Dark Triumph

By Robin LaFevers

Book Cover: Dark TriumphKinsey recommended the first in the His Fair Assassin series, Grave Mercy, just a couple of weeks ago as a fun historical romance about deadly nuns. I was at the library when I read her post, and figured, why not? I checked it out, despite the size of the book (large), the cover of the book (beautiful girl posing melodramatically), and the inside blurb description (“For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?”), and I gobbled it up within the next week. It is just nonstop fun with the historical intrigue, which I liked better than Kinsey, and lots of romantic hijinx. I had a great time reading it, but wasn’t sure I was going to continue to read the series until I read the little teaser for the sequel in the back, at which point I immediately went back to the library to get the sequel.

Dark Triumph follows a peripheral character introduced in Grave Mercy, another, more troubled novice of the nunnery for the God of Death. The book focuses more on the character and her past than the surrounding politics, and is thus able to make her more nuanced and interesting to follow. The two books remind me a bit of Ilona Andrew’s Edge series, where the first one is lots of fun action with somewhat generic heroine and hero, and the second one takes the more interesting side character and continues his story. While I liked Grave Mercy, I loved Dark Triumph, and literally struggled to put in down at times within the three to four days that I devoured it. So Grave Mercy is worth reading if only to then read Dark Triumph (which does not stand alone, so needs to be read sequentially).

I would be reading the third book in what I believe will be a trilogy if it was out already, but unfortunately I have to wait until Spring 2014. I’m not terribly intrigued by the heroine, already introduced in the background of both books, but I’m hooked on the series now. In the meantime, I will leave you with a phrase from a critic’s praise for Grave Mercy that I found amusing (from the back cover panel of Dark Triumph): “a plot that nods to history while defying accuracy.” (Yep, that seems about right.)

P.S. – While looking for the book cover image, I ran across the author’s website, where she has posted the first chapter of Dark Triumph, which gives an excellent preview to the book, and also does spoil Grave Mercy a bit, so use caution.

—Anna

Grave Mercy

Have you been thinking that there are not enough young adult novels out there about nuns who kill people in the name of the god of death? Well then, I have the book for you! But seriously, I really enjoyed Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, and it’s lots of fun to tell people that you’re reading about assassin nuns.

Set in Brittany (now part of France) in the 1400s, the story follows Ismae, a teenage girl who is saved from an abusive father and an arranged marriage by joining a convent dedicated to Mortain, the god of death. And this convent teaches it’s novices some very specific skills, training them to be sent out into the world to kill those people marked by Mortain for death.

This was clearly published in the wake of The Hunger Games and Divergent and all those other teenage dystopian future series (this is the first in what looks like a planned trilogy), and it feels very much like those books. But if you’re a little sick of dystopian futures, like I am, this offers a nice twist by being set in the past. And while there is a bit of the magic/supernatural happening with the god of death and all, it’s really mostly a historical novel about life in medieval Europe. It featured a little more political intrigue than I would have preferred (However will the Duchess keep her crown? I don’t really care all that much!) but it also had adventure, romance, and strong female characters with a lot of agency. And it sure wasn’t like anything else I’ve read lately.

Kinsey’s Three Word Review: Dramatic, historical, romantic.

You might also like:  Scott Westerfeld’s Pretties/Uglies series. Those are set in the future, but the books felt very similar. And I consider those really fun books, so.