Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Spotlight: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

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Hello, Beardies!

Welcome, once more, to Book Spotlight, wherein I tell you about the books I love as a writer, and as a reader!

What a lot of people don’t realize about librarianship is how much it involves waiting. Librarians are constantly planning for the future. The book you checked out today is due in three weeks. The programs I am planning right now won’t happen until September. Very soon, I will get a package from VOYA with a new set of reviews to write—those reviews will go to my editor by late August, but there’s a chance I won’t see them in print until December! See what I mean about always planning and waiting? The worst wait, though, is always for the next book in a series! I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but I cannot make the writing and publishing process faster (more’s the pity).

Today’s Book Spotlight is born of my impatience with the waiting game. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is the first book in a trilogy, but if I wait to tell you about it until all the books are published, I’ll go crazy!



The Premise:
Seventeen-year-old Ismae is an outcast in her village in fifteenth-century Brittany (present-day France). She bears a hideous scar because her mother tried to abort her with poison from the local herbwitch, so her neighbors believe she is the devil’s spawn. Her father sells her in marriage to the highest bidder, and, upon seeing her scars, her new husband savagely beats her and goes for a priest to have her burned as a witch. Ismae is rescued and taken to the Convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters are no ordinary nuns but instead, highly skilled assassins and spies. Ismae finds her place in the convent, and, as she prepares to take her final vows, she is sent on a mission into the Breton court, where traitors abound and nothing is as it seems.

Gems for Writers:
Setting and Historical Detail. Writers, I beg of you: If you are going to use a real historical period for a setting, please do your research! Think about how your characters would speak, dress, act, or even eat. What headlines would they read in the newspaper? What would they gossip about? The historical setting in this book is so vividly drawn that it creates a sensory experience for the reader. This setting is a place I want to visit again and again, so I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in this trilogy!

Magical Realism.
Not all speculative fiction is dragons and faeries (or, dare I say, vampires and werewolves). Grave Mercy is very much a work of magical realism.  The setting is realistic and historically accurate, but fantastical elements, such as the so-called “marques of Mortain”—that tell Ismae whom to assassinate, and how—are masterfully incorporated. 

Suspense. Although this book didn’t end with a traditional cliffhanger, suspense did abound throughout. The plot takes many unexpected turns. The reader feels everything that Ismae feels as she navigates the court, where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. The ending wraps cleanly while leaving enough storyline open for the rest of the trilogy, too.

Rating:

Conclusion:
And so, Beardies, we reach the end of another Book Spotlight. I hope you’ll take the time to check out this fabulous read! I know I can’t wait for the sequel, Dark Triumph, which is currently slated for publication in 2013!

Happy Reading and Happy Scribing!

***Grave Mercy (2012), by Robin LaFevers, is published by and copyright Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It is available in stores, online, and from your local public library.
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