Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Dark Triumph, by Robin LaFevers


4.25 stars

I lean forward, pushing my body out past the battlements. The wind plucks at my cloak, buffets against me, as if it would carry me off in flight, just like the birds or the knight’s soul. Let go, it cries, I will take you far, far away. I want to laugh at the exhilarating feeling, I will catch you, it whistles seductively.

The convent has returned Sybella to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

It seems as though many who came into this book regarded Grave Mercy as a disappointment, and I can understand that. Personally, while I had my complaints, I thought Grave Mercy was pretty good effort, but after reading Dark Triumph, I immediately wanted to change its 4-star rating to 2. It’s true! I was told Sybella’s story was compelling, but wow. WOW. I think this is the most visceral reaction I’ve had to a character/backstory coming from a fantasy book, and a historical fantasy book at that! I wanted so badly to give it 5 stars, but due to a few problems I’ve experienced in Grave Mercy as well, I reduced my rating a tad. Nevertheless, Dark Triumph is one of the most enjoyable and painful (in a good way) fantasy releases I’ve read in a while.

As Grave Mercy was told in the perspective of Ismae, Dark Triumph tells the story of Sybella, another handmaiden of Death, after the duchess of Brittany has successfully escaped and found refuge in the capital of Rennes. Sybella, however, still stays in the castle, where she was sent to from the convent a while back with a promise of killing D’Albret, her cruel father and villain of the story. As Sybella painfully adjusts to her old life and looks to gain information on D’Albret and his future plans to capture the duchess, she receives orders from the convent to release the Beast Of Waroch from his imprisonment, into Rennes, to help protect the duchess and fight in the inevitable battle. As Sybella unknowingly gets dragged into Beast’s journey, she discovers a plethora of secrets about the upcoming battle she will have to face, or battles rather. Battles involving politics and court intrigue, battles with the convent, battles with her past, and most importantly, battles with herself.

I adored the writing, as expected. It’s sophisticated and quite formal, very similar to the what the actual speech in the 1400s could have been, but it is constantly brimming with life and never boring. The conversations are never forced or feel fake to create drama (and in this book, there is a lot of drama but it’s not necessarily a bad thing), which explains the wonderful character writing, specifically pertaining to emotion. Unfortunately, Dark Triumph suffers the same problems that Grave Mercy did, and that is, the slow pacing and unnecessary amount of long, dragging paragraphs. While I think this book is much more cohesive and has better flow than its predecessor, I still believe that Sybella’s story and the turmoil of war and a broken nation could have been told without the amount of description overpowering the dialogue.

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