Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFevers
Steph’s Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Overall Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
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...
Steph’s Review: *minor spoilers*
Goodness gracious, you would never be able to predict anything about Dark Triumph from what you read in Grave Mercy! This book has utterly blown my mediocre expectations away and I can’t think of a single person who could outright detest this novel (and truly, you would be quite heartless if you did). Whereas Grave Mercy focuses more on introducing the politics and lore of the His Fair Assassin world, Dark Triumph shifts the series into a much more narrow emphasis: the intensely personal journey of Sybella D’Albret, a haunted handmaiden of Death we only caught a few glimpses of in Ismae’s story.
With sudden new orders from the abbess of St. Mortain, Sybella is ripped from the scheming castle of her abominable father, Alain D’Albret. It is a blessing and a curse; she finally may leave the court that is slowly dragging her back into the abyss of insanity, yet she is also removed from the flexible position best poised to assassinate her father--the chance for sweet revenge that had driven her studies at the convent. Instead she is saddled with a near-impossible task: the rescue and safe escort of D’Albret’s prime prisoner and bartering token against Brittany’s Duchess Anne, the Beast de Waroch.
I saw the sudden spike in ratings for Dark Triumph but I will say that it is the latter third of this book that truly garners the stars. Starting since Grave Mercy, I think Robin LaFevers has a great knack for writing empathetic romance. The craze in a lot of YA books is to slap your female protagonist together with some handsome, broody, antihero of a male character in one swift woosh of love-at-first-sight. Even in lots of adult series with one novel per person, pairings feel like they were made for the sake of creating some “web of love” amongst related characters. One stunning element (and I consider it pretty sad that it’s not the norm) of Dark Triumph is the slow buildup of a seemingly unlikely romance that isn’t particularly physical but strongly founded on emotion and mutual dependence and understanding. It is timed perfectly in contrast to Sybella’s gradual rediscovery of purpose and passion, the steady emergence from the dark, stifling cage of past horrors, abuse, and lack of platonic love she faced in her earlier years. Her growing ability to love once more overrides and almost replaces her subconscious fears and the romance in this novel serves a true purpose to Sybella’s character development rather than just as mere fanservice.
We do spend quite a bit of the book in the dark with regards to the often-alluded to secrets that Sybella keeps. It seems frustrating at first since it seems like a stall for page time but once the shocking “big reveal” is made, this story comes full circle into an impactful epiphany that gives insight into Sybella’s character and how it is tragically intertwined with Beast’s (who may just be the cutest toad around, on a side note ;) ). Also, don’t fret about the action--if you thought Grave Mercy was action-packed, the danger racks up to even higher levels in Dark Triumph giving it a wonderful balance between Sybella’s internal struggle and the exterior precarious situation of Brittany and its young Duchess.
Dark Triumph is an astonishing addition to the His Fair Assassin Trilogy and it definitely is a motivation for me to continue to the final installment and Annith’s story, Mortal Heart. Let’s also remember to give praise to Robin LaFevers for actually rooting this story in real history while giving it a fictional twist. I wholeheartedly recommend this read and this series!