I was a bit apprehensive about reading this, because some people whose reviews I like and whose taste I often share were not fans at all… only to find when I did read it that actually I disagreed with them almost point for point. There are some aspects of this that I’m not so sure of — Ismae’s ready acceptance that these nuns kill people, for example, and her eagerness to join in — but I did love it. I enjoyed the main character’s difficulty in trusting the people around her, and how hard she finds it to understand that the convent that took her in could be fallible, could be manipulated. And yet she doesn’t take the easy route: she goes against what she wishes was right to do what she knows she should do.
I liked Duval, too: his devotion to his sister, the grudging partnership between him and Ismae, his general decency. I liked that we don’t just see that from Ismae’s point of view: we see other characters around Duval responding to his goodness with loyalty and trust.
I’m not sure why this was marketed so heavily as YA, because I didn’t really read it that way. It might well be suitable for that age range, but it’s not particularly childish in any way. If anything, it doesn’t portray young people as well as it could — the duchess Anne seems much older than thirteen in the way she acts, though of course people matured earlier in that time period. It’s quite a complex plot of politics, treachery and backstabbing. Granted, I was suspicious of a certain character well before anyone in the story was, so I felt like that was telegraphed too clearly, but I enjoyed it all the same.
I know from looking at reviews that Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart are focused on Sybella and Annith, side characters from this book. Hopefully, other characters I’m concerned about will wind their way through those stories, too. I notice there’s no mention of what happens to Beast at the end of Grave Mercy…