Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Children
Publication date: April 2nd 2013
Source: Purchased from Fully Booked
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble
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...
(Image and summary taken from Goodreads.)
I literally marathoned the whole His Fair Assassin series and yes, I have read Mortal Heart but my review will be posted at a later date (spoiler: I loved it!). When I finished Grave Mercy a few days ago, I gave a huge sigh of relief and did a happy dance knowing that I already had a copy of Dark Triumph on hand. When I found out that the story would center on Sybella, I was more than a little excited to read it. When Sybella was introduced in Grave Mercy she was wild and crazed but as she trained, the darkness that she kept inside of her dimmed and she was sent out on her fourth assignment but has not yet returned (even after a really long time). And Dark Triumph explains what happened to Sybella and pretty much her backstory in general. Also, Dark Triumph begins a few chapters into Grave Mercy meaning they sort of overlap so you can choose to reread the very latter part of Grave Mercy, if you want to.
Okay, it's super hard to do this review without revealing too much so I'll do my best to be as objective and vague but still informative as possible.
A few chapters into Dark Triumph (the operative word being "few"), you will immediately find out who Sybella's family is and let me tell you, her fam-fam is craaaay. They were the reason why Sybella got all kinds of messed up and was scarred for life. Reading about her fear and vulnerability broke my heart because even though Sybella seemed fragile and teetering on the edge of sanity, she was actually really strong. More physically than emotionally/psychologically, though. Having trained in the St. Mortain's convent and being one of his handmaidens helped her regain some of her light back but being sent out by the abbess to investigate/spy on her family brought back the memories of all the horrors that happened to her at the hands of her family (I used the collective term because it really wasn't just one person who wronged her). And oh gosh, reading about her love for her sisters and her desperation to protect them made me want to ugly cry. Sybella really was a contradiction, she was immensely powerful but also very weak, she was cold but emotional and was afraid but insanely brave as well. I was in awe of her.
Sybella is always described as beautiful, cunning, aloof and well-educated in the art of seduction so when I found out who her "love" interest would be, I was shocked, amused and really giddy. To answer your question, the guy in Dark Triumph is Beast. Beast is the opposite of Sybella; he is big, ugly (he is literally described to be the ugliest man Ismae has seen in Grave Mercy) and gives of scary fluffy teddy bear vibes. I loved Beast, even in Grave Mercy he is such a great person. His loyalty to the duchess and willingness to fight never failed to amaze me. The way you will see him through Sybella's eyes will leave you stunned. Beast's determination and will was just... wow.
Most people would wonder how the two would come to be since it was like Beauty and the Beast all over again. Well, it kind of was but not in the way you're thinking... however, it may have involved someone getting punched and kidnapping but that's all I am going to say. Haha! But seriously speaking, the romance between Beast and Sybella transcended beyond physical appearances and aesthetic appeal, it was all about personality and who was more stubborn between the two. Even though it seemed like they were giving I-don't-like-you vibes to each other, you can easily see the bond forming between them. They understood each other but they also rallied against the other, they just balanced each other so perfectly. I especially love the scenes when Beast was recovering and he kept wanting to rescue people, ever the hero that man. Sybella tried to hide it but I knew she was smiling on the inside, haha! Beast and Sybella made for a very formidable but sweet couple, it may sound cheesy, but they completed and complemented each other.
Dark Triumph was very action-y compared to Grave Mercy which was more about politics and the state of the duchess and her affairs. Robin LaFevers did not spare any details when it came to the action scenes in this book, the fights were quick, calculated but also managed to feed my thirst for violence. And the thing is, even Sybella enjoyed it. The feel of steel slicing through flesh and the ringing sound that accompanies the unsheathing of a blade. Although Sybella was conflicted about it and questioned her morality, it all came to play in the end.
Dark Triumph was dark, way darker than I expected it to be but I ate it all up anyway. The secrets that were uncovered and the things that were revealed will shock you to your very core. And the thing is, you will not be able to stop reading. You will just find yourself flipping through the pages trying to absorb as much as you can and then when you get to the end, you will definitely be begging for more. It's not to say that Dark Triumph had an unsatisfying ending because in my opinion, the book ended beautifully but you will want more of Robin LaFevers and her crazy amazing writing.
To say that I loved Dark Triumph would be the biggest understatement ever. It was haunting but managed to be so beautiful that my heart hurt because of all the feels inside. I keep asking myself why it took me so long to read this series but I can not find an excuse, hey, better late than never! Haha! Robin LaFevers did not just write a stunning sequel to an already beautiful first book, she managed to morph and transform a tarnished, deformed hunk of metal into a shining, powerful blade because that is exactly what Dark Triumph was, a weapon. One that was used to slay fears, enemies but also brought new beginnings to its characters. It was magic.