by Robin LaFevers
To be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
on April 2, 2013
Source: e-ARC via NetGalley from the publisher for possible review. See my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.
Buzzwords: assassins, nuns, Anne of Brittany, historical romance
Connect with the author: website : Twitter : Facebook.
Summary (adapted from Goodreads:) Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. 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?
My take: I love historical fiction. And I really enjoyed the companion book to this one, Grave Mercy. You can read my review of that here. But here's what I loved about Dark Triumph. It doesn't matter if you've read Grave Mercy or not, or if you liked Grave Mercy or not, or even if you love historical fiction or not. While the two books are separate parts of a larger story, they are really completely different in structure and tone.
I loved Grave Mercy, but can see that it might appeal more to the diehard fan of historical fiction. Grave Mercy spent much more time on set-up and scene-setting, and on the assassins' training. The romance is (as I said in my review) of the very slow-burn variety.
Dark Triumph jumps right into action, just giving you the historical information you need to know to understand the story. Assassin nun Sybella has been sent to live in the home of d'Albret, a noble who is eager to wed young Anne of Brittany and gain control over her father's extensive holdings. Sybella knows d'Albret to be a cruel and evil man, and is desperately hoping that she will see the "marque" on him, a sign from St. Mortain, god of Death, that Sybella can kill him.
When Sybella receives instructions from the convent that she must rescue a prisoner in d'Albret's dungeon, the book becomes a nail-biting tale of suspense, filled with fight scenes and action. This is interwoven with the Sybella's story -- the slow revelation of the sad family situation that drove her to seek refuge in the convent.
Dark Triumph is an intensely emotional book, the story of Sybella's traumatic past. I usually don't read reviews before writing my own, but I broke my rule this time and did see that a few reviewers complained about insta-love in this story. I disagree. Yes, Sybella becomes obsessed with the mysterious prisoner who has survived so much. Her desire to keep him alive feels very personal; it seems that by saving him she feels that she can also save herself.
But it seems that every possible obstacle -- both literal and emotional -- stand between Sybella and "the Beast" ever coming together. Dark Triumph weaves a well-known Breton fairy tale into this story in a way that made me SO happy. Well done!
I highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and historical romance, as well as anyone who likes books with lots of action and emotion. I'd also recommend it to fans of fantasy like Game of Thrones -- this book takes place in 1487, right after the War of the Roses, which reportedly was a major inspiration for Game of Thrones. Not only does Dark Triumph have a similarly dark and suspenseful feel, it gives you a glimpse into a real-life game of thrones.