Author: Robin LaFevers
Genre: YA, Historical, Paranormal, PNR, AWESOME
Publication Date: April 2, 2013 (HMH – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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?
☆: 5/5 stars – an other hit for LaFevers! I seriously can’t wait for book 3 now!
Review: Wow. If you guys thought book 1 (“Grave Mercy”) was any good, you’re going to love “Dark Triumph”. This book is a lot darker (no pun intended) compared to book one, so it’s not exactly the feel-good read of the year. However, I think it’s kinda an important read, as it does bring up current tough stuff issues couched in this fantastic story of Mourtain and his Handmaidens in 13th century Brittany/France/England. If anything, LaFevers has only gotten better at her craft, and it really shows. If you’ve started your journey in “Grave Mercy”, you simply must continue it with “Dark Triumph”.
What I love the most about this trilogy – all three girls we were introduced to in “Grave Mercy” as the main cast (Ismae, Sybella, Annith) are all getting their own books. “Grave Mercy” was Ismae’s book, “Dark Triumph” is Sybella’s, and the upcoming “Mortal Heart” will be Annith’s. I thought that was really cleverly plotted on LaFevers’ part – it allows us to really get to know each girl that appeared as more minor in the main cast in “Grave Mercy”, and it also serves to tell as their own story as interweaves with that of the fate of Brittany as a whole. I love it when an author of any genre can do that, and especially with this trilogy, where I’ve really grown fond of all of the characters (antagonists included) and the world. I’m going to be bummed when “Mortal Heart” comes out next year if only because it’ll be the end. Unless we get one more book. Please let that be the case.
To those who have already read the book – did anyone else get a slight “Beauty and the Beast” re-telling vibe, aside from the Beast of Waroch’s nickname? I kind of did – with Sybella as the beast, having to fight all of her demons in order to become a real girl once more. More than “Grave Mercy”, I feel that there is more of a fairy tale feel to this particular installment in the trilogy, and that made it all the more wonderful. Sybella not only fights her enemies (and the Abbess’ enemies) in this book – she fights her own demons, which makes her really shine. And boy, does Sybella have a LOT of inner demons to fight. I feel like LaFevers has definitely improved in the “killing her darlings” for emotional payoff department drastically between these two books with Sybella’s fight, and that’s why this one gets a straight 5/5 stars from me.
The rest of the technical areas are flawless, so I won’t really go into them. We do get a slight expansion of the world with more of Sybella’s backstory and how her family ties into the Brittany war in the worldbuilding department and in the character building department (two birds, one stone). We see how much Sybella has really gotten a raw deal out of life – and though we got hints of it while seeing her with Annith and Ismae in the convent, we also see how it continued while she was in training there. It was nice to see how her streak of bad luck with things didn’t magically stop when she stepped through the convent doors, and how she had to work harder than anyone one else to get approval – only to have her first big mission to be a slap in the face from the Abbess (and seriously, what is the Abbess’ problem here? I hope we get that answer in book 3).
Throughout many points of the book, Sybella’s story is not easy (nor should it be) to read. There are a lot of “tough stuff” issues that are contemporary (yet seem to happen throughout all throughout history) – familial abuse, both physical and sexual, just to name the two largest ones for those who get triggered easily. I won’t spoil too much, but you’ll be wanting to give Sybella a huge hug by the end of the book. However, you’ll also love her for getting through these issues because she figures out her role in Mortain’s trio of her, Ismae, and Annith – if Ismae is His Mercy, Sybella is His Justice. And I LOVE that LaFevers was able to turn all of that pain into such an awesome self-realization. Sybella is not a victim, and she makes that clear throughout the book. But her being able to reign in her desire for revenge, to turn it into something useful for her self-created family was wonderful to see.
Final verdict? This is just too awesome a sequel, and one of the best sophomoric efforts for 2013 so far. “Dark Triumph” is out today through HMH in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!