Title: Dark Triumph
Author: R.L. LaFevers
Genre: Historical fiction, young adult, fantasy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, 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?
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Grave Mercy, because of the richness of the world, the interesting characters, and all the politics and intrigue. Dark Triumph has all of that, but there's just a little something else that makes this book better than the first.
The second book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy is narrated by Sybella, a character you see very little of in the first book. When you find out about her past, your heart shatters for this girl who has managed to endure through so much. Sybella has been asked to act as a spy in d'Albert's household on behalf of the duchess; she longs more than anything to get revenge and kill the man who has brought so much misery to innocent people. But when her orders finally arrive, they aren't waht she expects, and Sybella finds herself on a journey she hadn't anticipated.
This is definitely a darker story than the previous book, but I enjoyed it more. While Ismae was naive at times, Sybella is just the opposite. She isn't a perfectly good person - she has been complicit in terrible things, and even enjoys killing. She's also no stranger to the brutality of the world, and she's a very strong character, yet she's also deeply broken. I liked what she learned from Mortain better than what Ismae took away from her meeting with him.
Although there was a lot less politics in this book, the historical backdrop was equally engaging and intriguing. This book is more about personal struggles rather than the war, although the war is a large part of this novel as well. I don't want to say too much so as not to spoil anything, but I liked the way different characters' relationships developed over the course of this novel. Some people come off as twisted at first, and then you see another side to them; others seem brutish and prove to be incredibly gentle.
I highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and fantasy; the assassin nuns are back, better than ever!