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Reaction to... Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

I have mixed feelings on the cover. While a part of me is kind of bored with the model just standing in a dark corridor, the other part says that this looks and feels like Sybella. Granted, I think Sybella is even prettier, but she certainly does skulk around dark corners, looking menacing and toting a deadly weapon, or several. So even though it’s not my favorite cover, it does a good job of depicting WHO this story is about.

SUMMARY: Sybella's duty as Death's assassin in 15th-century France forces her return home to the personal hell that she had finally escaped. Love and romance, history and magic, vengeance and salvation converge in this thrilling sequel to Grave Mercy.

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?

I did like GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers, but I couldn’t sum up why I didn’t love it very well until I stumbled across this description of both of her books in LaFevers’s acknowledgements page. This is why she is the author and I am not.

“While Grave Mercy took place against a historical and political backdrop, Sybella’s story is a much more personal one, touching only on the fringes of the political happenings of the time.” And that, my beloved scarecrows, is why I didn’t love GRAVE MERCY in a nutshell. Because I enjoy my historicals, whether fantasy or fiction, to be “on the fringes” instead of directly involved in all the political intrigue. I’m a girl of action and adventure and pre-twentieth-and-twenty-first-century battles. I like a hint of all the court mumbo jumbo, and a little more of one as to who’s going to war with who, but the plot was so embedded in the politics it was easy to get bored. Because DARK TRIUMPH is a more personal journey, and being the character lover that I am, I connected with this book way, way more.

It’s fifteenth-century France and A LOT is GOING DOWN. But, mainly the French are looking to invade because the Duchess of Brittany seems to be a chink in the armor of the land and they’re so damn arrogant and probably misogynistic, whatevs. The very real fear of a French invasion aside, one of their own counts has taken to seeking revenge and restitution since the Duchess has married another. Along with other complexities, like I said a lot is going down. Now, Sybella, the daughter of this sadistic traitor must use her time at the convent of St. Mortain to do His will and end this struggle once and for all. (ALSO: You don't need to read GRAVE MERCY to read book two.)

Right from the start, we are thrust into a heated battle session that is only too familiar if you’ve read GRAVE MERCY. A sprung trap gone awry, Sybella watches the fall of some of the Duchess’s own men, apart from one. Little does she know how essential he is to not only the Duchess but the escape of her own living nightmare. For Sybella has been sent on the deadly mission of infiltrating her father’s palace and reinstating herself among his court once again, and in turn putting herself willingly in his destructive crosshairs as well as in the sights of a brother she only wishes would see her as a sister.

From the grim and gruesome surroundings within the palace walls of Count d’Albret to a journey in the countryside brimming with the promise of capture at every turn, there’s not a still moment in DARK TRIUMPH. Just emotional ones, as many as the physical ones. Between helping the Duke of Waroch escape to fighting for her life and others’, I wonder how anyone can read Sybella’s story, emotional ties aside, and not be thrilled.

Sybella, you poor innocent frightened child, you poor broken-spirited young woman, I only wished you comfort, happiness, and love the WHOLE TIME. Sybella’s turmoil and fear and shame are entwined in her narration, and you wonder how this tormented soul could have endured so much and retained sanity let alone purpose, however faltering both may be at points. She has a deep well of kindness, one whose whereabouts are easily forgotten when you stare at her cold face, listen to her cutting words, or watch her deliver justice. But it’s there and it’s big and deep and strong, and she has no idea it still exists inside of her any more than she believes Mortain hasn’t abandoned her. But never did I blame her or hold her own emotions against her, however crazily or wrongly they jumbled inside of her. She grew up in a twisted household, where greed, cruelty, and misplaced entitlement thrived. And instead of becoming as broken as those who lived with her intended, she grew to be strong, brave, and came to know the difference between right and wrong. Chose her side.

Of course, when I figured out that the mysteriously imprisoned Duke was Beast, I remembered what happened to him in GRAVE MERCY, remembered my love for him, and then the dots connected and I *fist-pumped* the hell out of my living room. My unexplained shouting for joy is not an uncommon occurrence in my household, but it took me a long while before I realized they were telling me to shut up because I was so stuck on the fact that Beast would, and could, get to her, Sybella I mean. He’s scarred and big and ugly and fights like a demon-wolf tearing into its first sign of prey after weeks of starvation. As L.J. Smith once wrote somewhere, when you rip away the viciousness you’re left with the other side and there’s really nothing like Beast’s tenderness, man. I wanted to wallow in that big ol’ scary bear, in his comfort, kindness, understanding and the aggression I found sexy.

I can’t say there was much in the way of new side characters, other than Yannic, but I didn’t mind, because I preferred the focus on Beast and Sybella and the villains. Eventually, we do cross paths once more with Ismae and Duval and all who accompany them and it made me happy to see them and for them to see their seemingly lost friends but I’ll be so much happier to see Beast and Sybella make their own cameos later on.

  1. Sybella Helps Beast Escape
  2. Sybella Treats Beast’s Wounds
  3. Beast Kisses Sybella First
  4. Sybella’s Heart Is Healed And Soul Recovered
  5. Sybella Gets Her Justice
Gah, I’m so damn happy! DARK TRIUMPH is more of what I wanted, and expected, from GRAVE MERCY and for that reason I couldn’t help but enjoy it more. But all the character connections and romances make this book THAT MUCH better. I seriously do not know how MORTAL HEART is going to triumph against the other two, considering I don’t remember liking Annith all that much. But the anticipation of her romance, and who I think it will be with, has me more excited than I would normally be.

I’m so happy I spent my Sunday with this one and these two.

Hardback / 385 pgs / April 2013 / Houghton Mifflin / Goodreads / $18.99

I received a copy from my library, which is ALWAYS on point.


Princess Ash said...

I loved Grave Mercy, but I definitely loved this one even more. I think it had to do with being a more personal story. I enjoyed the political aspect of the series, but I think I wanted more of the characters themselves in Grave Mercy (something I didn't realize until after I read Dark Triumph). I'm interested to see what Robin will do in the next book.

Princess Ash said...

I'm so looking forward to reading Dark Triumph. I really liked Grave Mercy, but like you, didn't absolutely love it, so I'm definitely intrigued to see how Dark Triumph will compare, especially since you liked it more. Great review! Can't wait to read this.

Princess Ash said...

I love Beast so much-when I realized he would be more prominently featured in DT, I knew this book was must-read-as-soon-as-possible!

Princess Ash said...

Oh I'm so glad that you were able to connect with this one more than Grave Mercy, Asher! I really enjoyed both on a somewhat equal level, but they were so different that it's hard to rank them for me (political vs personal). I really loved the story between Sybella and Beast and how he'll accept her despite everything she's gone through in her life (and help her see that she's not responsible for any of it). I really can't wait for Mortal Heart, I have no idea who the guy's gonna be (guessing it's a new character), but the whole escaping from the convent plot's going to be awesome.