Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Dark Triumph by R.L. LaFevers

Title: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2)

Author: R.L. LaFevers

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Where Grave Mercy was a lie, a novel about dancing and political parties deftly wrapped up with a bow-tie of kick-ass assassin-nuns that never assassinated, Dark Triumph is more of the dark, bad-ass story I was looking for with LaFevers's debut last year. Nevertheless, while Grave Mercy was a sore disappointment, I am glad to admit that Dark Triumph completely won me over. It seems to be the case this year that series I swore off of last year have come back to haunt me, making me eat my words with my utter love for their companion novels. It happened with Scarlet and it has happened again with Dark Triumph, so to any other companion novels out there? Come at me! ;)

Dark Triumph takes place in the same historic setting Grave Mercy was placed and the writing isn't significantly different either. Instead, what makes this novel so much better than its predecessor is that it is actually about assassin-nuns. Sybella is an experienced killer, but also the daughter of the evil Lord d'Albert, sent back to his home with the promise of extracting revenge upon him. Once within the castle, however, Sybella is thrown sharply back to her dark life, watching as friends are slaughtered ruthlessly by her father and forced to give into the wishes of her half-brother Julian who has become a lover instead of the childhood protector he once was. When Sybella receives orders to free a prisoner in the dungeons, the revered Beast, she resolves to exact her revenge on her father at last, all while freeing his most valued prisoner. Life, it seems, has slightly different plans for Sybella...

What makes Dark Triumph such a success for me is Sybella. Although the layers behind Sybella's dark past are artfully revealed as the novel progresses, it is evident from the beginning itself that she has lived a brutal life. As a woman, there is little use for her in her father's household and despite successfully dispatching of his allies, she longs to put an end to the man who has made her life a living hell. Yet, through these conditions, she perseveres. While her faith in Mortmain wavers at times, her courage and strength never does, making her an inspiring character in the way that naive, dancing Ismae never was. Furthermore, Sybella doesn't fear death or murder. What she fears is the spreading evil of her own family and her cursed existence as a d'Albert herself, but all this only makes her a far more full-fledged and hurting character than we imagine. As the full story of Sybella's past comes to light, it is only with awe that we can chart how far she has come, even from the  beginning of the novel.

Along with Sybella, though, the slow burning romance she shares with Beast is one to behold. Both Sybella and Beast share a love for killing, but they retain their humanity in a way d'Albert fails to. What makes their bond so strong, though, is the fact that Beast sees Sybella for who she is and never tries to stifle her. While the other men in Sybella's life mold her into what they want, Beast accepts Sybella as she is with her assassin skills, dark past, and treachery. Granted, he yearns to protect her, but he also knows that Sybella is more than capable of protecting herself - and he lets her. Although Beast has a large, scary, scarred, and ugly appearance, he is a complete softie inside and lacks the alpha male tendencies that make me roll my eyes. All in all, it's safe to say I've fallen for him - quite hard.

What prevents me from giving Dark Triumph a higher rating, however, is the fact that a solid eighty pages could be cut off from the beginning. Folks, it takes a long time to get the ball rolling on this plot line and it is wholly unnecessary. While it does shed much light on Sybella's past, I feel as if the same effect could have been achieved with a fewer number of pages. Additionally, Dark Triumph is one of those rare instances where I recognize that, technically, a book contains no flaws but a slight lack of connection with it yields to a lesser enjoyment of the book. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't enjoy the novel as much as I hoped, mostly because I liked it, but my enjoyment of it hovered on just mere like opposed to really enjoyed. Not sure why. I suspect it may be because of the first few chapters or even because the political scheme which was more war-related - which I really liked, mind you, but which did take away limelight from the characters on more than one occasion. Even the writing, at times, could be a bit off-putting in certain scenes, so all together, I did not wholly love this book.

Nevertheless, Dark Triumph is, as far as I'm concerned, a triumph when it comes to a solid sequel and I find myself eagerly looking forward to Annith's story next. If I'd found myself saying that last year, I would have been sorely surprised, but at this point, I am ready for more pleasant surprises to come my way.


