Y’all, I wanted to like this book sooooooooooooo much. I’ll give you two words: assassin nuns. Right?! Also, it came highly recommended by one of my favorite authors. How much more could I want in a YA novel? Okay, before I devolve into negatives, let me highlight the positives. As someone who is attempting a bit of historical fiction, I can say that Ms. LaFevers seamlessly covered many of the details unique to Middle Ages Europe — setting, clothing, ambiance. Unfortunately, modern language and dialogue crept in quite a bit. For example, with The Queen, everyone has to address my character with the correct title (you can’t believe how many times I have to write ‘your majesty’). On more than one occasion in Grave Mercy there were a few jarring instances that took me straight out of the fictional world.
Other good stuff? I did think the use of the supernatural was well done. I loved the idea of Death as a character and thought the entire concept was nicely incorporated and ‘realistic’ within the world of the novel.
There were a lot of ‘real’ (and obviously well researched) characters in use here — a debate I am currently up against. Certainly, I am working within a time frame where there were many memorable personalities in Europe, many who had a significant impact on one another. However, as much as I want my action to ring true, I don’t want to get bogged down with politics…i.e. my story is one of a young woman’s quest to understand herself, protect her country, and act as a monarch of the most powerful country in the world — a future she could have never predicted for herself.
In Grave Mercy, I thought there were entirely too many characters running around. The beginning of the book opens with a three page (or more) cast list — something I found very off putting. Look, having a diverse supporting cast can add a lot, but when I couldn’t begin to keep all the names and intrigues straight, I lost interest. Even with all the betrayals and lack of trust, the ‘surprise’ baddie really wasn’t that much of a shock. More than anything, I found the amount of characters overwhelmed the main story line.
I’m not sure if I’ve been completely spoiled by Sarah Maas, but I was bored by the action and couldn’t find myself cheering for Ismae, Duval or the duchess. I knew their story would be (more or less) happily resolved and thought it took about 100 pages too long to get there.