I wanted to like this book. Honestly, I did. It seems right up my alley. If you were to tell me everything that happens in this book, I would nod alonI wanted to like this book. Honestly, I did. It seems right up my alley. If you were to tell me everything that happens in this book, I would nod along with a big grin on my face and say “wow, that sounds so cool!” It really is a great concept. Not just the basic premise, but all the way through, there are so many good ideas in here.
But it just didn’t pan out for me.
This is a book that is begging to be a doorstopper. In a market right now were too many books get inflated past all level of reasonableness, this one needs to be huge and it’s on the short side of average instead. Thanks to that, a lot of stuff feels glossed over and short-shifted. A lot of the emotional points in this book are told in summary instead of shown, and the setting ends up being very narrow. Not just the physical setting (although we do mostly just see the one isolated area) but the emotional setting as well. There’s supposedly a lot of tension between two factions in this country and a lot of simmering prejudice born of bad economic times…and really all we get to see are a few really happy parties and some fabulously wealthy background characters. Great idea, but not really selling it, there, book. Then we’ve got the Dagger Society, full of people who should be extremely interesting, and supposedly Adelina forges relationships with them enough to create conflict when she might have to betray them…and yet we don’t really get to see them interacting a lot. Mostly they’re only around when she’s training, at which point they’re sort of trying to attack her. They all had the potential to be interesting, but outside of a few broad brushstrokes I don’t know anything about them. (Same for the ‘romance’ in this book. There’s just a lot of violent training scenes and them BAM MAKE OUT TIME. And then WE MADE OUT THAT ONCE, WE’RE TOTS IN LOVE. If this is the trade-off for having the romance be a minor element, I’d almost rather have it more prominent.) If the book had taken the time to really explore all of these ideas and show them and delve into them, it could have been extremely interesting. As is, it feels more like a sales pitch than a story.
But what suffers the most from all this tell-y brevity is Adelina herself. I’ve seen other reviews debate over if she’s a strong character or not, if she’s a horrible person or an anti-hero or just delightfully surly. I…well…I sort of forgot she was there most of the time. Which is impressive since she’s the main character in a first-person novel. But really, I don’t see either side in that argument. She’s so bland she’s practically a non-entity. She’s a narrator more than she is a character, and all of the things that should make her interesting are just summarized for us. Beyond that, her central conflict is supposed to be how “dark” she is and all this “darkness” that is in her soul or whatever. Besides saying “the darkness stirred inside me” about 1983729834782093 times, I didn’t really pick up anything all that dark about her. Frankly, she has the patience of a saint considering all the shit she goes through, because a bit of self-defense and then getting mad at someone who keeps throwing fire at you does not constitute “dark” in my book. Nor do a few random thoughts that never get acted on. And “darkness” is never really explained very well. I get the feeling they mean something akin to evil, but going by what’s presented in the book, it really feels more like she’s “aligned” to depression. She just sits there, being sad and self-loathing a lot. Too much of her flibberting about “dark” was pure “tell” for me to buy into it at all, and since that’s most of her presence in this book, she ended up feeling like a placeholder. A good idea, but a terrible execution.
Plus, she doesn’t really have a place in this story. The author’s notes at the end say that she originally intended to write it about Enzo and switched to Adelina somewhere in the editing process, and it really shows. Adelina doesn’t affect the plot until the very end. She has a minor role to play in one of the missions, but nothing they couldn’t have easily worked around. They make plans to do stuff with her, but those plans always get abandoned. Even the big twist (which really should have come from Adelina, given the plot thus far) was generated by other characters. In fact, by a completely unknown character! (view spoiler)[ We never do find out who turned in Rafaelle… (hide spoiler)]
The ending did have a bit of a saving grace to it. I certainly didn’t see that coming, and Adelina’s relationship with her sister gets a very nice bit of complexity layered on it. Plus there’s a lot of potential for a second book, one where Adelina actually gets to do some stuff. Maybe the author will actually take a risk and let her do a bad thing or two.
Again, this book had a lot of potential, and if it had been expanded I think it could have been something incredibly marvelous. If you read for concepts, it’s certainly worth that. But this is sort of like the window shopping of books. You can look at all the pretty things, but then you have to move on before you get to play with them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I liked this book, and I think I should have been blown away by it, because it did a lot of things very right. But…I’m not really sure why I didn’t? Honestly, I think the first book in this series set me up for failure. I was so disappointed in Grave Mercy, and when I read Dark Triumph I kept waiting for the same pitfalls to show up. They never did, but that didn’t change my (lack of) emotional investment in the book. I wish I could go back in time and read this one first.
It’s very difficult to review a book that is, objectively, quite good but still left no emotional impression.
