Get to the Point, Book Reviews: Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassins, Book II)

Book Review Rules:
1. Get to the point.
– No drawn out hemming and hawing about recommending the book.
– The answer will either be “yes” or “no” followed up with points that are
relevant to the recommendation.

2. Honesty.
– No need for exaggeration or belaboring a point.
– I’m not into trashing authors or their works.

3. No Delving or Deep Diving
– I hate reading reviews where everything about a book is outlined, in which case, I become immediately disinclined to read the book for myself.
– I will leave room for discovery. Character names, situations, plot, etc. may or may not be a point of discussion.

The book may (or may not) work for me personally but that’s not to say it didn’t do wonders for (or fail) someone else.


Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin Trilogy, Book II), by Robin LaFevers

Would I recommend this book?
Yes (unlike Grave Mercy, Book I).

The Goods

1. Assassin nuns. This concept was not utilized nearly enough in Book I as the main character, Ismae, was far too dull to bring the reader into full appreciation of that concept, not to mention overly preoccupied with an equally dull romance.

In Book II, however, our new main character, Sybella, continues on with the story arch and is happily all about that assassination work. Sybella is not caught up in the sanctity of killing, compared to Ismae, but rather relishes every opportunity to take someone out. If she knows the person on a deeper level so much the better as most of whom Sybella knows from her assumed father’s (recall, Sybella, as all the girls of the covenant, were sired by the god of Death, Mortain) household are retained scum acing under the villainous orders of d’Albert himself. All that to say, there’s lots of action in Book II, something sorely missing when in compared to Book I.

2. The love story is appropriate – this time. Unlike Book I, the romance element does not read as forced, dull, or out of proportion to the story. Beast, the love interest, is woven in appropriately to Sybella’s story. His character enhances hers but is not the main focus either. Unfortunately, the point of the story in Grave Mercy was sidelined for the sake of a lack luster romance. Personally, I still maintain the stance that strong female MCs should not automatically be sided with a love interest. Indeed, a romance element is often unneeded. At least in Dark Triumph the reader isn’t choking on the romantic tension, the old will-she, won’t-she bit.

In all, if there must be a romance story underlying all else, it was done well in Book II. Beast, as a character, has more of a pulse that the previous love interest, Duval, and is better written in with Sybella’s character. There is more equality here in terms of personality, decision-making, and action-taking. Sybella had lived more, had more exposure to the world than Ismae and therefore understands herself better. Sybella wasn’t a confused, unsure, simpering handmaiden. Sybella’s love story suited her experience as a character; nothing forced about it. It read naturally.

3. Pacing is A LOT better compared to Book I. Again, that dull romance kept pulling me out of the story and wondering how many pages were left. Book II hardly suffered any dull moments. Sybella proved to be a restless character who kept the story going ever forward.

4. A lot more bloody action. Sorry folks, but when you pick up a book that promises daughters of Death made into assassinating nuns, well, I can tell you, I’m not here for romance no matter how well it’s done. I want the action promised, that’s why I bought the book.

I read repeatedly that Book II is far superior to that of Book I, and it is, but I doubt I will continue on to Book III. More on that in the conclusion.

The Not So Good & Conclusion (as they are one and the same)

1. The romance element.

Better done here in Dark Triumph, Book II than Grave Mercy, Book I, no doubt. By miles, yes. BUT IT IS NOT NECESSARY.

I understood I was meant to be reading fantasy fiction (coupled heavily with historical fiction), but the truth is, these are romance novels with fantasy-styled tones running through it. The overarching story plot of the independence of Brittany, defending the Duchess, even the daughters of Mortain and their purpose, all that big important stuff, takes a backseat to the love stories. That’s not why I’m here.

I don’t think I will be reading Book III, Mortal Heart. I can already feel my way around that one based on the brief check-ins of Annith (the MC of Book III) from both the POVs of Ismae and Sybella.

I’m guessing: Annith is restless to leave the covenant, never having been chosen for an assignment, forced to watch her friends leave on their respective missions, and will likely leave of her own accord. It was hinted already that Annith was to be picked as the next Seer for the Covenant, all but assuring that she will never leave the place. I’m guessing she will strike out on her own, as Sybella and Ismae have done at some point, and I’m guessing Annith will inevitably be introduced to a love interest. The love interest will, I’m sure, change Annith for the better by enhancing her perspective of herself and her role in the world, etc.

I’m sure everything will turn out well for the Duchess and the realm too.

The point is, I’m just not inclined to find out for myself.


Christina Schmidt