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Review: Dark Triumph

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Books for Children for providing me with a review copy through Netgalley! 

Book Overview:

Title: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) 

 Author: Robin LaFevers

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Publication Info: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013

Synopsis: Placed back into the household of her terrifying and cruel father, Count D’Albret, Sybella must conceal not only her identity as a handmaiden of death, but also her mission to kill the Count. Yet obstacles to her mission quickly arise, and Sybella must decide what is more important, revenge or justice.

(Note: To see a review of the first book of the series, Grave Mercy, click here.)

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 5/5

This book takes the series to a deeper and darker level of politics, relationships, and justice, and as in the Throne of Glass series, the second book is far better than the first. I finished this book in just two days, which (with my crazy life schedule) shows just how absorbing the storyline and characters are. Please make time to read this book–it’s so worth it!

Plot:

My main complaint against Grave Mercy was that I felt the story relied too heavily on dialogue, politics, and romance/infatuation, so at first I was wary of reading this book at all. I can’t begin to describe how shocked I was at the difference between this book and the first in the series; although political issues and romance definitely play their part in Sybella’s story, they’re offset by action and backstory (this is a word, right? I feel like it’s a word. I’ll get back to you on that). And I could talk for hours on Sybella’s backstory–how she distances herself and makes every decision based on not only the trauma she experienced, but also her deep understanding of her father’s nature and others’ ability to overlook his brutality. In a nutshell, LaFevers weaves together Sybella’s past and present beautifully to create a perfectly balanced story.

Characters:

LaFevers continues to make multi-faceted, complex characters, like Beast, D’Albret, and Sybella. In particular, Sybella’s past (increasingly revealed) and conflicting emotions and loyalties make her an intriguing and unique character to follow. As is probably obvious by now, I absolutely adored and supported Sybella throughout the whole book. Although I did also appreciate Ismae’s feisty nature in the first book, I somehow didn’t connect with her in the way I have with Sybella. This heroine is wary of others, untrusting of Mortrain and the abbey’s intentions, and bitter–and all rightfully so. As more and more of Sybella’s past is revealed, the reader can understand her decisions more, and every action of hers that might have been questionable makes perfect sense. But the beauty of LaFever’s characterization is that the reader can see Sybella growing throughout the book, can sense her begin to trust and protect others, instead of only looking out for herself. This, I think, is where LaFevers developed most as a writer, and I can’t wait to see what the next book will hold with Annith.

Writing Quality:

LaFevers continued to use historically accurate language, over which I practically threw up with happiness (hint: slight exaggeration there). She even mentions in her notes at the end (yes, I read author’s notes and introductions because I’m a geek like that) that she researched specific words and usage to stay as accurate and meaningful as possible–super kudos to her for this! This attention to detail was definitely apparent in other aspects of the writing, as with characterization and plot, as well as timing. Her action-filled storyline and romance are not rushed, and I give major props for the pacing of this book. Like Sybella’s character, the story draws you in subtly but strongly, and  I was hooked long before I realized it.

(TLDR: This book and its writing are killer, so you should buy and read it pronto!

Who I recommend this to:

  • Readers who enjoy bada** heroines with well-developed backstories
  • Fans of The Grisha series, Throne of Glass series, Mortal Instruments series
  • Late high school, college, and beyond (warning: strong amounts of violence, death, mentions of sex)

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Review: Grave Mercy

Book Overview:

Title: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) 

Author: Robin LaFevers

Genre: Teen Fantasy/Romance

Publication Info: Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

Synopsis: Ismae’s survival of an attempted abortion as a child marks her as a daughter of Death, and she is taken to the convent of St. Mortain to train as his servant, an assassin. Yet her mission to protect Brittany’s ruler lands  her in the dangerous plots and scandals of court and under the scrutiny of the mysterious Duval.

 Book Review:

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

I adore the idea of this book–assassin nuns working for the mythological god of Death during the 1400’s–and it was this idea that kept my attention while reading. LaFevers certainly creates an enjoyable and romantic storyline while intertwining action and politics, so this book appeals to large amount of genres and readers.

Plot:

While I was fascinated by the idea of the novel (as stated before), I felt disappointed at times when reading. The book promises action and violence and weaponry (which oddly makes me excited–don’t know what that says about me), but focuses so much more on politics and romance. While Ismae’s time training as an assassin is mentioned, it seems glossed over, and I wanted to read so much more than I was given.

Because action seemed to take the backseat in the plot, the romance between Ismae and Duval was overwhelming to me. As told from Ismae’s point of view, the story focused a lot on her interactions with and feelings for Duval, which I would have expected from a romance novel, not from a book promising violence and assassins. But this disappointment may be my fault–perhaps I judged the book’s genre and content too quickly.

Characters:

Although I do criticize the plot, I loved Ismae’s personality. If nothing else, read this book for the heroine. Her no-nonsense attitude and impulsive nature drew me in (as did her sarcasm and wit, which I always appreciate). While her relationship with Duval sometimes left her lovestruck, she stayed an assassin at heart throughout the entire book, which kept me reading. Additionally, I could easily see her growth as a character in the first book of the series, which I applaud LaFevers for, as often characters in teen novels grow over the course of the series, but not the individual book. Throughout the plot, Ismae became more and more independent and free-thinking, which I believe makes her not only relatable, but also well-developed.

Writing Quality:

I have to give LaFevers even more kudos for this, for she didn’t use first-person point of view, and moreover, used language and writing that fit the setting and characters! I know this may seem trivial to some, but the writing style, to me, balanced out the romance-based plot and enhanced the characters and dialogue.

 

Who do I recommend this to?

  • Historical fiction readers
  • Romance readers
  • Fantasy/magic/mythology-based readers
  • Late high school, college, and beyond (warning: death, murder, brief mentions of sex)

 

 

 

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