My first thought after finishing this: That was EPIC!!
And it was! It is the best book I've read this year. The writing is eloquent and beautiful. The characters draw you in and the ending was perfect. Even though it's a rather lengthy book, I never felt bored. The complex court politics, tense romance, and constant urgency to save the duchess kept me on the edge of my seat. As I got nearer to the end, I found myself trying to extend the last pages as best I could in an effort hang on to the beautiful story.
Let me start with our delightful main character Ismae. This chick is the definition of tough. She can take down a man twice her size and slit his throat before he has a chance to notice. She's not heartless, as much as she tries to be. Even though she is a trained assassin, she learns to listen to her conscience. Of course, that didn't mean she hesitated to take a guy down if he so much as made a threatening move. It was nice to see a heroine that never needs to be saved; in fact, she does most of the saving.
Now let's move on to the love interest, shall we? Can I say, WOW! he is beyond swoon-worthy. He accepts Ismae's "occupation" as an assassin. He doesn't question her choices and treats her as an equal. He is absolutely devoted to protecting his little sister...seriously, it's the most adorable case of protective big brother I have ever seen. More than that, he never expects Ismae to give up her service to Death or the convent for him; he understands that she is determined to keep her vow to the god and never asks her to change. He is medieval perfection at its finest.
The secondary characters are by no means disregarded in this book. Each and every one is fully developed and explored. I felt attached to all of them, but especially Duchess Anne and Beast. You'll see why when you read Grave Mercy.
And the ending... I truly couldn't have imagined a better one. I will leave you to find out it's perfection, but until then I will just say that the author did a spectacular job with Grave Mercy.
I cannot even put into words how amazing this book is. To put it simply, preorder it now...you will not regret reading it. And now I am left to wait in agonizing anticipation for book 2. Here's hoping it will be as epic.