Author: R.L. LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin, #2
Release date: April 2nd 2013
Publisher: Houghton Miffin BfC
Hardcover, 400 pages
Source: Publisher for review
The Book Depository
About a year ago, the words ‘assassin nuns’ first started showing up around the blogosphere. Pretty soon they were everywhere, and everyone was talking about Grave Mercy, some obviously thrilled and some not so much. Seeing as I neatly fell into the first category, Dark Triumph became one of those books I often thought about… dreamed about, to be completely honest. And I was not disappointed.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.
The darkness of Ismae’s story pales in comparison to the utter hopelessness of Sybella’s circumstances. Sybella’s tale is so deeply personal and painful, a story of torture and degradation, a story full of monsters and betrayals. It is not an easy read, that much I can tell you, and yet it is certainly worth your tears, for you will be a better person once you finish it.
Unlike Ismae, who is well-trained but not that experienced, Sybella is a seasoned assassin. She kills those who deserve it and she does it without mercy. From the outside, it seems that her heart has hardened and that there isn’t a flicker of warmth inside her.
Through Sybella, LaFevers raised some interesting questions. Can a wounded animal ever completely heal? Can a person who’s been hurt in ways unimaginable to a normal human being ever find it within herself to trust anyone? What does it take to repair a shattered soul? Believe me when I say you will feel Sybella’s pain. It was an ugly cry I cried for this girl and yet my perception was limited because a human heart truly can’t stretch that far without breaking. There’s only so much I can imagine without unconsciously raising barriers to protect myself, and Sybella’s suffering went far above those limits.
The most interesting parts by far were all the times when Sybella doubted her god and father, Mortain. Her shaky beliefs were only natural – with all the hurt and betrayal she’s suffered, it’s hard for her to believe in anything, least of all a powerful father who supposedly loves her. Love? Sybella knows no such thing. No one ever truly loved her when she was a child, not without ulterior motives, and until she met Ismae and Annith, the concept was completely strange to her.
And then she saves Beast, the duchess’s mighty hero, and she finds compassion and tenderness in the most unlikely of places. There are secrets between them, but there’s love and admiration too, and they both have to decide which part is more important.
Beast as a hero made me think about all the other heroes I hold close to my heart, which lead me to conclude that I’ve matured somewhat as a (romance) reader. Perfection no longer holds any appeal for me. It’s not all those rich, gorgeous and successful male characters I remember to this day. Instead, it’s Curran, with his broken nose and his eyes filled with violence. It’s Terrible, with mutton chops on his ugly, scarred face. It’s March, brutal, determined and strong, but nowhere near beautiful. Duval, a soldier above all, both inside and out. And finally, it’s the mighty Beast of Waroch, uglier than you can imagine.*
LaFevers took a lot of risks in Dark Triumph, made a lot of choices and proved her worth, although they might not sit well with some. These days, when packaged books have become the norm rather than an (unwanted) exception, it’s comforting to know there are authors like Robin LaFevers who are artists above all. Some of us tend to forget that literature is art first, and business second (if at all), but luckily there are those who remind us over and over again.
Finishing Dark Triumph wasn’t easy at all. LaFevers did a fabulous job of wrapping things up, but I did not want to part with Sybella and Beast. In fact, the second I finished the final page, I wanted to go back to the beginning and start all over again. That’s really not something I get to say very often.
*All names are links, in case you don't know who I'm talking about.