The only thing you have to know about this book is: ASSASSIN NUNS. That is enough said. 😉
While that was certainly enough to pique my interest, the book itself proved to be engaging and quite different. I’ve read polarizing reviews on GoodReads and other blogs. Personally, I loved it. Ninja assassins nuns and all.
Even though the main character, Ismae, is 17 years old, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “young adult novel”. (Admit it, that’s the most basic requirement for any work to be categorized as YA.) The themes are far from the usual teen angst and “the world is against me” BS that I terribly dislike about YA. You can easily age Ismae to a 21-year-old young lady and you’d still have the same story.
Ismae is forced into an arranged marriage with a man way older – and disgusting, at that – than her to save herself from poverty. Having none of it, she escapes to the convent of St. Mortain after finding out that the god of Death Himself sired her and had given her powerful gifts. In the convent, she trains to become an assassin and to complete the mission of Death. In the high courts of Brittany, she practices her gifts and learns how to navigate a world far beyond what she trained for.
This came as a surprise to me. I was first introduced to this book by a book vlogger on GoodReads who gave it a 2-star rating based on the ending. (Why yes, I have no qualms when it comes to spoilers.) Let’s just say that “sex sells”. Her comment plus the “ninja nuns” mention had me looking for a copy of this book. After reading a couple of lackluster (in my opinion) books, I needed a boost.
It reminded me of the courts of The Borgias or the dance of deception in the Game of Thrones. Trust no one and no one trusts you. Ismae, despite being unprepared, seemed like a smart young lady who managed to play the game. There is the tone of intrigue even though it can get a bit predictable. Almost like a mystery. And I’m a complete sucker for historical fiction. The love interest, Duval, seemed unlikeable at first but his interactions with Ismae were full of obvious tension. You knew they were eventually going to end up together. That’s where the ending sort of messes with the near perfect first half of the book.
I don’t hate the ending as much as the other reviewer did. Although I did think it was a little gratuitous, especially for something categorized as YA. It could be done some other way. But hey, it is what it is. I have an easier time accepting it by NOT thinking that this is a YA book.
Rating: 5/5. I genuinely loved this book. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.