Original review: http://onabookbender.com/2012/04/02/review-grave-mercy-by-robin-lafevers/I have always — ALWAYS — been a fan of books set in the past. I don’t quite know what it is about historically set books that makes me love them so, but they are intriguing with their society rules and culture and dress. Though Grave Mercy is not true historical fiction in the sense that it follows actual history, it felt as though I was reading about actual people in the past. And, of course, the fact that there are paranormal elements (Ismae is a handmaiden of Death after all, and she has powers that no true human would have) also slot Grave Mercy into the historical fantasy genre rather than straight historical.We only get a brief glimpse of Ismae’s life before the convent and her training at the convent. I think this may be my one big complaint because I think it would have set up Ismae’s character and her motives a little better. That, and I think learning about the assassin training the girls went through would be pretty darn cool. Ismae becomes a product of the convent, devoted and unquestioning. We believe in the convent, too, even if it is a little odd to be a handmaiden of Death. I do love that throughout the book, the convent slowly comes into question, and we are left wondering where the truth lies.In some ways, Grave Mercy reminded me of Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder in the sense that this bordered on being an adult book. Even though the characters in Grave Mercy are young (Ismae couldn’t have been any more than 18, and the Duchess herself was in her early teens), historically, these “youngsters” were forced to take on more adult roles. To me, Grave Mercy felt true to the times and actually covered the kinds of situations actual people may have faced at court (well, except the whole handmaidens of Death thing). Grave Mercy was a very politically charged book, as many historical books that revolve around court are. The politically treachery that occurs adds suspense to the story, which left me flying through the pages as fast as I could. Whom do you trust?While the historical aspects of Grave Mercy are well set, there is still a lot left to learn about the assassins of Death, the convent, and where the truth lies in how Death should be served. There are a lot of levels to this series if you bother to look at it deeper (though it’s enjoyable without looking more in depth, too) — the idea of blind unquestioning faith being one such theme explored. Though the main focus is on Ismae and Duval, the other characters in Grave Mercy are easy to fall in love with and cheer for. Or hate, as the case may be.Ismae’s story was one that sucked me in almost right away. I was instantly captivated by this world. And I thought it only got better (especially with the introduction of Duval, but then, I do love a good romantic interest in my books, especially since it was slow and sweet yet made my heart race all the same). I am sad that Ismae’s story is basically over with this book (i.e., the next book does not focus on her) because I loved her and her relationship with Duval, but I am looking forward to exploring this world a little more, as well as getting to know Sybella more. Her character pops up occasionally in Grave Mercy — in key parts, that is — and it will be fascinating to find out where the convent sent her, and what is happening with her.