April 7, 2014

Dark Triumph - Robin LaFevers

[Note: This is the second book in the His Fair Assassin series, and there may be spoilers for the first book. Feel free to check out my review of Grave Mercy (book 1) instead!] 

Dark Triumph Robin LaFevers
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Hardcover

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. (from Goodreads)

While I really enjoyed its predecessor, Dark Triumph is the novel that confirmed my genuine adoration of the His Fair Assassin series. It is not the easiest book to like, with a guarded, prickly main character, and a world full of violence, hatred, and revenge. It is gritty, and frightening, and disturbing – and yet, there is still something truly hopeful to be found in Sybella’s story. 

Once again, LaFevers demonstrates her ability to weave a compelling, readable tale. The characters, both familiar and new, are dealing with the aftermath of the events in Grave Mercy. The kingdom seems to be falling apart, there is simply no way to figure out who is trustworthy and who is not – and while these things are terrible, there is still a small glimmer of hope. 

Dark Triumph sets us right in the middle of the dark side, a startling change of pace from the troubled, yet mostly good side that we experienced at court in Grave Mercy. It is an interesting way to shift perspectives, and I believe that LaFevers meant to use it in two ways: to help readers understand better the true nature of the villain, and to showcase Sybella’s bleak history.

It is within these pages that readers will learn the lengths to which people will go to unseat the duchess and either claim the throne for themselves, or surrender to France. There are many opinions about the best way to proceed, but most of them are formed on the foundation of personal gain. The political intrigue, and the dangerous games it brings, is still very much at play here. What makes Dark Triumph different is the fact that readers will now bear witness to how much evil exists, and learn more about it. It makes me shudder to recall the many heartbreaking, disgusting events that occur, but it also helped me understand what kind of motivation and ruthlessness Ismae, Sybella and the rest of their cohorts are facing.

But Dark Triumph is, at its heart, really the story of Sybella. Her character is introduced in Grave Mercy, and the tantalizing hints we get there are irresistible. But it is in this novel where I truly fell in love with her character. Sybella is difficult, and at times, hard to feel a connection to, and in turn, hard to like. But she’s only that way because of her childhood, which was filled with violence, hatred, anger and fear at the hands of her father. Her story unfolds carefully, slowly, and my heart ached to see what she had been through. Learning more about her helped me be sympathetic to her cause, and more understanding of her ways.

Thank goodness for a few bright spots in Sybella’s life – including Benebic de Waroch, also known as Beast. Their relationship is tumultuous, developing so rapidly it has just the faint air of insta-love to it. But there’s a genuine foundation to it, built on a mutual respect for each other’s skills, independence and a full acceptance of their darker sides. I was seriously swooning over these two, whether they were at odds or on the same side (especially Beast).

[Seriously, Shae totally called it when she said I could have Beast on Twitter that one time. I can never resist the scarred warrior, who is still willing to go into battle again and again for the right cause. Beast is a natural leader, full of charisma, charm and forcefulness. His loyalty to his friends and his cause, his understanding of Sybella and his unexpected humorous remarks simply won me over.]

In case the gushiness of this review hasn’t made it clear yet, I loved Dark Triumph. It raises the stakes for Brittany, ensuring that whatever happens in Mortal Heart will be climactic and either the rise and fall of the country. But it also lets us get to know Sybella and her story, including her swoony romance with Beast. Dark Triumph is a both an entirely wonderful novel on its own, and a great second book that builds on the existing story while leaving room for an epic conclusion.


  1. I liked Grave Mercy, but not quite as much as most. However, I still look forward to continuing with this series, especially as I've heard such great things about Dark Triumph from so many different people. I love that Sybella isn't your average main character, and I can't wait to finally get to know this Beast. Brilliant review, Alexa! :)

  2. YES! This one is my favorite of the two, which says a lot considering how much I adored Grave Mercy. I feel like I'm always drawn to the darker novels in a series. Glad you loved this one and I can't wait for us to read Mortal Heart!

  3. I loved this one a ton but I still think I may have loved Grave Mercy a little bit better. ALTHOUGH it is only like by a teensy fraction more. This is just such a well-written and unique series and honestly, I will be sad when it is over. Great thoughts, Alexa. I'm glad you liked this one. I'm always happy to see when people are reading these books and enjoying them. Maybe I should reread soon. (:

  4. I was a little worried after the awesome that was Grave Mercy but Dark Triumph stole my heart! Cannot wait to read Mortal Heart!!!!!!

  5. I read Grave Mercy ages ago, but I think it's time to pick up Dark Triumph! Everything you said here makes me think I'll love it.

  6. Great review, Alexa! Grave Mercy was an intriguing new addition to historical fantasy within YA, but Dark Triumph pushes the boundaries even farther. It's dark, gritty, and heartbreaking, but I love Sybella's strength and determination. Her romance with Beast was swoony as hell too.

    I can't wait for Mortal Heart (such great book titles, too)!

  7. I read and loved Grave Mercy and pre-ordered this one... and I still haven't read it! Your review reminded me that I *really* need to get back into this series. The first was such a great read, and I'm kicking myself that I haven't gotten to Sybella's story yet.


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