Review: Dark Triumph

Review: Dark TriumphDark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on April 2, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Historical, Romance
Pages: 385
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
four-half-stars

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. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, 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. 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?

First Sentence: “I did not arrive at the convent of Saint Mortain some green stripling.”

Review:
I have made no secret of my immense love of Grave Mercy, and have been recommending it to everyone I know who enjoys historical fiction, fantasy, and kickass heroines. As with every sequel to a book I loved, trepidation filled me as I approached Dark Triumph. There’s always that chance that the sequel will not live up to its predecessor and will color your enjoyment even of that first book. Robin LaFevers, though, hits her sequel out of the park. Dark Triumph does not fall victim to middle book syndrome and even surpasses Grave Mercy.

Grave Mercy was fairly dark, but still a nice readalike for Maria V. Snyder or Kristin Cashore. Dark Triumph is even darker, not a novel I would recommend to those who do not like unhappy tales. Sybella’s dark past makes what Ismae went through look like a healthy childhood, and, those who read Grave Mercy, know that Ismae’s youth was no picnic. Ismae and Duval do make a couple of appearances in Dark Triumph, and it’s startling how much more optimistic and friendly Ismae is in comparison to Sybella.

My attachment to Ismae formed immediately in Grave Mercy, but Sybella took me some time to adjust to. She’s darker, moodier, more pained, and sometimes verges on crazy, though one can’t blame her. However, as I got used to her and came to know more about why she is the way she is, I became even more bonded to Sybella, and even more desirous for her to overcome the horrors of her life.

Sybella’s childhood, I will reiterate yet again, was…there aren’t really words for it. Her father, d’Albret, used her as a pawn, and she had to watch him kill off wife after wife. Two of her brothers sexually abused her, one for the fun of it and one from a misguided sense of love. Her past is without brightness, and I’m warning you now of triggers for rape and incest. On top of that, there is a whole lot of violence.

One of the main criticisms I’ve seen of Grave Mercy, even from those that liked it, had to do with the circumstances of the consummation of Ismae’s romance. It was seen as a bit of a cop-out, as though Ismae needed an excuse to have sex. In Dark Triumph, the same could not be said. Sybella has had more than one sexual partner, some willed and some not, and does not have any hesitancy about having sex when she desires it. Sybella seems a bit more empowered than Ismae, and will likely be a big hit with those disappointed by that part of Grave Mercy.

The romance in Dark Triumph makes me even happier than that in Grave Mercy. Though I do think this series could just as easily have been marketed to an adult audience, I love that this book will be going to a young adult audience. LaFevers tosses aside convention and delivers a hero utterly unlike those to be found in the bulk of YA romances. He is not handsome; in fact, he is described as ugly more than once. That does not make him unlovable to Sybella or to me. This message is so important for teens, the importance of personality and common interests over physical appearance.

If you loved Grave Mercy, get excited, because you will surely love Dark Triumph too. If you were in the camp of readers who thought LaFevers pulled some punches in the first book, then I urge you to give this installment a try, because it is much darker and more unique. My love for Robin LaFevers’ writing has been firmly cemented, and I shall proceed to wait impatiently for the third His Fair Assassin novel.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Jewels can be replaced, my cousin. Independence, once lost, cannot.'”

42 responses to “Review: Dark Triumph”

  1. Bonnie R says:

    I was so happy that this installment was just as good as Grave Mercy too. Loved Beast… definitely unconventional but that was best. Great review!

  2. Kayla Beck says:

    *dances* I can’t wait ’tilto this comes in the mail! Your review just made me even more excited. 😀

  3. I’m reading this one right now, and I’m kind of struggling with it. I don’t know what it is – I mean, I loved Sybella right from the start, the writing isn’t lacking, and of course I love the story itself. But for some reason it’s going a bit slow for me.

    I do agree with you 100% on everything you said though. I was also startled by how bright and sunny Ismae seemed through Sybella’s eyes. Also, I love the darkness of this book; it’s perfect in the ways I was left unsatisfied by Grave Mercy.

    I’m only about halfway through though, so hopefully it will pick up towards the end. Great review as always, Christina.

  4. GillyB says:

    I’m so excited to get my greedy paws on this.

  5. My review posts on Tuesday or Thurs this week and I loved this one. Sybella and Beast are my new fav couple..LOL wonderful review!

  6. Faye M. says:

    I’m glad you loved it! I tried Grave Mercy but really couldn’t get into it, so it was a DNF… however, your review is urging me to pick it up again, since you did say it surpasses its predecessor. Thanks for the awesome review 🙂

  7. Huh. Well, I might actually try this one out then. I wasn’t very impressed with the first, but this one sounds like it might work for me. Tho, I am leery of the rape part.

