Book review: LaFevers offers treachery, betrayal in companion novel 'Dark Triumph'

By Emily Ellsworth

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 30 2013 4:00 p.m. MDT

"DARK TRIUMPH," by Robin LaFevers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99, 400 pages (f)

In this companion novel to Robin LaFevers’ first novel, “Grave Mercy,” the principal character shifts from Ismae to her convent sister Sybella. “Dark Triumph” begins with the final scene from “Grave Mercy” told from Sybella’s point of view. Using actual historical 15th century events as a springboard, LaFevers weaves in a bit of the supernatural and an unlikely romance to create a satisfying and compelling sequel.

Unlike Ismae, Sybella enjoys her duty as an assassin. After years of terror from her father, d’Albret, who is responsible for his previous six wives, Sybella’s return to her father’s house means that she will finally have the opportunity to exact revenge. But being in the house she grew up in has other horrors: the reminder of unwelcome advances by a beloved brother, the treachery of the other nobles and their plots to remove the Duchess and her growing uneasiness in her faith in Saint Mortain.

Because “Dark Triumph” is a companion novel, it is possible to read this title before its predecessor, though some principal characters from the previous book reappear. Many of the preceding events are well-covered, but knowledge of the characters in “Grave Mercy” will be helpful in understanding the complexity of their relationships.

LaFevers' use of actual events in Europe highlight the intrigue, deception and loyalties surrounding the French occupation and resistance by Brittany in the 15th century. But even more than that, “Dark Triumph” discusses matters of faith, treatment of women and friendship. Sybella’s journey is often harrowing as she reveals aspects of her past and the guilt she carries with her.

“Dark Triumph” is best suited for older teens and adults. Though there are no explicit descriptions of sexual acts, there are innuendo and illusions to events in Sybella’s past as well as an interaction with another character. There is also violence associated with the resistance and Sybella’s work as an assassin. Language is mild except for some cursing in French.

If you go ...

What: Robin LeFevers book signing

When: Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m.

Where: Sprague Library, 2131 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Emily Ellsworth is a blogger at Emily's Reading Room, a blog dedicated to promoting a love of young adult fiction. For book reviews, author interviews and more about the latest in young adult fiction, visit her blog at emilysreadingroom.com.

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