I started Dark Triumph yesterday. That’s right; for the first time in a really long time I finished almost 400 pages in less than 24 hours. It’s not that it’s rare for me to read that fast; I just rarely love a book enough to merit that kind of focus. But this book, after a few chapters, just demanded to be gobbled up. So I did.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. I had the same reaction to LaFever’s first His Fair Assassin book, Grave Mercy. I just wasn’t sure how Sybella and Beast’s story would compare to Ismae and Duval. Sybela turned out to be an engaging protagonist, though, despite her defensive shell, and Beast is just lovable from the beginning. Almost too perfect–but I love him anyway.
As I said, the first few chapters were slower reading for me than the rest. Not because they were slow or boring, but simply because they were so very dark and disturbing. I had almost as little will to keep reading as Sybella did to keep living–which is to say, just enough. And totally worth it. HOWEVER, if you are someone who has been sexually or physically abused or assaulted, if you avoid things labelled “TRIGGER WARNING”, you may want to think twice about reading this book. Sybella, and those she’s loved, have been through a lot, as covered throughout the story, much of it not for the faint of heart, however well written. It’s often via implication or vague details, but I wouldn’t feel right posting a review without mentioning it.
There was A LOT of action in this story, of the adrenaline-packed, exciting kind (as opposed to disturbing) as befitting a story about an assassin and a beserker warrior. The action isn’t told in a very gory way, though, so I was able to follow it without being totally grossed out. The storytelling was fast-paced and kept me guessing, worried about the main characters at several points and desperate to see how things turned out. I was so happy to encounter Ismae and Duval again, as well as the Duchess, and enjoyed meeting a number of new characters, including the strange but fascinating charbonnerie people. Several characters, such as D’Albret, were just absolutely horribly evil people. Other characters were more nuanced, so that even characters that were creepy and that initially seemed evil ended up being more sympathetic in later parts of the story. The only character that confused me was Tephanie, who seemed to be involved in the story and developed as a character more than her actual importance warranted.She was nice, but didn’t seem necessary.
My only complaint about the story is a few inconsistencies in action scenes–one moment, there would be a group of twenty or more people fighting, and then suddenly there were only three to four of them, traveling elsewhere on a totally different mission, with no explanation of where the greater group went or what it was doing. And there’ was one scene near the end where a character is specifically mentioned as being involved in the action. Mentioned many times as part of the process. Then simply isn’t mentioned or acknowledged, as having either gone away or being present, for a page or two, before suddenly being mentioned with the main party again, in a totally different area . It was strange and inexplicable, and because of that, briefly distracting from the story. However, the action still moved quickly and held my attention, so I guess it really wasn’t a big deal in the long run.
I wasn’t crazy about the cover art, either. Something seems off somehow with Sybella’s face and hair, like the model is wearing a bad wig or was awkwardly photoshopped. Aside from the face, the cover art/ costume is great, though. Sets a perfect mood for the book.
I also loved the hints about Annith’s story, and the further development of the Abbey politics, including the creepy Abbess. I loved learning about the other “saints” and their followers as well. I CANNOT WAIT for Mortal Heart. I hope it’s not a long time coming. I’m only sad that there’s only one more book planned for this series and its characters and world.