This is a new feature of 52 Letters: Reread reviews! These are for books that I already reviewed on this blog, but that I read a second (or third, or fourth…) time. I’ll be comparing my thoughts when I reread the book to the first review I wrote.
Hopefully, this is something that interests you as a reader!
First read: June 2014
First rating: umm…this was before I did ratings for books, but I think I liked it enough for 4.5/5 stars
My first review can be found here.
What I remember: I loved this book. I was head-over-heels in love with Ismae and Duval’s budding romance, and the historical-political background onto which it was set was compelx without over-powering the story.
Second read: February 2015
Second Rating: 4/5 stars
My reread review
I railed against the amazon description of this book in my first review, so you can go read my substituted synopsis with the link above. The amazon description doesn’t bother me as much as it did (or maybe they changed it?) so here it is:
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage to the respite of the convent of St. Mortain. Here she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts and a violent destiny. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. But how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who has stolen her heart?
I enjoyed rereading Grave Mercy, but I did not like the story as much the second time.
The parts of it I still loved included the intricate web of castle intrigue, politics, alliances, and backstabbing (which I originally referred to as a giant game of FMK). I’m a sucker for books like this, and I enjoyed the historical setting LaFevers created. The politic subplot was never too complicated and never overpowered the book. My one complaint would be that there were a lot of times when characters would explain the political situation, and it started to feel repetitive. I could keep track of what was going on and found myself frustrated that the plot halted for a redundant recap.
The side characters, subplots, and the writing of this book are all extremely well executed. Every character feels alive, and I genuinely cared about the “good guys” and hated the “bad guys.” LaFever’s commentary on abusive males and political wargames was powerful in its subtlety. I could not put this book down, and I have to admit that my schoolwork probably suffered for it–which is the sign of a really good book.
The religious elements LaFevers drew in–specifically the existence of nine saints who are being swept out by the spread of Christianity–helped to create a pleasantly alternate-historical fiction feeling. Though the book would probably be categorized as fantasy, I liked that the magical elements were kept to a minimum and that most of what happened was character driven instead of relying on divine intervention. Ismae’s struggle to reconcile her faith in Mortain–the god she serves–and her loyalty to the convent in which she was raised made her character relatable and human. As secrets were exposed, Ismae had to redefine her faith, driving her character to chose where her loyalties really lay.
However, I did not connect to Ismae’s character as much as I would have liked this time around. I think part of what caused this was remembering the ending of the book–I knew how her character’s conflicts were resolved, so I was impatient with her in her tumultuous journey to get there. Knowing the ending of a book generally doesn’t have this effect on me, but in this case I found myself less enthusiastic about the book the second time around.
The romance with Duval was fun to read, but less emotionally captivating when I knew that the couple did actually get together. I remember the first time I read this book I felt like there was no way that their conflicting personalities could fall for each other, and watching it happen was perfectly adorable and heart-warming. Knowing that it happened lessened–but did not destroy–the magic of Ismae and Duval falling in love.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Kristen Cashore’s Graceling or Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass. Though I did not enjoy the book as much as I remembered doing so the first time, it is still an amazing, powerful read and a tremendous beginning to as trilogy.