  1. I'm so thrilled you ended up liking this more than GM. I enjoyed both but this one just a little more. Great reviews. :)

  2. Oh, good! I really, REALLY wanted you to at least like this! Unlike you, I simply adored Grave Mercy and thought that Dark Triumh was even better, mostly because it was more emotionally intense.
    Sometimes I don't connect with stories other people adore (take for example The Fault in Our Stars), although I recognize the quality, so I know exactly what you mean. Still, it makes me super happy that you at least moderately enjoyed Sybella's story. Hopefully Annith's will be even better.

  3. I liked Grave Mercy when I first read it, though I never did hyper love it like most people seem to have done. I can count on you to give me a different opinion every time. ;) So pleased to hear this book is better! That, at least, seems to be the general consensus. I'm really looking forward to Sybella's story now. Great review!

  4. Blah Blah Blah *finger in ears*

    I'm not listening! I'll come back and read this after I get my muddy paws on it, trying to know as little as possible going in. :P

  5. I seem be alone in my love for GM (no one will take my Duval from me that way at least), but I agree that Sybella's story is way more suited to the life of the assassin nun. Sybella is such an interesting character - her past is horrific, but I like that she likes her job. She may kill people, but it's not out of a personal need to do so, y'know? She does it because it must be done, and she's good at it.

    Anyway. Tangent aside, I agree about Beast. He's such a great love interest. I wish other authors would write more characters like him!

    Great review, so glad you liked it more than the first, Keertana!

  6. EEEEEE Keertana! What a coincidence. I actually just bought Grave Mercy today after reading all the great reviews on the book (although it took me quite a long time to convince myself to actually get the book :P) and I'm glad to hear that the sequel does not disappoint. I'm really looking forward to read Grave Mercy now!

    Awesome review, Keertana ♥ So glad you enjoyed it!

  7. I should hide again as I'm probably one of the rare people who haven't read Grave Mercy. I do have a book but I don't have time. I have heard only amazing things about the first book but I haven't seen reviews for the sequel. I see it's not perfect but still a good sequel. That's good. Great review :)

  8. LOVE this review! I didn't like Grave Mercy that much as well. I actually liked Beast more than Duval and the fact that the romance in this is interesting and the fact that it is actually about assassin nuns really appeals to me :)

    Krazyyme @ Young Readers

  9. I always take note of impressive sequels, especially when the series is one I chose to skip. I read some not-so-pos reviews of GM last year and decided not to read it but the fact that DT is good makes me want to give this series a shot!

  10. I can't wait to get my hands on this! I'm excited to hear Sybella's story and see some kickass assassins do their stuff. I just hope the slow beginning doesn't bother me too much. Great review, Keertana! :D

  11. I need to go and find your review again on GR and comment back! But I'm glad we both enjoyed this more than book 1. Another thorough, well written review from you, K.

  12. Well, I'm glad you decided to give this one a chance. I LOVED both books and completely connected with them both, but I do get what your saying about sometimes you can't really put your finger on why you didn't love it more. I didn't notice it being too long, which is surprising since I have had trouble focusing lately and my patience is shorter. One thing that may have been different is that I didn't realize she was in her father's castle. So everything that was revealed in the beginning (which most people already know going in) was new to me. And for some reason, shocking. I'm glad I didn't read the description!

  13. BRILLIANT review, Keertana. Truly! I love the points you made about Sybella, her cursed family, her fierce nature, and her questions of faith. And Beast, gah! Who knew that Battle-Lust could be so hot?? Magnificent review!

  14. I'm glad you were able to enjoy Dark Triumph more than Grave Mercy! I do agree that it was off-putting at first to realize that Ismae's training and life as an assassin nun was not a huge focus in the first novel - but I think I liked the political machinations much more than I would have liked her going around killing people anyway. It made the story a bit more introspective and thought-provoking. I am definitely interested in witnessing this historical fantasy world through Sybella's eyes, though, and it's encouraging to read that the majority of people seem to have enjoyed Dark Triumph even more!


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