by R.A. LaFevers
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?
Ismae has lived a life of being beaten and abused at the hands of men and boys. When she is sold to the pig farmer as a wife, she has hopes for better treatment, but as soon as the wedding is over, she realizes her life will be no different has she is backhanded and lands on the floor. But when her chemise is torn and her husband sees the scar on her from where her mother tried to get rid of her before she was born, he sends for the priest, the real one that worships Jesus Christ, not the one that married them and worshipped the old saints, the old gods. She is rescued from him and handed over to the abbey. From death to death's handmaiden.
Ismae is a quick learner in the art of killing men. She probably takes great pleasure in thinking of killing them as much as she has suffered from them. But she isn't the kind of character you pity. Ismae doesn't feel sorry for herself so it's hard to feel sorry for her yourself as the reader. She is one cold calculated killer. She relishes working with the poison master, learning all the ways to murder with poison. She's adept with all kinds of knives, swords and crossbows. She does not know of love. She has two true friends in the abbey, Sybella and Annith.