Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?
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
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?
I do not read many books that are YA historical romance, so I probably would not have picked this book up on my own. When my book club selected it, I decided to give it a try. I ended up loving it - from the the plot to the characters to the romance - everything in this book was amazing. The author had obviously done her research about this time period.
First, the heroine. Ismae was an amazing character to follow in this novel. She was not a weak character. She had faced many hardships in her early life. Her father had told her mother to get rid of her while the mother was still pregnant with Ismae. Her mother took a poison to try to do this. It did not work, and Ismae was born with a scar that came from the poison. Ismae then grew up with an abusive father who sold her into marriage with another abusive man. Luckily, someone came and took her to a convent where she found out she was the daughter of death, or Mortain. The book focused on her assignment at the court in Brittany. She had many weapons and poisons at her disposal, and these enabled her to dispatch several enemies.
Second, the romance. Gavriel Duval was a wonderful man and very noble and loyal to Brittany. Ismae's and Duval's relationship began with mutual distrust. She thought he may be a traitor or a spy for France. He did not trust the convent that Ismae came from. As the story progressed, the two of them began to slowly trust each other. Then, this trust turned into mutual love. There was much romantic tension leading up to the scene where they kissed for the first time. I believed in their relationship because it built over a realistic time period.
Third, the court politics and people. Many pages of the story were devoted to discovering the motives of many people at court. These people at court were very well-developed characters. Anne was the wise but young (12 years old) duchess, and she was Duval's half-sister. I wondered how old she was until her age was finally mentioned. She seemed mature for her age, but at times, she would show how young she really was. A few other interesting characters in the court were Chancellor Crunard, Madame Dinan, Madame Hivern, D'Albret, and Marshal Rieux. These were a few people whose loyalties were not always clear.
I loved this book, and if you like YA historical romance with a hint of fantasy, you will enjoy this book. I cannot wait to see Sybella's story in the next book in the series.