On the night of her arranged marriage, Ismae is spirited away from her abusive husband and father by the village priest and hedgewitch. Fearing Ismae for the mark of death she wears almost as much as they fear her father, they do not even tell Ismae where they are taking her until they drop her off at the Abby of St. Mortain, old-god of Death. There Ismae is offered a choice: she, a young woman whose scars prove she is the daughter of Death himself, can be trained as an assassin. Or she can die of the poison she has just ingested. Ismae survives the poison, which the abbess takes as proof of her lineage, and Ismae agrees to be trained as an assassin and learn to understand the will of Mortain. Ismae’s first major assignment takes her to the court of Anne, the young Duchess of Brittany. There, Ismae learns she is woefully under-prepared for the intrigue and political maneuvering at court. Additionally, despite the assurances of the nuns at her convent that she has learned everything she needs to know about seduction and the “ways of the heart,” Ismae finds herself falling desperately in love with a man the convent eventually orders her to kill. How will Ismae choose to deal with her new feelings? Will she be able to continue blindly following the orders from the convent, or will she make her own decisions about the will of Mortain?
This book wasn’t exactly what I expected. It was (theoretically) supposed to be about an assassin, but really it was about court politics. Boring court politics. I mean, there were parts of the story that were exciting. I thought Ismae was an interesting character who did a lot of learning about herself and the world around her. I also really liked Duval, and the way he interacted with Ismae. I would have liked some of the other characters to be more developed though, rather than reading so many minor details about the politics in the court. Like Beast and de Lornay. I felt they both had stories that I really wanted to know. There is a slight possibility Beast will make an appearance in the next novel, we don’t really know what happened to him even though it was implied, but I’m not holding my breath. There was some cute romance in this story too, but not enough in my opinion to really make it an important part of the story, which I think it was intended to be.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. There were sections where I couldn’t put it down. But once all was said and done, I didn’t feel super emotionally invested, and was left with a very “meh” feeling about the whole book. I want to read the next book in the series, I think they will improve, and I hope Ismae and Duval make an appearance in the next book. I think they both still have stories left to tell.