tea Brewing Machine for $15
Etiquette & Espionage on Scholastic’s Book Box Daily.
Quote of the Day:
“Also, send round a small pot of hot water, that those who like their tea weak may conveniently dilute it.”
~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book
by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)