Dark Triumph took a lot of chances with its subject matter that I did very much appreciate. Sybella was great as a main character. She had a violent streak and a penchant for self-destruction and loathing, but she never lost her sympathetic side. All of her faults felt very human, so it was always easy to see her as a slightly dented person and not as a villain or a caricature. I’m not sure she even counts as an anti-hero, because while she’s got the tragic backstory part down, she’s always thoroughly on the side of good. Despite her self-doubts (which make sense for her to have) she doesn’t really cross the line into doing anything evil. I also like that she was allowed to be a violent fighter and enjoy that, and it was portrayed as a good thing. I think the book handled that issue well by having her doubt herself and examine her morals, and it described her pleasure in fighting as being a thrill born of skill. Normally I don’t like characters who enjoy violence, but I think that’s because so often it comes with a side effect of not considering the consequences, whereas here Sybella does think about consequences all the time, sets limits for herself, and still recognizes the good in what she does.
The romance aspects of the book were also a nice surprise for me. Sybella and her beaux were a great match for each other, and the plot kind of flirted with the “healed by love” trope without actually getting into the creepy pitfalls of that sort of story. There’s a lot of personal growth and self-reflection built into Sybella’s romance, and most of her progress felt very natural. I even smiled at how sweet and warm (and consensual) the sex scene was. (About the only thing wrong with the romance at all was the fact that I kept waiting for something to go wrong! Oh, and my usual complaint that falling in ‘love’ in the middle of a crisis probably isn’t as true as you think. People aren’t really themselves when on the run from danger; maybe save proclamations of undying affection until after your adrenaline dies down?)
The plot didn’t really have any surprises or take any chances, but it was pretty solid as a vehicle for all the fun character stuff going on. And there was nothing bad about it.
The one major complaint I had was the villain. d’Albert is painted as this big, huge, monstrous ball of evil to the point that it’s almost supernatural. Everyone is scared of the guy, even the trained assassin. At first it made sense why she didn’t just kill him, circumstances and misunderstandings conspired to make her think she couldn’t, but then afterwards? Why did everyone and their dog think it was so dangerous to try and kill the guy? They made it sound like he had super-strength and spidey-sense and could knock down mountains bare-handed. He’s just a dude. A human, squishy, very stabable dude. To give him (in the end, literally) supernatural levels of evil turns him into a bit of a cartoon.
So, overall, a nice offering and I really do like what it did with the concepts of dark characters and Death as a multifaceted deity and morality and self-acceptance. The book had a lot of good in it. I just…don’t feel anything, and in the end I can’t really be sure if that’s due to circumstances on my end or something to do with the book. ...more
BZRK Reloaded took everything BZRK had to offer and kicked it up to eleven. On the other hand, the whole thing suffered frSee more reviews on my blog.
BZRK Reloaded took everything BZRK had to offer and kicked it up to eleven. On the other hand, the whole thing suffered from a bit of “middle-book syndrome.” It was…good, but it didn’t really have its own story so much as it was a vehicle for moving us along to the final book.
Middle books are really hard. There’s a mix of good and things that are pretty distinct to middle books, especially in a series like this, which tells one long story instead of something with a more episodic set up. For instance, we got a lot more intensity out of the characters, because we didn’t have to spend any time setting them. Backstory, establishing scenes, “meeting all the other characters,” all of that was already done with, so we could jump straight into the development. And in this book’s case, it was quite excellent. There’s a lot going on with these characters are they get more and more embroiled in violence and all the guilt that goes along with that, and the connections between the characters get pretty intense.
On the other hand, the plot of the book turns into more of a very long set-up for the big shebang at the end. There wasn’t much of a goal in this one. Things just progressively got worse in an attempt to make the main conflict extra sticky and tense in BZRK Apocalypse. And it was, unfortunately, more obvious than usual in this book that that’s what was going on. It was all very interesting stuff, there’s no lie about that, but there was a sense that it didn’t really have a purpose besides 1) making chaos and 2) providing impetus for the characters to get more depressed.
Still, those character moments are what made this book. I would, quite honestly, read just about anything for the sake of those character moments. There was some stuff in here that was just really, really brilliant, and a lot of it happened outside of our main group of kids. Especially the plot line with the President, I was blown away by that. I loved the amount of focus that was put on people out in ‘the world.’ It gave the story a sense of being complete, of being part of a more complex world, instead of being focused on just a few random teenage kid-heroes. Of course other people would learn about the megalomaniacs. Of course they would try and do stuff about it. There are, after all, a lot of very observant people in the world, yeah? And there were just enough of those outside POVs to make the point without pulling too far away from the core group. (Although, I do wonder if that’s because our core group wasn’t doing much? Maybe I just didn’t mind being pulled away from them…)
Overall, it was a very emotional read for me, and that’s probably most of the draw. Yeah, the horror and the action are both still there, but give me that introspective despair any day of the week. ...more