Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers (3 out of 5)
This is Robin LaFevers second book in the My Fair Assassin series. I picked it up when it came out over a year ago, but couldn’t get into it, so I put it back and forgot about it. We needed a Young Adult pick at work, so I typed up a review for Grave Mercy and put it up. Since I did that, I felt obliged to go and finish the second book. I loved that first book so much, it only seemed intelligent to read the followup- better late than never. I had a hard time really getting into it this time around also, so maybe it wasn’t just me. I hope her next one knocks it out of the ballpark.
Sybella arrives at the convent of St. Mortain. This is no ordinary convent- the sisters serve Death. Yes, THE Death. They will gladly help you along your path, but at a price- you have to serve their mission and serve Death. Sybella is a dark seductress skilled in the arts of passion and prey. She has no problem stalking, wounding, and killing those who get in her way in her mission. In this case, her skills really don’t mean jack shit when lodging in the convent sends her back into the direction she came from, nearly getting her killed in several very close encounters. Her attempts to help Anne escape also lead her to chances to kill the evil D’Albret, who, by no mere chance, is also her father. Confused? I was for a bit. Then when I did get it all sorted out, she lost her edge by falling tits over ass for the Beast of Waroch.. In Grave Mercy, when Ismae fell for her tormented knight, it added so much to the story. In this book, it takes a little bit more glitter off of Sybella. I just did not enjoy her as much as Ismae. Ismae struck me as more of a victorious, good natured person who was trying to do the right thing. Sybella spends most of the book being pissed off, malicious, and jaded. While you garner that some of these wiles are necessary to overcome the obstacles presented, you hope for a little bit more humanity in Sybella. It never passes the finish line.
It wasn’t just the character- I like the Beast well enough, but I hope Sybella stops being such a sourpuss. She moans and complains, and does her “Sheena Warrior Princess” act to great effect, but you stop caring because she’s so jaded that it falls flat. You feel as if the whole thing is a reason for her to bitch and find more excuses to hide behind. There is nothing of Ismae in her, and that’s a shame. D’Albret is another whole level of evil, as we saw in the first book, and that continues here, to great effect. As much as I hated the character, I loved the character- more than Sybella. Therein, my dear reader, is most of my problem with the book.
I loved the seamless storytelling, however. LaFevers knows how to suck the reader in and how to paint the landscape of the danger in that time, and in how the spector and nuns of Death work together in the unholiest of countries, times, and alliances. There was just some flatness in the narrative, and I think the fact that it was first person didn’t help. (I’m not a big fan, to be honest). And again, I wanted to kick Sybella with my steel-toed boots throughout half the book. I hope and pray for the 3rd to change my perceptions back to book 1.