Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Dark Triumph

Author: Robin LaFevers
Genre: Supernatural, Historical Fiction
Type: Kindle ARC
Source: NetGalley
Series: #2 in the His Fair Assassins series
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First Published: December 4, 2014
First Line: "Nantes, Brittany, 1489 -- I did not arrive at the convent of Saint Mortain some green stripling."

Book Description from GoodReads:  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...

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  This is the second book in the His Fair Assassins series.  It's based on real historical events that happened in Brittany during the 1400's surrounding Anne of Brittany except that there are supernatural elements thrown in to take things to a whole new level.  Grave Mercy, the first book in the series which focused on Ismae's story, was a good read.  I loved the idea of young assassin nuns being the handmaidens of Death.  But Dark Triumph took my enjoyment up a big ol' notch.  It focuses on the experiences of Sybella, another of Death's handmaidens, and I found it quite hard to put down for several reasons.

I think the main difference between the two books is that I connected a lot more with Sybella.  She's smart and cunning but a tortured soul who is haunted by her secrets, private pain and sense of not belonging.  It was hard to read about the helplessness and fear she had to live with for so many years but that also helps give the reader a much better understanding of why Sybella is the way she is (something that I felt was lacking with Ismae's story in Grave Mercy).  

Right from the beginning of the book you could feel Sybella's apprehension, her fear and her reluctance to get close to others but you could also sense her strength and perseverance. The secrets that she keeps are slowly revealed to the reader and are, at times, hard to read.  

For those of us who didn't love getting our fill of the detailed political intrigue in Grave Mercy you can rest assured that it takes more of a back seat in this book.  It's still there but LaFevers focuses on the background of Sybella as she tries to conquer the past that ultimately stems from her history with the evil and loathsome D'Albret as well as a few others who stand in her way.

One of my favourite things about this book is that LaFevers gives the reader a new kind of hero in Beast (aka Knight Benebic de Waroch).  He has vowed to protect Duchess Anne but he's far from the knight of storybooks with the dashing smile, nicely coiffed hair and a cleft in his chiseled chin.  He's rough, admittedly unattractive and abrasive but you could see that he clicked with Sybella as they bonded over their mutual joy of killing.  LaFevers has given me a new vision of what a hero looks like (I actually pictured a younger, bigger version of Game of Thrones 'the Hound' Clegane as I read) and I'm eager to read more books with 'not so perfect' heroes.


Dark Triumph is just that.  It's a triumphant accomplishment that focuses on some very dark secrets and while the author took a risk with some of the story lines (one in particular) it paid off.  This is a wonderful read with bold, diverse characters, complex story lines and many edge-of-your-seat action scenes.  It's emotional and has an un-cheesy romance that is swoon worthy.  Another book blogger has given me the heads up that the third book in the series, Mortal Heart, which follows Annith, another of Death's handmaiden's, story is even better.  Needless to say I'm quite eager to get my hands on it soon!

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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