Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Historical fiction novels never fail to be new and exciting--it's like you're holding a time travel machine in your hands, and you don't need to worry about any of the tricky cause-and-effect business that could change the world as you know it. What's even better is when you have a kick-ass heroine to top it all off, and that's precisely what you get with Robin LaFevers's "His Fair Assassin" trilogy. "Dark Triumph" is the sequel to "Grave Mercy", which I remember gobbling up in a matter of hours, so naturally I squealed in excitement when I saw that the second installment of the trilogy was being released earlier this April!

Sybella thought she had finally escaped the prison of her home, thought that she was finally free from her brutal, merciless father and her brother's twisted love for her. But when the convent sends her back, armed with an assassin's skills of death and seduction, Sybella is thrust back into the darkness of her childhood home. 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?

As I mentioned before, one of the things I love the most about the "His Fair Assassin" trilogy are its undeniably strong heroines. "Grave Mercy" had the incredibly compelling Ismae, and with "Dark Triumph", we have the darker, mysterious Sybella. I was a little iffy when I found out that the second book wouldn't be in Ismae's point of view anymore, since I just loved her character so much. Nonetheless, it was still exciting to enter the perspective of another character from "Grave Mercy", and there's something undeniably fresh and new about that. Sybella has had a dark childhood, one that's left her scarred, distrustful and independent. I do have to admit, however, that while her plight is horrible and her character strong, Sybella herself wasn't as compelling a heroine to me as Ismae was. She was just too serious the entire time, and there was a sprinkle too much of her fighting her emotions for me to really get into her character. This is not to say that she isn't an interesting protagonist to follow throughout the novel; instead, I feel like there could've been more to her character that would've made her even more likable and engaging.

That being said, there's some great stuff going on with the overall cast of characters. I was especially happy to see that Beast was making a reappearance, this time as an even more major character, though I was a little surprised to find out that he's actually pretty young. I somehow got the impression that he was in his fifties when I was reading "Grave Mercy"... Regardless, Beast is a loyal, lovable character who is the perfect match for Sybella, especially with their similarities in their love of fighting and loyalty. D'Albret was also the perfect villain, made all the more heinous as Sybella's own father. He made me feel all icky inside--no wonder Sybella had to escape from her own home! But one character that I found particularly interesting was Julian, Sybella's half brother who loves her more than a brother should. While the whole idea of incest painted him in a dark light, Julian became more understandable and open to sympathy as the novel progressed and details about their history was revealed, rendering him as a complex character whom I couldn't help but feel pity for towards the end of the book.

One thing I was a little disappointed at, however, was the plot. I felt like there wasn't anything that was on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting save for the showdown at the end. The storyline, to me, was fairly linear, with nothing too compelling that had me flipping through the pages. The climax was exciting, but other than that I wasn't entirely invested in what was going on, especially with all the political stuff going on in fifteenth century Brittany that's a little hard to follow if you don't pay attention. There's such amazing potential for a gripping, thrilling story, but ultimately, it fell a little flat.

Overall, "Dark Triumph" possesses amazing potential, with great character development and a strong, independent heroine. In the end, however, it fell short of the standards set by the first book in the "His Fair Assassin" trilogy, but it's still definitely worth a read.

Rating: 3.5/5

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