Author: Robin LaFevers
Release: April 2nd 2013
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, YA
#2 in the His Fair Assassin trilogy
Companion novels: Grave Mercy, Mortal Heart
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...
Everyone has been praising this installment left and right, saying it was much, much better than its predecessor and all that, while I sit here and think the exact opposite. Yes, I liked Grave Mercy better. Not much, but a little.
There is one thing that I liked better about Dark Triumph than the other, which is its protagonist, Lady Sybella. While I didn't dislike Ismae, there was no love lost between us for sure, however, I really loved Sybella. At least when she was not having the ever recurring monologue about how she owes the Beast because of his sister blah blah blah. I liked her overall attitude, her emotions felt raw and real, her ambitions were understandable and so on; Sybella was a very fleshed-out and most of all, a very likable character. Most other characters get nice backstories and such as well, but Sybella is really the star of this show.
Or, wait, no. There is one other character besides Sybella that I really adored in this novel, which would be Julian, her brother. Yes, he may have been a little twisted and misled in his way, but his intentions were always true of heart and mostly honorable. He didn't know what was wrong with what he's doing, so how can you really blame him? I liked his complexity and how his actual personality is so at odds with the warped image Sybella has of him, because in the end we find out how great the guy really is. I really did like him a lot. More than the Beast.
Which brings me to the romance point. What I liked about Sybella and the Beast's romance was probably the Beauty and the Beast factor, but other than that, until the last 100 pages their attraction was lost on me. I can see why they would fit together and like each other, but it happened so fast and came out of nowhere basically, I was frowning more than once on Sybella's reappearing whining of how she can't love him because of some superficial, unnecessary reason. At least it felt unnecessary at that time, because it isn't until much later that we find out she actually has a little reason to feel this way. In the end, I enjoyed their relationship, but for most of the novel it only annoyed me.
As did plot mainly, because I just didn't feel it was all too exciting. In Grave Mercy, we at least had the nice court intrigue and political sideplots that kept it interesting, but this novel doesn't shine much with that. There is some political stuff in here too of course, but it's not as pronounced and important since Sybella doesn't have much to do with the duchess and her problems. I enjoyed the first 100 pages when Sybella was in d'Albret's household, then came their escape which I found quite dull, their stay in Rennes was okay and everything after that was boring until the last 50 pages where she confronts d'Albret. So all in all, truly enjoy did I only 150 pages. Of course, there were some moments here and there in between that I did like as well, but seriously, it doesn't change much anymore.
I mean, this book isn't really bad or anything, but it didn't really stand out, either. It had some better characters than Grave Mercy, and while it has way more action, it's not guaranteed to hold your attention. If you're looking for more do than talk, then try this out, but if you think you'd like plot twists and intrigue more, try the first installment. I'm definitely going to still read Mortal Heart, though, because now I'm more excited than ever to see if this trilogy is truly good or only mediocre. So far, it's been only mediocre.