Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

#2 in the His Fair Assassin series
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
Pages: 385
Received: Bought
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


I am super disappointed with Dark Triumph.

Grave Mercy made my Special Shelf and I've loved everything I've ever read by Robin (three Theodosia books, all four of the Nathaniel Fludd books, and GM), so I thought I was safe to buy Dark Triumph before I read it.

Apparently not. 

If I hadn't read Grave Mercy first, I probably would have enjoyed DT more. Most of my complaints come from DT not stacking up to GM in some way. Such as...

WHAT happened to Sybella?!

I first met Sybella in GM and she was a mess. There's no nice way to say it, the girl was wild, crazed, and erratic in that remove-sharp-objects kind of way.

Flash forward to DT, and Sybella is insufferably normal. I guess that made for an easier narrative (lucidity is always a bonus when it comes to first-person narratives!) but I'm disappointed. GM Sybella was so intriguing! She was unpredictable, exciting, and different.  

DT Sybella was effectively Ismae (minus the early trust in the convent) to the point where I had trouble distinguishing their voices. Sure, Sybella talked a big game about being so unstable and worrying that she's BAAAAD. *YAWN* Nothing she did, thought, or said backed up any of these fears. They felt thin and grew real old after hearing them repeated a few times with absolutely no evidence to back them up.

So, I got gypped on experiencing her off-beat narrative that I'd been looking forward to for over a year. Fine. I'll get over it.

What I can't get over is how inconsistent this makes her characterization. Not only is she totally different from the woman present in GM, but her psychological development doesn't make sense within the context of her story. I found out all kinds of backstory on what happened to Sybella, and while that makes perfect sense for the woman I saw in GM, it makes NO sense for Sybella in DT.

Robin LaFevers is more than capable of writing consistent characters with depth and growth across multiple books, so this just feels sloppy.

And the historical background?? The intrigue??

This is going to be a love it or hate it kind of thing, but for me, I LOVED the historical detail in Grave Mercy and I was really looking forward to continuing the story in Dark Triumph.

Anne of Brittany's story is tragic, but it is also filled with danger, deceit, intrigue, secret alliances, and war. All good things, at least in novels. GM touched on all of this, and I was totally caught up in all the court secrets and backstabbing.

So where was the intrigue in DT? Where was anything even remotely historical?? Sure, fine, I got to see Anne for a few brief scenes (in which she was bland and gag-me angelic), and the French were mentioned a time or two, but for all intents and purposes this story could have taken place anywhere.

What does actually happen is just fine, and if it weren't for my GM expectations I probably would have been fine with most of it. Mostly.

DT never really finds its stride though, pacing in fits and starts, dragging in the beginning, then racing with excitement, only to flounder again. Some parts were excellent (on the road, fighting) and others seemed predictably contrived. Overall it lacked a cohesive story progression and so, again, this felt sloppily thrown together. 

Do I even want to get started on the romance?

I'll say this, some parts were perfection. There were a few choice scenes and bits of banter that are totally worth re-reading and the mental images Robin LaFevers created of those two going back to back fighting together against their enemies were fist-pump amazing.

And that's the positive.

The rest of this romance came off like a thin copy of every other insta-love romance that felt especially out of place for someone with a past like Sybella. Beast is unwavering in his love, and yet I'm not convinced why. Sybella clearly thinks he's ugly (she mentions his ugly face more times than a Dalmatian has spots), but outside of a clingy need for acceptance, I don't understand why she loves him either.

Sybella's relationship with her brother, while icky, had MUCH more emotional depth and nuance.   

Bottom line

I could go on, but I'm tired of complaining about a book I still want to be able to love. Dark Triumph was unexpectedly rough. If I had to pick one word to describe it, I'd have to go with "sloppy."

On its own, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more. In comparison to the skill with which Grave Mercy was written and the premise set in that book, I just can't help but feel Dark Triumph falls flat.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Dark Triumph that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!


