Author’s Historical Note

Monday, March 12

We debated on whether or not to put an author’s note in the book, but ultimately decided against it because it was a trilogy, and not everyone likes to be bumped out of the fictional world by learning the true facts behind the story.

So I am putting the author’s note here on the website. Do be warned that it may contain spoilers, although I will try very hard to keep it from doing so.

All the major historical events and people in Grave Mercy are based on true events, from a twelve year old inheriting the duchy of Brittany, to her having been betrothed to at least a half a dozen suitors in return for the aid in Duke Francis II’s ongoing struggle with France. Just before his death, the duke was forced to sign the Treaty of Vergers, which gave France the right to approve any marriage Anne might make. Immediately upon his death, France sent emissaries to Anne’s court claiming that the French Regent would act as guardian and oversee both her and her kingdom. That was in direct violation of the Treaty of Vergers.

And so Anne assumed the mantle of her father’s long battle for independence from France.

The political intrigue and switching alliances in the book was also historically accurate, although in the interest of not swamping the story—or the reader—I left quite a few additional alliances and machinations out. Suffice it to say there were about twice as many schemes going on in real life as I used in the book, including additional suitors, competing claims for the throne, and additional double crossing.

With the exception of one completely fictional character, all of Anne’s councilors in the book are actual historical figures, all of whom betrayed her in real life just as they did in the book, including her tutors Marshal Rieux and Madame Dinan.((Highlight text to view spoilers.)

Anne had five ‘natural’ siblings, which was a polite word for bastards. The mother of her natural siblings had indeed been the mistress of the former king of France before becoming mistress to Duke Francis and bearing him five children. Gavriel Duval was not among them, for he is a wholly fictional character. Francois however, was one of Anne’s knights and did indeed swear fealty to her before a council of barons. One of the fictional liberties I have taken is having Madam Hivern still alive at the time of our story. In real life, she died before Anne was born.

Count d’Albret is also an historical figure. He was described by the chroniclers of his time as fifty years old, large and ugly, with many children from a previous marriage. He was also devious and cunning and by all accounts so repellent to Anne that she ultimately issued an edict proclaiming she would not marry him. For someone so dedicated to her country, this struck me as an extreme measure that made great fodder for the story.

The book takes place on the very cusp of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Another writer working in this exact same time period might very well call it the Renaissance. However, since my story focused on the spiritual preoccupations such as patron saints, relics, etc., and they were such hallmarks of the medieval period, I refer to the story as taking place in the Middle Ages.

The castles, the towns, and homes were all researched, although very few maps of the time exist. Or if they did, I did not have access to them. Castles were moving away from the earlier design of one great hall and one giant room for all to sleep in. Privacy, at least for the noble family itself, was coming into vogue.

Over the centuries, as the Church struggled to convert an entire population to Christianity, as a matter of policy they adopted pagan deities as saints, painting over the original myths with their own Christianized narrative. They also built churches on pagan holy sites, and organized their own festivals and celebrations to coincide with earlier pagan celebrations to make them more palatable for the local populace. It has been said that Brittany in particular, fought harder than other kingdoms against the loss of their own deities and form of worship.

While the nine old gods in Grave Mercy did not exist in the exact form they were portrayed in the book, they were constructed from earlier Celtic gods and goddesses, about whom we know very little. I have added a few embellishments of my own.

Sadly, the convent of Saint Mortain does not exist except in my imagination, but the Ile de Seine was known to have been the home of the last nine druidesses who served the old gods and ways and bears a small, ancient chapel built right next to a pagan standing stone.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy Fannon March 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I received an e-galley through Net Galley and I loved the book. The concept is fascinating and the story was well told. I was reading it at work and my co-workers were quite disappointed at my lack of attention as I was engrossed by your book. I can hardly wait for the next two books.
I will be hand selling this to patrons at my library (Romeo District Library in Washington, Michigan.)
Thanks for the wonderful story.

