Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

DTTitle: Dark Triumph

Author: Robin LaFevers

Publishing Information: April 2, 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance

Series information: Book two in the His Fair Assassin series

Format: Hardcover, 400 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Fans of historical fiction featuring layered characters, strong heroines, and manly yet gentle male leads

Like many novels that I adore, I took my time reading Dark Triumph; Robin LaFevers creates a vast and beautiful world that is easy to fall into. Her characters are layered and the story follows its own course, while weaving its way into prior plot threads left for us in Grave Mercy. As in Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph is full of detail regarding the land of Brittany, and its history, through this storyline we are able to see how Anne still struggles and we gain a further glimpse into the convent, which made me remind myself that not all villains are as obvious as you would think. For this reader, D’Albret was the clear choice as villain, and he played his part well, but the sly behavior of the Abbess is what put me on high alert, I am intrigued to see how the convent and its sisters fare in book three. Though a large part of the novel focuses on Sybella and her upbringing in D’Albret’s household, and how it came to be that she became part of the convent of Saint Mortain, the underlying issue was that Sybella was unsure of everything in her life. She didn’t believe in stability, love, and loyalty. It is clear that she never trusted anyone completely, save herself, and like Ismae she struggled to believe in the love that Saint Mortain held for her as a father. Even more, she struggled to believe that any being was capable of a true love that speaks to your soul and makes you realize that a life forever alone may be a lonely one indeed.

I found that I connected to Sybella much more than I did Ismae in Grave Mercy. Sybella was flawed, she was layered and she had a wildness in her that I couldn’t help but be enamored with. There is no question that the things that Sybella goes through in her lifetime are serious and enough to drive anyone to madness. I felt for Sybella, yet I also respected the way that her anger shaped her and drove her to stand up for herself, always. Though it is true that these handmaidens to Death go through training, of sorts, they are chosen by Him for a reason and their ability to carry out his wishes are only partly why. Ismae believes that she is to work as Death’s Mercy and after time, Sybella realizes that her past and her particular gifts have molded her into Death’s Justice. It is the trials and anger that Sybella carries as both a shield and sword that make her into the strong woman that she is.

I will speak briefly of the Beast of Waroch because there is much to be said and therefore, too much to potentially spoil. LaFevers goes a different way than most when creating this hero. She does not paint him as a suave, handsome and utterly charismatic yet insufferable male lead. Instead, he is steadfast, unbelievably manly, strong, and is described as being “ugly” on more than one occasion, yet at the same time he is loyal, charming, and an altogether gentle character. The dual nature of his character is what really shook me, and though I fell fast for Duval in Grave Mercy, I can say with conviction that Beast has secured my heart until the very end.

Then there is Julian…oh, Julian. How do I even begin to explain the array of feelings I felt toward you? True, there were many times while reading that I was disgusted and enraged, times I kept thinking “MY EYES! MYYY EYEESSS!!” over what I was reading. Then, little by little, you squirmed your way into a dark recess of my heart and I started to have FEELS. I started to care. Little by little, I started to feel my heart break. Something that was so HUGE yet was not the center of the plot managed to move me in a way that I did not see coming.

As I said above, Dark Triumph is extremely layered and detailed, and it’s the details that really go straight for the heart. We learn much more about the Saints in this novel and that was really one thing that I need want more of. I absolutely loved the lore presented in this novel and if Robin Lafevers wanted to give me a history lesson on her Saints I would gladly sit and listen for hours. Then there was the addition of the Charbonneri, and their characterization in Dark Triumph was interesting and deeply moving, I hope that we hear more from them in the next installment.

Also, I can’t leave you guys hanging, remember how Grave Mercy had a rather glorious slow burn romance between Ismae and Duval? Remember how near the end you were feeling the FEELS and anticipation so you were nearly falling over with the intensity of it? Dark Triumph has that, but in a completely different way. The relationship between Beast and Sybella was in no way instantaneous, but it wasn’t a relationship that the reader saw coming a mile away while the heroine was all “Oh I am unworthy and cannot trust a man” for 400 pages. Yes, Sybella was wary and no, she didn’t trust right away. Instead, where Duval stood back and let Ismae come to terms with her feelings on her own, Beast was his unfaltering self and nearly told Sybella how she felt before she realized it herself. There were swoons galore, guys, I can’t lie to you. While letting Sybella stand on her own two feet Beast also managed to provide a very important stronghold for her to fall back on. Oh, and, let’s not forget, there were some kissy scenes. Rather good ones, I must add.

The most important thing that you should know is that Dark Triumph was easily my most anticipated read of 2013, and like with so many books that I have hyped up in my mind, I was wary that Dark Triumph would fall short of my expectations. Thankfully, it not only didn’t fall short, it exceeded my expectations and left them in its wake. If you have not yet read Grave Mercy, I suggest that you do so very soon as Dark Triumph comes out in just a few days. Though I was lucky enough to snag an advanced copy, this was one book I did not second guess in pre-ordering. If you enjoy fantasy, strong heroines, swoon worthy male leads, historical fiction, paranormal elements, family dynamics, intrigue and more swoons, I suggest that you pick Dark Triumph up as soon as possible. I wait, rather impatiently, for Annith’s addition to the His Fair Assassin Trilogy.

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16 thoughts on “Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

  1. Hahahaha I saw my name in there and I was like “What say you?” but then I realized you said THE LAND of Brittany. DURRR.
    Yes! The romance was similar yet SOOO different and that was awesome!!!
    A, I’m so so so glad you loved this! I know how much you loved Grave Mercy!
    AND PS – I don’t know if Robin LaFevers is going to be in your area but I’m going to see her here on 4/7 so if you want to send me books, I will be happy to get them signed for you ❤

  2. I hear this is a phenomenal read! we are into the Stelladaur Series by Shari Whyte…Finding Tir Na Nog is the best one in my opinion! http://www.stelladaur.com for info on that series! I guess I need to get cracking and get my hands on Dark Triumph, enough people are reviewing it and all are great reviews!

  3. I admittedly skimmed over the details because I really want to know NOTHING going into this one, but I’m so so happy that this one exceeded your expectations. I’m a little cautious since you said you weren’t sure I’ll like it, but I’m almost certain I will. I’ve been hearing from everyone that it’s even better than Grave Mercy.

  4. I really loved this book-I already adored Beast from the little bit we saw of him in Grave Mercy and this book only further cemented that love. I also enjoyed the romance a lot more in this book overall-I didn’t care that much for Duval for whatever reason.

  5. You know that I loved this one, but your review basically captures all of my thoughts perfectly. It’s like I don’t even need to write one!! I can just send everyone to you!!
    But seriously, YES TO THE THINGS YOU SAID. Especially the bit about the Abbess. ESPECIALLY. I have a whole big paragraph about her in my notes that essentially says the same thing–her behavior in Grave Mercy was questionable, but there was no mistaking her malice in Dark Triumph. I, too, am worried for Annith.
    I don’t know what else I can say about how much I loved Sybella and Beast and even Julian in his own way. I ADORED this book, and your review. xoxox

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