THAT COVER. *wants it now* I was drawn to Sybella in GRAVE MERCY and her story sounds every bit as amazing as I expected! I cannot WAIT to read it!
Thoughts after reading: I was a little underwhelmed by this one, but it was still really good, and a great follow up to GRAVE MERCY. Sybella was a fabulous, flawed heroine who I loved, and the romance was genuine, if a little fast. Full review coming soon.
Final Review (also appears at Once Upon a Prologue
Grave Mercy was one of the books I fangirled over the most in 2012; it was just beautiful, macabre, and unlike anything I'd ever read. I don't read much YA historical fiction but when I do, I tend to fall in love with whatever book I choose in that genre. I loved Ismae and Duval in Grave Mercy, and waited forever, and EVER for Dark Triumph. The publisher was generous enough to allow me to read an e-galley but as much as it pains me to say, I wasn't quite as enamored with Dark Triumph as I was with Grave Mercy.
Dark Triumph picks up hot on the heels of Grave Mercy, and we see so many characters - good AND bad - and familiar events from the first book through Sybella's eyes. I think part of my problem is, although I loved Sybella, and wanted to hug her and protect her, because we only saw her from Ismae's point of view in Grave Mercy, I think I expected something MORE from her. She's a very sympathetic character, but she was built up so much in Grave Mercy, so for me she fell a little short of the mark in Dark Triumph. Maybe I was expecting her to still be "half mad from grief," as the synopsis alluded, but whatever was missing, I wrestled with my conflicting emotions about Sybella throughout Dark Triumph. That said, I DID like her - she's very fierce, and very loyal to those she cares about, which earned her lots of points with me.
Dark Triumph was one of those books that I read slowly, because despite not clicking with Sybella as much as I wished, I was once again drawn right into Robin LaFever's gorgeous, heady writing, and brilliantly alive descriptions of Brittany, and various historical figures. My heart went out to so many characters - Beast, Duchess Anne, Sybella, Julian, and more. Dark Triumph hit me hard, and kept beating up my heart-strings.
Plot-wise, Dark Triumph is a stellar read. The pacing is spot-on as in Grave Mercy, and never feels hurried; at the same time, I was never bored while reading Dark Triumph. Anne's perilous hold on her power has never been in more danger, and although a large portion of Ms Lafever's novel focuses on Sybella trying to survive in her father's household, there was still the over-reaching plot of Duchess Anne's struggles, which tied everyone together. We also learn more about Mortain, and the old religions, and what the convent's true purpose is. *cue sinister music*
My heart went out to Sybella, seeing how she lived. A cossetted noblewoman on the surface, this facade hides Sybella's tortured childhood, her escape to the convent of Saint Mortain, and her return as an implant for the convent in her father's house. D'Albret is a monster, and I despaired, as did Sybella, if Mortain would ever marque him for the death he deserved. Robin LaFevers knows how to write her villains, her heroes, and her flawed characters.
Amidst everything else going on, including Sybella questioning Mortain's purpose for her, there's a beautiful undercurrent of self-acceptance and romance in Dark Triumph. We're reunited with one of my favorite characters, Beast of Waroch. Beast is just unfettered, and wild, and I adored him. It was very lovely, seeing him come to care for Sybella, although I preferred the slow-burning affection between Ismae and Gabriel in Grave Mercy. Best and Sybella developed feelings for one another so quickly I could *almost* call it insta-love, which frankly, irritated me. But at the heart, what's between them was genuine, so I did like the romance.
I have to mention Julian. Oh Julian. Right away I knew I was either going to love him or hate him, but I ended up getting so invested in him. He did terrible things, but dammit all to hell if I didn't end up tearing up a few times over him. Maybe it's because I read several books as a teen that showed character under intense duress where incest happened in a way I could support *only in the book, never in real life* or maybe it was just how tormented Julian was, but I couldn't help but believe he DID love Sybella.
Oh, my heart though. It BROKE for Julian, especially as he finally started to see things from Sybella's point of view. Her memories of him as her protector throughout childhood contrasted with his love for her just killed me. They were so tragically beautiful.
Dark Triumph wasn't quite the sequel the Grave Mercy I hoped it would be, but it was still a lovely read that I really did enjoy. And I have no doubts that I'll be adding a physical copy to my collection soon, while I wait - impatiently - for the third and final book!