Previous Installment: Grave Mercy
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. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella 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. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. 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?
This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats.
Knowing exactly how much I loved Grave Mercy, I could hardly wait to dive into Dark Triumph. While I adored Ismae and Duval’s story, I really wanted to know more about Sybella, and what exactly her task was that brought her into the political upheaval of Anne’s attempt to keep the duchy of Brittany from French control. I was expecting something politically-driven, as that’s precisely what Grave Mercy was, and while there were some politics on the fringe of this story, what we got instead was Sybella’s personal journey from a girl who was so consumed with darkness she barely wished to live, to one who winds up being so incredibly strong that I came away feeling even more emotionally attached to her than Ismae.
I don’t want to mince words here. Sybella’s story is dark and horrifying, and her despair is so thick at times it’s difficult to read. While Ismae had a bad life prior to coming to St. Mortain’s, Sybella’s was downright awful. And while it takes a while for all of her past – and the horrors of her childhood – to come to light, it is very clear what an impact growing up in her father’s household had on her. Not only does she have a bleak outlook on her own life, but her interactions with everyone around her are likewise colored in that same gray despair. It is precisely this that makes her growing relationship with Beast so satisfying to read.
While Beast may not be every reader’s dream of a man, I couldn’t help but love him despite his flaws. His way of embracing life and living it to its fullest – despite not being the best looking guy in the world – is infectious, not only for Sybella but for everyone reading the book he’s featured in. Like Duval, Beast has flaws, but is still so completely swoon-worthy despite them that I had a smile on my face throughout most of his appearances in the book. I loved how we got background on him, how Sybella’s past was tied to him, and how – most of all – he was able to help lift her out of the darkness that surrounded her. Their interactions were witty and smart, while still having that edge of compassion and affection, especially toward the end. Knowing just how much I adored both him and Duval, I cannot wait to see what kind of male counterpart she has in store for us in the third book!
I also found this book to read much more quickly than Grave Mercy, probably because all of the background and setup had been taken care of in that book. We definitely get to dive straight into Sybella’s narrative without any delays in the storytelling, and the book has a very real pace of “go, go, go” that was sometimes missing in Ismae’s tale. There is a lot at stake in this story, and the danger of the time period – and Sybella’s family – is certainly ratcheted up. I also liked the little glimpses of what might come next in the series, and the way both Ismae and Sybella have come to stand on their own two feet, more certain of their places in the world. This bodes well for Annith in the third book, although I wouldn’t be surprised in Mrs. LaFevers throws us a curve or two along the way!
Dark Triumph is very much a story of personal journey and hardship. While there’s still quite a bit of the “assassin nun” theme that so drove folks to pick up Grave Mercy, I think readers will become far more enamored with Sybella’s slow reconciliation with the life she’s been dealt, and her ultimate path to the freedom she so desires. If you loved Grave Mercy you definitely need to pick this one up!
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.