Dark Triumph is a series that has it all: political intrigue, violence, drama, romance, and an unshakableOriginally reviewed on Read. Write. Discuss.
Dark Triumph is a series that has it all: political intrigue, violence, drama, romance, and an unshakable historical ambiance. I preordered Dark Triumphthe same day I finished its prequel, Grave Mercy, I liked the story and the characters so much.
Grave Mercy introduced us to the world of Brittany, 1489, and its convent of assassin nuns. Its protagonist, Ismae, has quite a long tale. Don’t be fooled by the length of the sequel — Sybella’s story is just as action-packed and darkly violent, even if it is a 150 pages shorter.
Reading Dark Triumph has changed my mind about Sybella. But before this review turns sycophantic, my one gripe: I was a little surprised that this book didn’t come with a trigger warning (or maybe I just failed to see it), because incest is a significant plot point. As squicky as incest is, seeing it in Dark Triumph made me mad as a self-publisher. Not too long ago many indies had their books booted from online retailers because they mentioned incest — and not just as titillation, which retailer policies banned — but when a big publisher like Houghton Mifflin is behind it, the book can just waltz right in. Of course, none of this is LaFevers fault, but it did annoy me personally.
I was a bit apprehensive that I wouldn’t enjoy Dark Triumph as much as I did Grave Mercy, because I didn’t really care for Sybella when she was introduced in Ismae’s story. I didn’t understand her character, and thought she was unnecessarily stubborn and difficult. In some ways, she read like a McGuffin, and I couldn’t fathom why the nuns of Mortain put so much energy and faith into her, never mind giving her the first assignment. Reading Dark Triumph has changed my mind about Sybella.
Ismae’s arc in Grave Mercy was very much about politics, with spiritual discovery and self-acceptance as accompanying themes. Dark Triumph differs in that it is much more about Sybella’s personal life, specifically, with the politics of Brittany as a backdrop. It’s about Sybella’s tormented childhood, the forces that threaten her now, and how the promise of killing her enemies is all that keeps her afloat — at least initially. Just as Ismae had to learn that she isn’t a reject, Sybella has to learn that she is worthy of love — and not the selfish, creepy, incestuous kind.
It’s kind of amazing how LaFevers manages to work non-cheesy romances into otherwise grim and violent stories. Sybella’s love story reminds me of a quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” She sees only darkness, her love interest is determined to see the joy in life, and these perspectives fundamentally shape the way they go through life and pursue love. All this without eclipsing or losing sight of the larger picture: there’s a war brewing.
The next story in the trilogy belongs to Annith, who was almost entirely absent in Dark Triumph due to her lack of contact with Sybella. I can’t wait to see what LaFevers has in store for her, because if the series progresses at the level it has been, the next book is going to be terrific....more