His Fair Assassin (Book 2)
By Robin LaFevers
Available now from Houghton Mifflin (HMH)
Read my review of GRAVE MERCY
GRAVE MERCY was one of my favorite books of 2012 so DARK TRIUMPH, the second book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, had a lot to live up to. Robin LaFevers does not try to repeat GRAVE MERCY, giving Sybella her own story.
Sybella is a very different person from Ismae. She's more wild and vicious. At the same time, she is more self contained, careful not to let others close, because she grew up in a home full of betrayal. She can trust herself and herself alone. She never trusted the abbess and knows she was right not to when she's sent back to her home in order to spy. Her father, d'Albret, is a monster and she longs for the order to kill him. In the meantime she enjoys assassinating his underlings.
DARK TRIUMPH begins with Sybella warning Ismae and the duchess, risking the exposure of her true loyalties. It is not an inviting beginning for new readers. Who the characters are, their relationships to each other, who is important and why is not explained. The religion of LaFevers alternate Brittany is not explained either, thus new readers must puzzle out who Mortain is and how is handmaidens work for themselves. I even found myself wishing for a small refresher on the world since it's been awhile since I last read GRAVE MERCY.
I soon fell back into the swing of things. The scope of DARK TRIUMPH is smaller. Sybella's focus is moving past her family's history rather than the duchess and the future of Brittany. She cares about what happens, but it isn't her priority. I loved the politics of GRAVE MERCY and yet, I didn't miss them. LaFevers progresses the overarching plot of the trilogy, but she doesn't force Sybella places she doesn't belong. Some might be disappointed by how different the two books are, though I think more readers will appreciate the detail given to Sybella's character. I can't wait to see what LaFevers does with Annith in MORTAL HEART.
In addition to espionage, murder, and sabotage, DARK TRIUMPH features a daring rescue and perilous flight across the countryside. Sybella finds herself accompanying the Beast of Waroch, a berserker imprisoned by her father. He's not handsome, but he is ridiculously noble and tough. He's very similar to Sybella, but different from her in ways that provide for perfect balance. DARK TRIUMPH is less steamy than GRAVE MERCY, but I found myself swooning more. Although he would not believe it, the Beast is as much a fairytale hero as his name would imply.
Anyone intrigued by Sybella and her secrets in GRAVE MERCY will devour DARK TRIUMPH with relish. Her family is truly horrifying, and she deserves to find healing and absolution. LaFevers continues to make history and fantasy collide in the most delightful way. DARK TRIUMPH delivers all the action and romance His Fair Assassin fans could hope for.