Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFeversDark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 2, 2013
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
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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...

You can check out my review for Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) HERE.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Dark Triumph like I did Grave Mercy. This second book in the series was close to 200 pages shorter but seemed much longer. To be honest, it was a laborious read for me.

Dark Triumph seamlessly picks up where Grave Mercy ends, but we are now looking through Sybella’s eyes. Sybella is a contemporary of Ismae’s. She is a fellow hand maiden of death and has been trained in the same deadly arts. While both Ismae and Sybella have very dark pasts, Sybella’s is somewhat more twisted and sinister.

The things I enjoyed about this book: The writing is still as beautifully crafted as in the first book. The characters are interesting and unique. I enjoyed the in-depth descriptions of the story world.

The plot in this installment moves along much slower than the first, and it wasn’t as intriguing. Much less historical context is focused on, and I believe the author states this in her notes at the end of the book.

Kinda what I imagined Sybella like.
Kinda what I imagined Sybella like.

Let me just start with this- Sybella is not the best character to be immersed in for a 400 page book. It was quite disturbing, boring, and frustrating. BUT THIS IS JUST MY OPINION. The same things I found annoying about her might be immensely interesting to other readers.  A lot of her inner dialogue was repetitive to the point of SEVERE ANNOYANCE for me. She would be faced with a decision about something or faced with a new experience/feeling, and here we go again with, “No one can love me. I’m damaged goods.” Or, “I’m too dark and demented to love someone,” yada yada yada.

“No. There could never be anything between us… As nice as it was to have someone view me in a flattering light, I was not worthy of his true regard. ” This thought is a broken record on repeat throughout the book.

I understand it is an important theme concerning her character, but I just wanted to bitch-slap her by the end of it.

WARNING: The below part of my review is slightly spoiler-ish concerning the sub-plot.

How I imagined Beast.
How I imagined Beast.

I did enjoy the “Beauty and the Beast” romance to this book. I was actually more drawn to “Beast” the secondary character in this novel than to Sybella. Beast is one of Duval’s comrades from Grave Mercy and he is very entertaining and likable in that “big ugly teddy bear” kind of way. Part of me wished the novel had been written from his POV.

I don’t really have much more to say about this one. I know a lot of people liked this book in the series far better than the first, but I wasn’t one of them. I adored Ismae and Duval in the first book and was disappointed when I saw that the next book would not be continued from their POVs. But I totally understand how the author wanted to expand on the wonderful secondary characters she had created. I can’t wait to read Mortal Heart (hopefully soon). I hope I like it as much as Grave Mercy or even more. Have you read this trilogy? Which book was your favorite?

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Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)  by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 3, 2012
Pages: 549
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
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Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

I remember the first time I almost purchased Grave Mercy.

It was a fateful spring night and under a facade of calmness, I was trying to decide on a book to purchase from Target’s limited selection of YA lit as the clock clicked closer to closing time. The book I had come for was out of stock, so I scanned the section for something else that looked appealing. I HAD to have a book. Going home empty handed wasn’t an option. The book-monster needed to be fed.

The intimidating tome that was Grave Mercy stared at me from its prominent front-cover display. I read the back quickly and new it was something the historian in me would love, but I just wasn’t in the mood to commit to this brick of a book that I had heard lukewarm things about. So I went for the pretty purple covered one right next to it: Fated. You can see how that little decision turned out right here.

A treaty that causes many problems in Grave Mercy.
A treaty that causes many problems in Grave Mercy.

Over a year later, I finally ended up purchasing Grave Mercy from  B&N. When I read the story synopsis again, it was like reading it for the first time. I was so excited to dive into Grave Mercy and I thought to myself, “How the FRIG did I pass this up the first time?!”.

I really enjoyed this book. I devoured it, basically. The book-monster was very pleased. Once I read the first few chapters, the girth of the novel didn’t seem so intimidating.

An Illuminated text from 15th Century France.
An Illuminated text from 15th Century France.

The setting amongst a 15th Century Brittany/France backdrop was absolutely captivating. I have always been intrigued with the Pagan gods and Pagan rituals that were commonplace before Christianity became law in Europe, and LaFevers uses this rich history of Paganism as the backbone of her story.

A young Gabrielle Anwar as a plotting Ismae perhaps?
A young Gabrielle Anwar as a plotting Ismae perhaps?

The novel is written in first person and we are intimately acquainted with Ismae, the main character, right from the beginning. Her character continually changes throughout the novel and I really enjoyed seeing her evolve and ultimately question everything she believes by the end of the story. Ismae is an extremely likable heroine and was very exciting to live vicariously through.

I find it very delightful to imagine Cavill as Duval.
And of course I find it very delightful to imagine Cavill as Duval.

And dear Pagan gods of yore, Gavriel Duval- Ismae’s love interest- is the stuff that Disney princes are made of. If Disney made adult fairy tales. Duval is a ruggedly handsome devil with a heart of gold. There is a sarcastic, playful banter that takes place between Ismae and Duval, creating a most intoxicating slow-burn romance. Duval is the PERFECT match to Ismae’s character. He is the trifecta of Charming, Confident, and HOT. I could not get enough of Duval and Ismae together.

"Oh, my, Duval! What has come over you?!" " I can no longer resist you, Ismae. You have seduced me with your assassin charms!"
“Oh, my, Duval! What has come over you?!” ” I can no longer resist you, Ismae. You have seduced me with your assassin charms!”

The cast of supporting characters were interesting in their own right and colorfully depicted. Their story, as well as Ismae’s and Duvals is centered around the time period of Anne of Brittany’s succession, and you can read more about the historical context here.

The pacing of the novel was nice and steady. And despite its length, I never felt a lull. I imagine this book to be much like French cuisine is- a perfect blend of all the ingredients that make a book something to be savored and deliciously digested. In this sense, Robin LaFevers is a Master Chef.

Fans of Grave Mercy and books like it will also enjoy Rima Jean’s Knight Assassin. You can check out my review and casting of characters for Knight Assassin here.

Knight Assassin cover

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