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?
I loved this book soooooo much, and I almost thought I wasn’t going to get to read it until it was released. (I have a bit of an impatient streak, and so I might have cried myself to sleep, had that been the case.) I think I requested a copy every way possible, and being a somewhat green-behind-the-ears blogger, I assumed I WOULD have to wait. But lo and behold, I actually ended up with my very own ARC, thanks to @HMHKids, and I could have kissed their feet for their generosity.
You see, this is EXACTLY the kind of book I fall in love with. The kind that stays with me for days, weeks, even months later, begging to be re-read and discussed, shelved and re-shelved. It is YA historical fiction. It is romance. It is action-packed. It is everything I had hoped it would be and more.
I can’t imagine not loving a book about assassin nuns. Honestly, can you? There is no easing into this story. From the very first page, you are thrust immediately into Ismae’s story, meant to feel as she feels, see as she sees. It’s disconcerting at first, but wow, does that first chapter pack a punch! And then Ismae is propelled into a world she’d only heard stories of. She is now a daughter of Death and must be at Death’s beck and call. This new life not only opens her eyes but her heart, as well.
Ismae is conniving, quick-witted, and if you’re smart, she is to be feared. She knows all manners of killing, and you’re as likely to face her poison as her knives. This young woman is a trained assassin, and she is VERY proficient at the tasks set before her by Death himself, or at least by his emissaries. After the upbringing Ismae suffered, and the future she was sure to endure, this new path seems fitting. And yet, Ismae’s heart is not cold. She still manages to develop friendships with the other girls training at the monastery before she is sent out on her mission.
The love story…it’s the kind I adore. They hate each other. They work together toward a common goal. Someone saves the other’s life. You totally saw it coming, but it seemed like the characters didn’t, and then BAM! They came together and somehow, they had both known, without truly knowing the other’s feelings. I just love it when a romance works out that way. Yes, they held each other at arm’s length forever, but there were hints. And it was enough.
Coming in at 549 pages, this book is long by normal YA standards. But it never felt long. I read it in four days, but had there been no interruptions—like sleep, work and eating—I would have read it straight through. (And people might have found me a little more pleasant. I loathe the waiting to get back to a book I’m thoroughly enjoying, and people can sense this, even if they don’t know why.)
So, in case you didn’t catch it the first time, I LOVED this novel. I’m excited for the second in the series, although the synopsis makes it seem as if it is told from the point-of-view of one of Ismae’s friends from the monastery. Not that I didn’t like that character, but I fell hard for Ismae and Duval, and I’m not sure I’m ready for their story to be over. I don’t hate companion novels, but I never love them as much as the first installment. But for Ismae’s sake—and her fellow maidens of Death—I’ll definitely give it a try.