“I have done what I was told to do, what I promised I would do. I have risked much and ventured back into my worst nightmares, all because I believed the abbess- believed that even though she did not like me, her service to Mortain would ensure that she would be truthful with me, see me as a useful tool, if nothing else. But clearly I have been duped and have allowed myself to be the worst kind of pawn.
Even worse, I wasn’t able to accomplish the one thing that would have made it all worthwhile- killing d’Albret.”
For those of you who have read the first book in this series, Grave Mercy, get ready for an even better story and more impressive heroine in Dark Triumph. If you who haven’t read the first installment and this is your initial foray into the His Fair Assassin series, get ready for a dark ride through a medieval world full of tension, schemes and action.
In this second addition to the series, Sybella is the leading lady assassin who has been forced back into the midst of her family by the Abbess of the convent where she serves Death, which is as good as being thrown into a nest of snakes. She is driven to the brink of insanity by her past but must now face those memories on a day to day basis as she tries to thwart the plots of the Duke d’Albret and his efforts to corner a young Duchess into marriage to lay claim to her lands and right to the throne. All of this changes when she rescues the Beast of Waroch, a man who is different than her in every way possible from size to temperament. As they journey back to the Duchess’ court Sybella finds salvation in the most unexpected of places and gathers the courage to finally put an end to guilt of her past.
First off, I loved Sybella. In my eyes she was an immense improvement as the main heroine compared to Ismae from the first book. Despite being a handmaiden of Death, Sybella is haunted and scared, devoid of any true concern for herself but seeking atonement for past sins by doing every miniscule thing she can to stop the Duke (and the man that society believes is her father). There’s a darkness to her that I thought was completely missing from Ismae in Grave Mercy. What can I say, when I read about an assassin I want to see some edge and obscurity to them.
Overall, the whole book had a much more sinister feeling then the first one did, which is what I would expect from a book about assassins and young women who are the enact the justice of Death. There are some really dark issues in this book; emotional manipulation, murder, incest. There were some points where I was surprised that LaFevers went as far as she did in some directions, especially considering this is a book for young adults and even more so with how light-hearted the first book seemed in reflection. But Dark Triumph seems to be jam packed with darker issues, making up for some of the disappointment from the first novel. The time period of the book is also one that I hold close to heart (I have a Masters in Medieval Studies) so when I think of conniving courts, oppressive lords and peasant society taken to the extreme in fiction, this is what I hope to read.
I was also impressed to see that love and the act of falling in love didn’t become such a central focus until later in the story. It is a teen novel after all so I knew love would enter into the thick of things sooner or later, but I was pleased with LaFevers for holding off as long as she did. I liked Sybella being hard and cold, and to have her fall head over heels in love like some fainting princess would have cheapened her character. And ultimately, after reading the horror story that has been her life, you can’t help but want love for Sybella in the end.
I was somewhat skeptical after reading the first book, Grave Mercy, because it seemed to lack the deadly luster I had been hoping for but Dark Triumph as just as dark as I had hoped for. That darkness is the series redeeming factor for me. I can only hope that it continues in the third book Mortal Heart which is due out in the spring of 2014. If you like a story full of action and a heroine that is dangerous as much as she is flawed, Dark Triumph is a great place to satisfy that itch.
Devon – athousandbooklife
Other books by Robin LaFevers: Grave Mercy (2012) and the Lowthars Blade trilogy