Synopsis From Goodreads.
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?
Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Well, I thought I was going to hate that… quite the opposite.
Ismae. Breton courts. Nuns. The coolest convent EVER. Saints. The genre (my first historical/fantastical adventure… very exciting). Death’s handmaidens. 13th century gadgets. Poison. Saints. Horsies. Beast. Anne. Secret passage ways. Traitors. Secrets. Corruption. A kiss can be deadlier if you mean it. Chess games that could give Ingmar Bergman a run for his money. Court dandies. Soul searching. Scars. Marques. Dreams.
Lessons on “Womanly Arts”… really? OK.
Hmm, the love interest/romantic situation was…. Interesting. More on this later.
And in regards to this… situation… there was a lot of unnecessary boy-induced angst. But again… more on this later.
Soooo much elbow grabbing. Is this a new thing? Do men really have a thing about elbows? I’m not sure I’m on board with this new craze.
OK, I loved Ismae. She was such a fantastic and original character and a fabulous narrator.
She is definitely the kind of girl you would ring up if you were in the depths of boy despair and needed someone to shake you out of it because she has these dry observations that were absolutely hilarious.
“Are men truly such idiots that they cannot resist two orbs of flesh?”
Oh, and did I mention she has bracelets that contain thin wire so she can GAROTTE men who dare to venture into her web of brilliance?! And a headband full of poisonous pearls? AND a knife that fits into her corset?!
Yeah… Wonder Woman would be jealous of Ismae’s gadgets.
The only thing that annoyed me about Ismae was the way she suddenly forgot that she was amazing whenever Gavriel loped onto the page.
Issy (can I call you Issy? No? Tough.) he touched your waist when he helped you off a horse and you completely lost it.
GET A GRIP, WOMAN, YOU’RE AN ASSASSIN. “JUMPS AT MAN’S TOUCH” IS PROBABLY NOT IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION.
Maybe you should have attended your “Womanly Arts” class.
She has a dagger in her booties that can kill a man with a single touch but she turns into a quivering lamb when he grabs her elbow or looks at her in a smouldering way?
No, honey. Just no.
Sigh. OK, I’ll be fair.
There was so much eye-rolling in the first few chapters that it wasn’t even funny. BUT it did get better…and there were a few scenes that made my Northern heart thaw a little.
I think when an author wants a dramatic Jane/Rochy kind of relationship it has to be full-on romantic peril. There has to be moments where the reader is chomping on their nails to find out whether they will get together or not.
There were no moments like this and my nails were left intact, which is good because I’ve just painted them a lovely colour.
It was so very obvious that these two would get together and it seemed everyone in Brittany (and probably France) could see this… except the two of them.
And they are both supposed to intelligent and fiery… but they sometimes came across as quite dim.
But like I said, it got there eventually. I know a lot of people will love the relationship and how it develops… but I’m cynical and crotchety and I like to whinge.
So even though the beginning was ridic, it did win me over…it was very sweet in an ‘Oh, my lord, I just fell into your lap. Whatever shall we do now?’ way.
I just could have done with more… y’know… *looks over shoulder and lowers voice* sex.
It did amuse me, though, to think of the scene in the sequel when Gavriel meets Ismae’s dad.
“So…you’re dating my daughter.”
“Um.. yes. I mean… no. With respect sir, I wouldn’t… um.. do anything…I mean… um. Yes. Yes I am.”
“You’d better not hurt her. Because if you do. I’ll kill you.”
*Death shares a look with Ismae and they chortle while sharpening their knives that could fit comfortably in their underwear. Gavriel laughs too…as he wets himself.”
I want to love you but I better not touch (Don’t touch)
I want to hold you but my senses tell me to stop
I want to kiss you but I want it too much (Too much)
I want to taste you but your lips are venomous poison
I think this song has a lot of relevance to this story of Death’s handmaiden and her quest to save a duchess from traitors and staying to true to herself and her beliefs while falling in love with a…
You come up with a song that is relevant to a story set in the courts of Brittany in the 13th century.
That chorus though… it’s pretty apt.
Think about it. Think about it.
Boy Angst Scale.
10/10. I think I’ve pretty much covered this in the above sections. There is a lot of simpering moments that seem completely out of character (for both of them).
I mean… it didn’t make me mad…as such.
Just a little bit disappointed.
But I guess that just shows how much I love Ismae when she was brilliant.
8/10. But I’m not saying anything else in case of spoilery badtimes.
People who like historical and fantasy fiction. People who are looking for a series that isn’t (overly) paranormal and dystopian but still awesome. People who are proud of their scars. People who wish they could have had a thin wire hidden in their bracelet. People who think more men should wear armour and joust. People who need lessons in ‘womanly arts’. People who would like a sassypants crow to deliver their messages for them. People who think religion needs more gadgets. People who would like to learn how to gavotte. People who only know there’s only one way to check for poison thoroughly…. GET YER KIT OFF, SONNY JIM.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publishers.