  1. I read Grave Mercy and really enjoyed it, but I haven't read Dark Triumph yet, and after reading your review, not sure I am. You're right, after reading GM I would expect the voice of Sybella to be a lot different and if she comes across as normal, that doesn't fit with what we know. And then if the romance is meh...that's usually a really important part of these types of stories. And lack of real intrigue too? Thanks for the honest review! ~Pam

    1. Right? Sybella's voice seemed like it would be so distinct in GM. I think the romance is something that some would love, but I just wanted more from it. The lack of intrigue though, yeah, that was a big disappointment.

  2. Wow-we had such opposite reactions! I adored this (much more than GM) especially because of Beast and Sybella's reaction. It sounds like you preferred the historical background of GM and I was overwhelmed by those details so I liked this more personal story. Interesting!

    1. Yup, definitely preferred the historical background more. You bring up a good point though, readers who were kinda meh on GM might actually love DT. I'm glad it lived up to your expectations because I know you were looking forward to it. :)

  3. Thanks for the review! I enjoyed Grave Mercy but haven't read this yet, and it sounds like I might have some issues with it as well.

    1. I guess it depends on the reasons why you liked GM. Hopefully you'll enjoy DT more than I did!

  4. I'm sad you didn't like this one more, because I know you were really into GM and wanted to like this one. I never got in to GM (not my kind of read, really), but it sounds like DT dialed down a lot of the things that made GM awesome.

    Also, hate when a character Says she is all wild and inpredictable, and then act like cookie cutter normal. Also, you should read Quintana of Charryn, Quintana's inner voice is SO NOT lucid, but it works so well.

    1. I'm sad too :( You actually might like DT more than I did since you're not as much of a fan of the things I liked in GM (and didnt have in DT).

      YES! I totally agree about them saying they're so baaaad and then they're not.

      Is that the Finnikin of the Rock series? I've been meaning to check those out!

  5. I was underwhelmed by Dark Triumph, as well--even so that I never got around to writing a review. I thought the writing itself could have been better, more complex, and the story was a bit flat. It was such a huge disappointed because I absolutely LOVED Grave Mercy. Now I'm not sure what to think about the third book!

    1. Yes, I feel much the same way, on all counts! I think I'm still going to try the third book, but I don't think I'll autobuy it unread like I did with Dark Triumph. Hopefully we'll like Annith's story more!

  6. Aww, this bums me out so much! I still haven't made the time to read this one yet, but you and I both LOVED Grave Mercy so to hear from you that this one was less than perfect is disappointing indeed! "Sloppy" is not a term I would attribute to Robin LaFevers' writing, so that's surprising! And a shame. Well, I still really want to read this one, but I think I will lower my expectations going into it and that way I won't be so disappointed. That's the hope anyway!

    1. I know, right? She is so NOT a sloppy writer! I was super shocked, but I wonder if there was sequel pressure and deadlines? I don't know, I'm just so sad about it. I hope you enjoy DT more than I did! I'll be very interested in reading your review.

  7. I've not read Grave Mercy, but I want to because both Aylee and you enjoyed it - so that means its fabulous. I am still reading Throne of Glass and loving that one. I guess I'm going to hop to book #2 in that series than start trying to sort through Grave Mercy. I hear Book #2 in Throne of Glass is supposed to be awesome!

    1. Book 2 in Thrown of Glass is AMAZING. Even better than book one!

  8. I will say that I didn't expect the Games of Thrones vibe to this one. It was much darker than I anticipated and the pacing was really slow, but I did like the characters enough to enjoy the ride. I'm hoping book 3 goes back to more intrigue like Grave Mercy.

  9. Oh bummmmer. I loved GM. Sad to hear but I appreciate your honesty.


It's all about friendly conversation here at Small Review :) I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Be sure to check back again because I do make every effort to reply to your comments here.

Because I am absolutely terrible about following through with blog awards, I can't in good conscience accept any more. Thank you very much for thinking of me though!

Spam WILL be deleted. Attacks on myself or other comments WILL be deleted.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...