I wasn't really in the mood to read a young adult book when I started this ARC, so it was nice to find this book read more like an adult historical fiction with a bit of romance in it. The main character, Ismae, though innocent at times, never really acts like a teenager in my opinion. I think the author meant for Ismae to be 17 years old for most of the book, per the description, but three years pass in the convent, so that would make her 20 years old for the majority of the book. Or maybe she was younger when married off? I don't know; Ismae never says how old she is in the book, so I was a bit confused. In any case, it's the 15th century, so no matter if she is 14, 17, or 20, she is considered an adult and, for the most part, acts like one.
Ismae has just been married off by her abusive father to another abusive man. She escapes with the help of the local herbwitch and priest to the convent of St. Mortain. Mortain is also worshiped as one of the old gods as the god of Death. The sisters of this convent are trained to be his assassins. Ismae has an affinity with poisons. She is immune to poisons and the preparation of them comes naturally to her. After three years of training, her first two assignments go well. The third one will be her true test. It involves her entering Brittany's high court by acting as mistress to Gavriel Duval, half-brother to Anne, who is to become sovereign Duchess of Brittany. Part of her assignment is trying to figure out if Duval is working for or against his sister.
I really enjoyed the political intrigue. Anne is a real historical figure, and LaFevers did a great job introducing us to that time period and court. LaFevers fits the made up characters in nicely. Ismae is a little over her head at times, though. She tended to skip the "womanly arts" lessons at the convent for poison making, so flounders at times acting the mistress. And she is very confused when she realizes she actually has feelings for Duval, but still is not sure if she can trust him. Though Duval and Ismae end up working together, neither is completely honest with each other. Ismae also ends up questioning her devotion to her convent when she gets conflicting orders from them. She is a great character to follow, though I do wish we could have had Duval's point of view also.
This is a great book if you are looking for a historical fiction with a dash of fantasy and romance.
ARC provided through NetGalley