I had Reasons for reading this, but I forget what they were. I need to start writing shit down. ANYway, they aren’t because I thought it would be GOOD.
So. Ismae is raised by nuns to be an assassin-nun (MAYBE IT WAS THE SUPER-AWESOME PREMISE) but, due to Political Something Something, has to go to court posing as the duchess’ bastard brother’s mistress, a role she loathes and ugh I am so tired of this trope. Vrrrry sexy maiden is raised roughly by rough father, handled roughly by various village roughs, and eventually roughly married off to Mr Rougherson, who treats her roughly. In consequence, she is like NO MENS! GRRRRL POWER! I REFUSE TO LET MY LIFE BE DEFINED BY THE MENFOLK EXCEPT HOW MY EVERY THOUGHT IS LIKE, NO MENS! But then, TWIST, said cold-fish-ice-queen (who will, no doubt, turn out to have a Fiery Passion Burning Somewhere [probably in her loins]) is forced by reasons of honor to play the mistress, or the seductress, or some other distastefully sexy -tress.
So Ismae and Duval (the bastard brother) head off to court and she’s all PLEASE THE GODS MAY I KILL SOMEONE but it’s court, so everyone is all, *genuflects, schemes, politely defers, plots to kill the duchess and/or marry her off to someone unsavory AND ALSO FAT.* Ismae spends a lot of time hating Duval, and yet longing to touch him, and yet hating that she so longs, etc. and in very short order is like, Welp! I guess I’m in love with him now.
And everything is so laden. Like, Duval comes into her room in the middle of the night, and they have a bit of a chat about whether or not she’s going to stab him (this is before she realizes she’s in love with him), and then ‘Lying down feels too vulnerable, so I sit up.’ Yes, OR, lying down when someone is talking to you, unless you are an invalid, is rude and socially weird.
And at one point, Duval goes to help her down from her horse, which takes, what. I know nothing of horses. Let’s say it takes a full 60 seconds, even though my minor understanding of horses and being helped in the dismounting thereof suggests less time. But 60 seconds for the sake of argument, and ‘the warmth from his hands seeps through his gloves and my gown to my skin.’ THAT IS A LOT OF FABRIC FOR HAND-WARMTH TO SEEP THROUGH IN 60 SECONDS. And then later, she’s in bed and he grabs her ankle, and ‘it is as if the heat from his hand burns through all the layers [like, several blankets and shit] between us.’ And, ok, there is markedly less fabric involved when ‘The heat of Duval’s hand passes through the silk of my sleeve all the way down to my marrow’ but TO THE MARROW. DUDE HAS SOME OUTRAGEOUSLY HOT HANDS SERIOUSLY MAN YOU SHOULD GET THAT CHECKED OUT.
Ok so they’re at the duchess’ palace doing reconnaissance things and also flirty things and then uh oh, Duval is poisoned! Ismae tastes the poison in his mouth (KISSY TIMES) and then is like, Mayhap it is in his clothing! *excuse to get nakkies* And he’s like, The only food I’ve eaten (with my MOUTH where you tasted the POISON) is what you gave me which someone brought for YOU. And she is like, *taps lip* this is a mystery indeed. And I am like, bffft. And then she keeps being really weirdly adamant about his eating habits and I’m waiting for them to discover that the poison is in her food (because someone is trying to poison HER [she is, unbeknownst to many, immune to poisons]), and for him to find this out and turn on her like, You have been poisoning me, because this is the sort of thing that happens eleventh times in this book, but in the end the poison was *spoiler* in the chess set and that REALLY OBVIOUS MOMENT OF CONTRIVED TENSION never happens and I sit here corrected so, well played, I guess. Way to red my herring.
And I know that repeating words is sort of my hobby horse and I ride it a bit hard, but ‘I slip one of the needle-thin daggers from my wrist and slip the tip inside the lock…sentence not containing the word “slip”…then slip silently into Chancellor Crunard’s office’ is a lot of slipping in a very short space. IS THIS NOT WHY WE HAVE EDITORS. I’m asking. And there are a lot of ‘mayhap’s and ‘for naught’s, which is basically like adding extra ‘e’s to things to make them seem Olde Timeye. And people’s gazes clash audibly several times.
Overall, the writing isn’t amazingly bad, but it’s so boring. ‘A kind word had me bawling like a babe,’ ‘I take to this new life like fish to water,’ OH MY GOD WHY ARE YOU EVEN TALKING if you are just going to say these tedious things?
And at the end the Baddie literally says ‘And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for you meddling KIDS’ except in old-timey-er language.
But, ok, I can’t completely pan it because when it was over, I felt like I should still be reading it. Which, I develop a bit of Stockholm Syndrome with books that take me a long time to read, and Grave Mercy is, like, 550 pages AND I was having a busy week. So while I probably won’t go out and get the next one (I bet my left nut there’s a next one), if I’d had it on hand I totally would have read it. But also bear in mind that I am CRAZY LAZY.
Let’s say, what, five caterpillars?