Summary (courtesy of NetGalley):Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old 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 of others.
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?
And here's what I thought: Historical details + intrigue + a cool main character who trains as an assassin? Count me in!
As you can see from the above summary, we have a story where the main character's life completely changes, and where she seems to discover her true purpose --- although it's not always clear who she can trust (even herself). Things are not always what they seem, and in fact, there is more to Ismae than meets the eye. Ismae is a character I liked, and her voice in this story is quite clear -- and she's got a sense of humor about things, as well. She's a keen observer of things and people around her (of course), and she's smart -- so I found her a fun character. Her character also develops throughout the story, which I appreciated. The pace evenly increases in speed, so I found I was caught up in the story and realized I was reading faster and faster .... always the sign of a good book.
I really enjoyed all of the details in this story --- how Ismae receives not only physical training, but training in all sorts of poisons --- it's clear that being a good assassin is to be an artist of sorts. I will admit .... this is a character I'd gladly exchange places with for a few days, because I think it would be exciting ... and cool. I relished how the author gives us a main character who, although talented and attractive, is not perfect. She has her doubts about what she's doing, and what the outcomes may be. I admit that I didn't remember that much about Brittany's history, although I had a little familiarity -- and that made me want to learn more. I appreciate that -- that a fictional story with historical details makes me want to seek out more information. The author was descriptive with not only the characters, but the settings --- it's clear that she did a lot of research when she was writing this book.
I also liked how the author gives us not only these things, but also the details about the God of Death, and how his mark may be seen on those she is instructed to kill. The whole connection that she has to this god give this story more depth, and a bit of magic -- but not so much that it's unbelievable. Rather, it's a more spiritual kind of connection, which I liked. I had moments of remembering back to things I liked about Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.
Definitely a good story, and I'm already looking forward to the next book! This book is due to be published April 3, 2012 --- and I'd recommend grabbing it if you can!
Thoughts on the cover: Beautiful - and so appropriate for the story -- eye-catching and nicely done.
First Sentences: I bear a deep red stain that runs from my left shoulder down to my right hip, a trail left by the herbwitch's poison that my mother used to try to expel me from her womb. That I survived, according to the herbwitch, is no miracle but a sign I have been sired by the god of death himself.
Please note that I read an e-galley of this book, so any quotations and/or page numbers may differ upon final publication.