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.