April 18, 2013

REVIEW: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2)

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2), by Robin LaFevers
Published April 2, 2013
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Format: ARC - on loan from Around the World ARC Tours
Genre:  YA, historical, romance
To Buy:  Amazon * Barnes & Noble

 Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads) Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons.

But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats.

What an incredible follow-up to Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)! Dark Triumph does not suffer from the dreaded "middle book syndrome." Far from it, in fact. I thought it was BETTER than Grave Mercy.

We can now see that the trilogy is following three best friends and, in a sense, sisters who meet as novitiates at the Convent of St. Mortain - Ismae, Sybella and Annith. Ismae was the subject of Grave Mercy. Annith and Sybella were introduced, but not discussed at length. From what was mentioned of them, I have to say that I wasn't a big fan of Sybella. She was wild and uncontrollable and cranky. Quite unlovable. I admit to deciding to read Dark Triumph only as a means to an end. I hate not finishing series, and I wanted to see it through. 

I was most definitely not prepared, however, to develop such an affection for Sybella. She is wild and uncontrollable and cranky. But, she is also loyal, compassionate, and brave beyond measure. Dark Triumph lived up to its name, for it was most definitely darker than Grave Mercy, and that was due in large part to the horrors that Sybella had to endure in her past. It was difficult to read, but did much to explain why she was the way she was when she arrived at the convent. 

One definite plus about Dark Triumph is that it is not forced to bog us down with pesky details and paragraphs of world building - that was all taken care of in Grave Mercy. And, when a book takes place in the 1490s, in another country,  and centers around some fantastical mysticism, there's A LOT of explaining that needs to be done. I'd guess that roughly the first third of Grave Mercy was mostly taken up by background story. 

Dark Triumph, however, starts off with an event in Grave Mercy that happens toward the end, only this time, told through Sybella's eyes. I LOVED that. It gave me a good frame of reference as to where we were in the over-arching story. It also gave me a glimpse of Ismae right off the bat, because who doesn't want to know what's going on with their favorite book 1 characters, right? Starting in this way was brilliant. There was immediate action and intrigue and succeeded in sucking me in from page 1. 

One of my biggest gripes about Grave Mercy is that, for a story about an assassin, there weren't a whole lot of assassinations. Not so in Dark Triumph. Luckily, Sybella takes great pleasure in killing bad men, and she takes a ton of them out. Fighting by her side is the awesome Beast of Waroch who we met in Grave Mercy. I loved that guy then, and I loved him even more at the end of Dark Triumph. He's ugly, scary and fierce, yet he has such a big heart and he gives it to Sybella. This was a match made in Heaven. 
I was so ready to accept my fate - this time for the right reasons. Out of love, rather than vengence. And once again, this...man, this...mountain...has destroyed my hard-won resolve with a careless flick of his wrist. 
After reading Dark Triumph, I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the third and final book in the Fair Assassins Trilogy, Mortal Heart, when we will finally find out what is going on with Annith. In addition to that, I'm so excited to see these three women reunite to go medieval on the baddies' asses.  

Check out my review for Grave Mercy.

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