Historical Fantasy

Review: Dark Triumph

Cover of "Dark Triumph," featuring a girl in a dark cloak holding a sword with the title in white text
Image from Robin LaFevers

Title: Dark Triumph

Series: His Fair Assassin #2

Author: Robin LaFevers

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Warning: This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of book one, Grave Mercy.

Back Cover:

Sybella arrived at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that served Death were too happy to offer her refuge – but at a price. Naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, Sybella is the convent’s most dangerous weapon. But those assassin’s skills are little help when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love equally monstrous. 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?

Review:

After the awesome fun of Grave Mercy, I couldn’t wait for Dark Triumph to come out. But when I finally got my hands on it, I became a little less excited – this book follows Sybella, a different assassin-nun mentioned in Grave Mercy, and I wanted more of Ismae.

In Grave Mercy, I remembered Sybella as being the deadliest and slightly insane. So I was surprised at how much I liked her. She’d suffered so much at the hands of her father and brothers…she was so scarred and angry and all she wanted was vengeance. She also had an interesting faith journey – even though her religion was a little crazy, I could relate to the feelings.

I don’t usually mention the “bad guy,” but I just have to say something about D’Albret because he was so completely and utterly evil. He’d kill people on suspicion. He’d kill people for failure. He’d kill people because he didn’t like them or because they weren’t essential to his plans. He’d kill a newborn baby for no reason whatsoever. Rape and incest were just fun for him. I cannot think of another character I’ve read who was as evil as Sybella’s father.

While a few of the characters carry over from the previous book (the duchess, the Beast of Waroch, Ismae, and Duval), most of them only had minor parts. The general cast of Dark Triumph was a whole new set of people.

The plot of Dark Triumph was somewhat similar to Grave Mercy‘s – Mortain’s daughter sent undercover to a noble house to kill people – but was still very different. There was very little courtly intrigue (D’Albret was more into murder than intrigue) and lots of senseless death. There was even quite a bit of incest, which I would normally have hated, but it was in the past and it was handled as a traumatizing event, so I didn’t mind.

The put-the-duchess-on-the-throne plot was continued in Dark Triumph, but it wasn’t as strong. It moved along, but the story focused more on Sybella and her emotional journey. Which, to be honest, I enjoyed. After all, with Sybella, there’s a pretty high chance of action.

Just like in Grave Mercy, my biggest problem with Dark Triumph was with the romance. And it wasn’t the characters, or the romance itself – I just couldn’t get over how I thought the guy was way too old for Sybella. (I’m not saying who he is – that would be a spoiler.) From my estimates (I don’t think their ages were ever actually mentioned) I put Sybella in the 18-20 range and the guy in the 35-40 area. I’m not sure how true that was, but every time something romantic happened, I kept thinking how this guy was probably old enough to be her dad.

I loved Dark Triumph just as much as Grave Mercy. I grew to love Sybella, but I still wanted to see more of Ismae. I think it would be really awesome if the third book, Mortal Heart, alternated perspectives of the two, but according to the blurb in the back of my copy, it’s going to follow a different daughter of Mortain altogether. But I still want to read it.

His Fair Assassin series:

  1. Grave Mercy
  2. Dark Triumph
  3. Mortal Heart
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