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Robin March 17, 2012 at 4:46 am

I’m so glad you liked it, Kathy! And thank you in advance for all that hand selling! 😀

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Sab (YA Bliss) March 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I read the ARC and was looking for this at the end. It makes sense that it wasn’t there now that you mention the trilogy. Thank you SO MUCH for such a wonderful book, I absolutely loved it! And also for putting this note here. It cleared up a lot of my historical doubts. I would love to interview you for my blog, if possible.

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Robin March 17, 2012 at 4:48 am

I’m so happy to hear you liked the book, Sab! And I’m glad the absence of the Author’s Note makes sense to you in light of the trilogy. We went back and forth on that for a long time. I just need to put a prominent link here on the website so people don’t have to hunt too hard for it!

And I would be happy to do an interview for your blog. Will email you my contact info!

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Devan @ Book Strings March 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm

I loved Grave Mercy and can’t wait to read the other two books. I’m so glad you posted this. I wish I had more historical background before reading, but I understand why this information above was absent in the book due to spoilers. Is book 3 going to focus on Annith? *crosses fingers*

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Robin March 20, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Yes, Devan! Book Three will tell Annith’s story!

And I’m so glad to hear you like Grave Mercy!

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Maribeth Guarino March 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm

I LOVE THIS BOOK!!! I literally finished it about an hour ago and am in the middle of writing my review! Wish it was already out, but better yet, wish that it was 2013 for the second book! Please keep writing!!!

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Robin March 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm

YAY! I’m so thrilled, Maribeth! And I promise, I am writing as fast as I can. Almost done with Book Two–Sybella’s story!

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Farrah March 21, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I read this Grave Mercy through Netgalley and it was SPECTACULAR! Seriously, it is undoubtedly one of the best books I have ever read! I CANNOT wait to read the next two books

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Robin March 22, 2012 at 3:07 am

Hi Farrah!

I’m SO HAPPY you loved the books so much! Yay! Thank you for stopping by to tell me so!

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CanaryTheFirst April 1, 2012 at 3:31 am

I just finished the Grave Mercy ARC and curiosity on this exact question (what is historic, what is fantasy?) had me googling my way over to your blog. I love how this is a book that will appeal to both readers of historic and traditional fantasy.

It’s a delightful, seamless story, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

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Robin April 4, 2012 at 1:07 am

Thanks so much, Canary The First!

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Tammy Cordeiro April 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

This is one of the best books I have read in quite some time! I loved it! If you would like to read my review, it’s on my blog (www.mysticbooklover.blogspot.com) I plan on putting Grave Mercy on the fiction list for my school for next year and then making as many students as possible read it! : )

Will we get to see any more of Ismae and Duval in the next novel at all? I just love them!!

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Patti April 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I heartily support all of the comments above. What I want to add is thank you for putting this author’s note online. I’ve been meaning to go online and do some research to find out what was historical and what you just made up, and now I don’t have to. :-)
Just for the record, I am all for author notes in the back of the book. I love finding out what really happened and what the author made up. Helps me understand the thought process and creative power that went into the book.

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Robin April 25, 2012 at 5:31 am

So glad the historical note answered all your questions, Patti, and saved you some work! :-) For the record, if I had to do it over again, I would probably include the note in the book. Although, running out of pages was also a factor.

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Patti April 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I didn’t know page count was an issue, but makes sense. I’m writing alterna-history YA as well – reading about the Reign of Terror in France right now. A bit past your era, but can you recommend any good books?

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Judy Skorka August 29, 2012 at 1:27 am

I am a 72 year old woman who thoroughly enjoys reading YA books. This book was one of the best I have read. Your descriptions and style of writing transport me to another time and place and seem to be very well researched. I am looking forward to reading the two other books in this trilogy, and have already preordered the second one! Keep up the great work!

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Robin August 29, 2012 at 7:45 am

Oh, I’m so glad to hear that Judy! And thanks for that preorder! :-)

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Lyanne May 12, 2017 at 4:35 pm

It is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. I remember spending long summer nights reading this book for summer work. I had the best time breaking apart each little detail and love the connection between the reader and the characters.
I have started rereading the entire series and I have to say it is my favorite series. Thank you so much for this book.

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