Author: Robin LaFevers
Series: Book #2 in the His Fair Assassin series
Release Date: April 2nd 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Number of pages: 385 pages
Source: Paperback copy purchased by reviewer
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Kindle
Grade: 4.5 stars
Goodreads appetizer: When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge - but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.
But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for...
My Thoughts: Grave Mercy was one of my favorite books last year, so I just couldn't wait to get my hands on Dark Triumph, the second book in His Fair Assassin series. Grave Mercy was an unexpected surprise of a book last year so my expectations from the second book in the series were a little bit high one might say. And even though Dark Triumph is just ass good as Grave Mercy was in most things that matter, there were some things that made me appreciate it a little bit less than I did the first book.
Let's take things from the beginning. Dark Triumph takes place exactly were Grave Mercy ends, only from Lady Sybella's point of view. I liked how the main story switched narrator and how the plot continued on, only from a whole different perspective. I know some readers were a little bit apprehensive towards Sybella and wanted for the story to continue on with Ismae as the main heroine, but I was a very big fan of the switching of protagonists. For one, I thought that Ismae's story was so perfect as it was and there was no need to mess with something so great and risk making it a little bit tiring. Also, I kind of like reading a story told through different narrators. That way I get to know more details and see how things differentiate from one character to the next. So, the reason I thought that Dark Triumph is inferior to Grave Mercy has nothing to do with the fact that Ismae isn't the main heroine.
Also, Dark Triumph is as well written as the first book was. The world Robin LaFevers created is simply incredible. All the political intrigue, the way the author blends history with fiction is fascinating. Needless to say I found myself researching many of the characters and some historical facts quite a few times while I was reading this book. And it's not often that an author can make me care so much about the world she created that I feel the need to know as much as possible about it. So yes, for me, Robin LaFevers is one amazing author! And Dark Triumph is one of the best written fantasy books out there.
Sybella was a character completely different than Ismae. While the reader could just effortlessly love Ismae, Sybella was a little bit more difficult. Her past and all the gruesome details that surround it made her see the world in a cynical way. And a cynical and suicidal character is always more difficult to love and understand. Especially given the fact that all the details about Sybella's past that explained the way she viewed some things were revealed close to the end of the story.
But I loved Sybella in a deeper way than I ever loved Ismae. I wanted her to find peace. I hoped that she would find absolution. I understood why she was so cynical and I admired her for her courage even when she thought of killing herself. Sybella was my favorite part of Dark Triumph without a doubt.
Beast on the other hand was a character I really loved from the first book, so no big surprises here. Only I think that I enjoyed him more as a secondary character than as a main one. Don't get me wrong, he's still a great character, only I think that the author gave him too little space in this novel to remind us how great and even funny a character he is.
All in all, one might safely say that Dark Triumph is one incredible novel. Great writing style, well developed and complex characters, intricate world building, everything here screams awesome! But there's just one area where I think that this novel failed and that is the romance. Surely, Dark Triumph is primarily a fantasy novel and the romantic part isn't crucial. But still, Sybella and Beast's relationship cover a major part of the story so I really needed for it to be better written. As it was, the reader couldn't feel any connection between them. And I couldn't feel that connection because there wasn't any. Even if this story is close to 400 pages long and both Sybella and Beast are together for the better part of the story, still their relationship comes out of nowhere. Even if I knew that they would be the couple of this story and tried to find any signs of their growing affection, there were none. We are just notified from one moment to the next that Sybella loves Beast but must fight that attraction. If Sybella herself didn't make that statement the reader would never have guessed that those two care for each other.
And I know, the romance isn't the focus of this exquisite series, but still I missed the incredible romance of the first book. And if you remember that wasn't the focus there either (and I think that the romance there was even subtler) but it was so well done that it added to the whole story, something that didn't happen in Dark Triumph I'm afraid.
Verdict: Dark Triumph may not be as great a book as Grave Mercy was, but it's still an amazing book. Robin LaFevers in an incredible writer and I'm expecting many great things from her in the future. Can I have the next book in the series, like, right now?