Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dark Triumph


Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
4.5/5 stars
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013
386 pages
YA Historical Fantasy

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

I liked Grave Mercy well enough last year but my experience was dampened by all the hype I read beforehand. Therefore I resolved to mostly avoid reviews before I read Dark Triumph, something I stuck to. And happily this was a better reading experience for me although there are several possibilities of why that is so. I highly recommend you do not read my thoughts until you have read Dark Triumph as there are definitely spoilers.

Initially I struggled as this book picks up near the end of Grave Mercy and depicts a scene from a different perspective. I could barely remember who anyone was and there are a lot of characters with French-ish names. Therefore I would suggest a rereading of Grave Mercy is in order before embarking on this book (if you have the time and inclination). Soon though this book stands on its own focusing on its beautiful broken heroine and I will share a few reminders here for you.

Sybella lives in the household of d'Albret, a traitor to Anne, duchess of Brittany, a vile and brutal man. His anger and cruelty have left a deep mark on her; the promise of being able to kill him is the only thing that brought her back to his household after earning an escape in the abbey serving St. Mortrain (where she met Ismae and Annith, who will be the subject of the third book in this series). Adding to her troubles is her half-brother Julian whose love for her is not exactly brotherly if you get my drift. But if Sybella can just kill d'Albret, it will all be worth it. That plan is complicated by instruction from the abbey to release the prisoner Beast (also introduced in Grave Mercy if you remember) whose battle lust cannot be tamed.

I'm fairly sure that part of my enjoyment was due to the presence of Beast, a favorite character from the first book who I didn't think got his due. He is a big man, bigger than everyone around him and simply described as ugly (and not ugly where sometimes a character is called ugly but is really attractive; ugly like his face and body bear multiple scars that mar any claim he might have originally had to attractiveness.) Despite his warlike appearance and love for battle, he is actually a pretty gentle soul and the peace he offers to Sybella's battered self was a welcome relief. As a woman, she has been viewed through the prism of her body, to be sold to satisfy her father's lust for power; she has craved love, comfort, and security only to have those hopes denied time after time. But with Beast, she finds them even if she tries to deny it. I've read some reviews where people didn't like this romance as much as Ismae and Duval's but I loved it so much more.

Another part of my enjoyment was that this felt like a more personal story (and this was confirmed by the author in her author's note). I do like political and historical turmoil, which Grave Mercy featured aplenty but I also like a story that isn't too tied to historical realities and I appreciated closely following Sybella's journey.

One element I haven't seen a lot of other people talk about is the religious aspect. This book is set at a time when the Catholic Church officially holds much sway but there are still people who worship the old gods like St. Mortrain, god of death, which is who Sybella serves. When she experiences her epiphany (similar to Ismae's experience), she spends several paragraphs musing on the character of Mortrain who sounded an awful lot like Jesus to me. Now perhaps it's not quite like the God preached by the medieval Catholic Church that was cruising toward a Reformation but a lot like the God I know. So my mind was pleased by this part.

Overall: I really loved this book and am grateful for it in continuing my streak of excellent second books. I'm very excited to read book three next year.

Other Opinions:
Anna Reads
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
Katie's Book Blog
Unforgettable Books

26 comments:

  1. This is one that I am so excited for, if I can ever get it from my library. lol. I am looking forward to knowing more about Sybella. Awesome review.


    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

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    1. I hope you can get it because it's so worth a read!

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  2. "I've read some reviews where people didn't like this romance as much as Ismae and Duval's but I loved it so much more."

    Completely agree with you! I enjoyed both stories, but as for the romance, this one was the winner for me, hands-down.

    "One element I haven't seen a lot of other people talk about is the religious aspect."

    Glad you mentioned this because I haven't studied much religious history and I find this part fascinating. Great review. And thanks for the link :)

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    1. This romance was so swoonworthy-Beast is such an honorable guy and I love, love, love him!

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  3. Huh, I didn't give much thought to the religious elements, though Mortain's appearance was my least favorite part. I feel like it's such a cop-out for a character struggling with their faith to be confronted by the god. Meh.

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    1. I really like seeing the character confront their god but I get where you're coming from.

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  4. I like both of the romances a lot. But the mutual respect and compassion happening between Sybella and the Beast is pretty irresistible.

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    1. There is so much respect and compassion in their relationship. Not that Duval and Ismae don't have that but it felt so much more present in DT.

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  5. So glad to hear that it was a good follow-up! Only one of us has read GRAVE MERCY (so far) but she really liked it and has been eager for the sequel.

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    1. Well, you all need to get on that! Pick up GM and DT ASAP!

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  6. I ADORED Beast. He definitely made the whole thing that much better. He's one of my favorite characters anywhere in literature.

    Also, I am giving a copy of this book away if you're interested. :) (It's probably going to be signed as well, since I'm going to a signing tomorrow. Feel free to enter!)

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    1. Oh neat-I already have a signed copy of Grave Mercy so that would be a nice match.

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  7. :) Wonderful review!!!! I think the religious part of this book is important too, I liked Ismae and Sybella's different thoughts towards why Mortain wants them to kill.

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    1. It is really cool to compare their different views. I'm excited to see Annith's unique perspective.

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  8. I just got my copy of this one the other day and can't wait to read it. So far, the reviews I've seen are great, though one was a bit spoilerish. So glad you enjoyed this one!

    Heather

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    1. I knew I couldn't talk about this without spoilers so that's why I gave a warning. Still, I think there's still loads to enjoy even when already knowing a lot.

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  9. I loved Grave Mercy when I read it last year but I have to admit that I wasn't a fan of Sybella (though I started to like her more towards the end). I am glad she gets her own story here.

    I will try to reread Grave Mercy before I start this one so everything will be fresh in my mind. Based on your review I think I will like Dark Triumph even more.

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    1. I think rereading GM is a good plan although I still was able to love this without rereading it.

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  10. I totally agree—I loved that this was a more personal story, and I loved Beast and Sybella even more than Ismae and Duval (something I never would have imagined after reading book one). I also really love the way Robin includes religion and faith in these books. Just such a stunning series, and a particularly amazing sequel. Great review!

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    1. Beast is just so fantastic-he's such a great guy and I just loved reading more about him...and talking about him...and thinking about him...

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  11. Oh yeah, this was much more of a personal story. I had a hard time remembering everything from Grave Mercy and people kept asking which I liked more and since it's been so long I can't really say, I loved them both though and I can't wait for more!

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    1. I could not believe how much I had forgotten but I'm really glad I've read both books!

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  12. I struggled with this book at first too. I couldn't remember all those little details from GM but then I just went with it and it fell into place thankfully.

    I loved this relationship more as well. They really deserved happiness after all they've been through.

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    1. Yep, same for me. Because of Beast and Sybella's dark pasts, it made their bright futures all the sweeter for me.

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  13. I saw your review on this book and knew that I had to comment. I loved that the Beast came back, because like you, he was one of my favorite characters from the first book. I too wasn't in LOVE with Grave Mercy, and I do think Dark Triumph being more personal and caught up in the characters will make me enjoy it more. This is probably my most highly anticipated to read, and I'll probably break down and buy it soon although I have at least 30 books backlogged on my pile!!!

    Christina @ Ensconced in YA

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    1. Looking forward to your review of this-it is just *so* good!

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