Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, # 2)
By: Robin LaFevers
Published: April 2nd 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Source: Personal Kindle Library (Christmas present, thank you Melissa!)
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Goodreads description--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...
I really enjoyed Grave Mercy. I was drawn into this series based off two things alone: assassins and historical fiction. I love the idea of nuns who are also assassins. It’s a great concept.
We met Sybella in Grave Mercy. The only thing we really know of her is that she is wild and tormented, and possibly on the brink on insanity. I wasn’t looking forward to swapping from Ismae to Sybella because of this reason and also because of how much I loved Ismae in Grave Mercy. I didn’t exactly want to read from the perspective of a borderline insane assassin, but Sybella is actually in a better headspace than I assumed she would be. And I truly came to love Sybella as a leading character--though not quite as much as Ismae.
Dark Triumph picks up on the battlefield of Nantes where d’Albert has set his trap for the duchess. Sybella has found a way to the north tower to watch what will transpire and, against all odds, warn Ismae of the trap laid before them. We find out quickly that while Sybella is d’Albert’s daughter that doesn’t save her from his clutches, and she receives no special treatment for being blood related to him. The abbess has sent Sybella back to her father’s household to spy on his movements with the promise that Sybella can kill him as soon as Mortain marques him for death. However, no matter what all d’Albert has done, he bears no marque and Sybella has begun to think that the abbess has lied to her in order to manipulate her. Having had enough manipulation in her life, Sybella borders on out and out rebellion, but when word comes from the abbess to rescue the prisoner held in the dungeon and Nantes, Sybella knows that she must accomplish this and then she will kill her father whether he is marqued or not. Sybella’s been through it in her life, time and time again, and she’s lacking the faith to continue on. However, she finds new reasons to live, and I love the complete emotional turn-around that she has throughout the book.
The prisoner that Sybella rescues is none other than Beast, Duvall’s friend that we also met in Grave Mercy. But Beast interrupts Sybella’s plan to kill d’Albert and forces her on the journey with him back to Rennes and to the duchess. Of course, Beast and Sybella begin to develop feelings for each other. And I loved this because I was afraid this book would be romance free. I love that Beast isn’t described as being attractive, yet Sybella falls for him because of his character and not because of the way he looks. However, Sybella has a dark past filled with secrets, and Beast will have to learn and overcome each of these secrets before Sybella will accept his affection as being real.
Robin LaFevers writes in language appropriate to the time period, yet her sentences still flow smoothly. And I love the fact that she has carefully chosen each word. While the majority of her writing isn’t necessarily lyrical or poetic, she has moments that are just that. My favorite quotes (probably too many quotes, but I had a hard time narrowing them down):
“A crossbow would work, but they are nigh unto impossible to conceal, and so I watch helplessly.”
“The man’s death cry reaches all the way up to the tower and wraps itself around my heart, calling for me to join it.”
“It is a good thing that I no longer have a heart, because if I did, it would surely break.”
“He does not love us because of the acts we perform in His name—He loves us because we are His.”
“If you hit me again, I will kill you,” I whisper.
“It is not hitting I have in mind.” And then his hands move up to cradle my head, making me feel small and fragile—no, not fragile, but cherished. As if I am some precious treasure.
I surrender to that kiss—surrender to the strength and the courage and the sheer goodness of the man.
Death has brought the fellowship that life could not.
--out of the ashes of despair, they have found forgiveness and acceptance. If they can, perhaps so can I.
Like a lamb in a field that trots unerringly to its own mother, I know that I am His.
I feel like some parts of Robin LaFever’s stories, both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph, are symbolic in nature, and this just added to the overall appeal of this series and this author for me.
Dark Triumph has flawed characters, but ones that you can truly root for. The phrasing and symbolism make the story that much deeper. And who can really turn down a series about a convent of assassins? Dark Triumph exceeded my expectations in just about every way. Dark Triumph gets 4 Stars from me. Have you read Dark Triumph? What did you think? Let me know!