  8. Amy says:

    Grave Mercy was one of the first historical fiction books I read and I surprisingly really enjoyed it. I have been dying to read Dark Triumph since I finished it. I think I will like it even more judging by the reviews I have read for it. Your review has me looking forward to reading it even more.

  9. Oh, I’m still writing my review of this one so I will be back to comment soon, but it looks like you enjoyed it based on your rating, so YAY!:)

    • Back now:) I think I fell for Sybella right from the start. Found her really intriguing in GM and loved her in this book. I love what you say about her being a much more empowered character then Ismae, I agree. But I like that even though she has been through so much shit and she’s all “vengeance will be mine!!” she is still a vulnerable person in many ways.

      And I LOVED the romance between her and Beast! It’s awesome that this ferocious warrior guy is the only person to not treat Sybella like an object and show her the respect she deserves.

      I’m super stoked about bk # 3, how about you?:)

    • Christina says:

      Oh, that’s good. She’s so much stronger than Ismae, even though she has more internal vulnerabilities. Sybella’s marvelous.

      Beast is my favorite. I love that he’s such a warrior but also a big softie.

      WANT IT RIGHT NOW!

  10. I cannot wait to read this one!!! I loved Grace Mercy with a burning passion in my soul. I know I will love this one just as much.

    Great review.

  11. Kendra says:

    I cannot wait to read this book! I have had my eye on this for a long while after I finished reading Grave mercy and now I must get this one soon! 🙂 It sounds great and I am really excited for the little more romanceish stuff this one must have by what you said. 🙂

  12. Shelver506 says:

    Awesome review! Love it. You hit all the points we as readers need to know. Also, yay Beast! <3

  13. I didn’t read you review, sorry I’m trying not to spoil anything because I still didn’t read this series, but just wanted to comment that I was not sure if I should read Grave Mercy since some of my friends gave it 2 stars on GR but 5 stars for both parts of series from you – this is definitely a must read. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      That’s totally fine. I don’t read reviews for books I’m planning to read either, so I get it. Yeah, people have been pretty divided on GM. I suspect you would like it, but don’t really know.

    • Nice to hear I’m not the only one. I actually read all reviews but I got burned on a spoiler a couple of months ago so now I am not reading reviews for books I plan to read soon. And by soon I mean sometime in 2013. 😀
      Well you can never know for sure if some person is going to like a book. You can only hope. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Awww, that sucks! I try to keep spoilers for the book being reviewed out of my reviews, or at least to warn folk first, but it’s tricky because sometimes things I don’t think are spoilers are to other people. Oh well. I’ve been burned in the past too, so I take the safe road. I usually just skim the opening and concluding paragraphs of the reviews, because those are usually general.

    • Yeah, the blogger who spoiled it is my friend and she thought it was obvious thing in a book – that girl and boy in book are just one girl who sometimes is disguised and leads double life. From summary this is not obvious and maybe I would have figure it out quickly, but now I don’t have a wish to read that book anymore. It feels… well spoiled. :/
      I try to keep my reviews spoiler free, but as you said, sometimes spoiler is not the same thing for everyone.

      I have the same tactic like you I skim first/last paragraph and check out the rating and similar books if blogger has that listing.

    • Christina says:

      Oh, I know what book/review you’re talking about I think. I’ve had that book spoiled too, though it does make me more interested.

      We all just do the best we can.

  14. I didn’t really like Grave Mercy but everyone has been saying such great things about this novel. I like Darker tales so I think I will give this a try. Glad you enjoyed and it didn’t suffer from second book syndrome =)

  15. Bookworm1858 says:

    I liked Dark Triumph a lot more than Grave Mercy, largely because I adore the love interest. I loved him in GM and was so pleased to see more of him in DT.

  16. Amanda says:

    I am so glad to hear so many people think that Dark Triumph is even better than Grave Mercy. I’m among the few people who enjoyed Grave Mercy but didn’t LOVE it. I have a feeling that Sybella’s story will be something that I enjoy more. And YES! I felt very similarly about Ismae’s consummation with Duval. I rolled my eyes during that entire scene. I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt skeptical about it. Despite the darkness of the subject matter, I have a feeling that Dark Triumph is something I can better enjoy, so I look forward to finding out for certain.

    • Christina says:

      Ah, well, I definitely think thaat you will be much more pleased about the circumstances of this one. 🙂 Sybella’s a very different girl from Ismae.

  17. Ash says:

    Grave Mercy was one of the best books I read last year and if this book is going to be better than Grave Mercy, I can’t wait!! I think the cover is better than Grave Mercy too.

  18. _Sandra_ says:

    I absolutely loved Grave Mercy, so to say I’m excited for this one would be a huge understatement. After reading your review and hearing some great things from people that have already read it, I really can’t wait for it to come out.

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