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BOOK REVIEW – Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin Lafevers

BOOK REVIEW – Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LafeversDark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2)
by Robin LaFevers
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge - but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for...

There’s a fangirling Gremlins in me who’s lurking to spread his love. Picture the mohawk one ← Always been my favorite. You’ve been warned.

Possible side effects :
– Irrepressible squeals (Yes. Like fucking mice. You got it)
– Overuse of the words love/like/enjoy/swoon/…
– I’ll stop here otherwise I’ll scare you away if that’s not already too late anyway

“There is a wild, frantic energy in this part of town that fits my mood perfectly. I raise my head and dare any of the dangers lurking in the shadows to try to match its skill against mine.”

Why all this love, you’re asking?

A fast-paced plot. Forget the tedious wanderings of Grave Mercy and get ready : the story here starts on page one. Indeed I was hooked from the beginning, enthralled in Sybella’s life like I never was in Ismae’s. Her ultimate goal? To protect Anne de Bretagne from the multiple dangers that threaten her, first of all the Count of Albret, wicked and twisted as always. In the city of Nantes which has been previously taken by him, Sybella must use all her training skills, sometimes at her own expense. Nothing is more blissful than revenge, but she had yet to succeed without losing herself.

This book was dark, oh so dark at times. As it is, I must warn you here that the story deals with difficult issues, including sexual violence and incest, and several kind of abuse.

“But it is no holy light, simply me, whole and unafraid of who and what I am, eager to do the work I was born to do”.

A real assassin as a heroine. As you can guess, I was able to care about Sybella because she’s everything but perfect, and much more than our average female lead. To be frank, I kind of want to throw adjectives and call it a day : flawed, multi-layered, sarcastic, loyal, smart, fierce, tortured, and straight-on awesome. Not to mention,  deadly (I KNOW! An assassin who actually KILLS! Often!). But it wouldn’t do her justice, would it? Sigh.

“Someone is happy this morning,” he smirks.
“Someone is eager to feel the kiss of cold steel before he’s even broken his fast.”

Since her childhood, Sybella had to rely on herself to survive, and as it was, the choice she was given didn’t always let her the opportunity to be in harmony with herself. She’s no innocent, and she knows it. Does she regret some decisions? Yes, she does. Has she doubts? Oh, many. Does she whine or let her doubts eating at her? Never. On the contrary, she knows where lie her strengths and how to use them to fulfill her quest – yet she is seeking approval and the growth of her character was fascinating to follow, realistic and gradual as it was.

An ugly and fascinating love-interest partner in crime. What can I say about Beast, except that he’s everything you don’t expect from a male-lead? Well, just that. ← By Mortain, I want more men like him in my books.

“What in the names of the Nine Saints was that? Throwing your sword? Is that some special trick of Saint Camulos?”
He grins, and I am startled by how feral he looks, all gleaming white teeth and pale eyes in a blood-splattered face. Indeed, I do not believe he is quite human in that moment. “It slowed him down, didn’t it?”

God I love him. Did I say that?

Peril and feeeeeels. Remember how Grave Mercy let me numb? Don’t worry, Dark Triumph is nothing like his eldest. Indeed whereas Ismae’s book dragged on the underwhelming side, nothing could have prepared me for the kaleidoscope of emotions I felt while following Sybella and Beast in their battles. Betrayal. Anger. Hope. Despair. Acceptance. Hate. Love.

A gradual, very light romance, which never overtakes the plot. Anyway, you just can’t help but root for them, because to see the growth of their relationship makes you remember why it’s sometimes fucking great to insert a bit of romance in a book.

“I glance up at Beast’s face, which is contorted with – horror? Despair? I cannot guess what he is thinking or feeling. He looks down at his enormous, scarred hands. “How you must hate us all,” he said.”

Nowadays, it’s more and more difficult to find a romance which can warm our heart without making us rage because sexism, control, stalkers. Beast and Sybella’s story is one of them, and because it’s believable, smile-inducing and adorable, it reminds me if needed why I’m a sucker for a good romance in the first place.

Now, love is not blind people. Although I’m willing to give it 5 stars still, I have to admit that this book isn’t flawless.

Historical inaccuracies, here we go. The truth is, if I’m completely aware that it’s a work of fiction, I fail to understand why authors keep choosing well-known individuals as characters if they don’t respect the historical facts. Now, the book was really good so I chose to blind myself but come on. Please don’t underestimate readers.

Lack of details in the settings : I don’t know if I’m more aware of it because I know the cities and the landscapes where the story takes place here, but I was slighly disappointed by the (lack of) description of the background. Indeed I would have loved to see Morlaix, Nantes, and the Breton country, and it sadly wasn’t the case. Not enough, anyway.

► Can you believe it? I can’t blame this book for anything else. This was just fucking awesome, that’s all.

BOOK REVIEW – Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

BOOK REVIEW – Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
by Robin LaFevers
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

۩ This is the kind of book you eat and forget most of the details just after reaching the last page, because if there’s a new event at each chapter, you quit on the feeling that nothing happened. Actually if Grave Mercy is by no means a bad book, I wasn’t impressed either. What surprises me the most is how an original concept as Assassin nuns can lead me to feel slightly underwhelmed.

I guess that expectations are everything.

“So,” she says, looking back up at me. “You are well equipped for our service.”
“Which is?”
“We kill people.”

My biggest fear before starting it? To be bored to death. And yet, strangely, the biggest – only one? – compliment I can offer it is the fact it was so compulsively readable. Weird right?

► First of all, how can we not be interested in the original concept on which Grave Mercy relies?

Undeniably, what could be more fascinating than the discovery of the daughters of Death, more known as St Mortain’s nouns, whose purpose is to learn an incredible amount of ways to be a deadly assassin? Tell me? Therefore I wasn’t bored, but interested, hooked, even – political calculations always draw me in, and I must confess that the settings immensely pleased me. As a great fan of Dumas, I always had a soft spot for intrigues taking place at Court, especially when the Kings aren’t the most famous (please stop talking about Louis XIV and Henri IV, not to mention Louis XVI). Indeed there’re so many periods which have not yet been explored by the literature!

However, I’m sorry, but what was this obvious twist? For real, I was waiting and waiting and waiting for the characters to get to the same conclusion as me and Oh. My. They took their time for sure. As a result, I can’t say that the mystery was compelling. Indeed while the writing, the details of the political complots enthralled me, I didn’t care much about the big revelation of the villains’ identity, for it was pretty obvious since the beginning.

Moreover, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of accuracy in the historical facts – I don’t know if that’s supposed to be accurate, but in case you’re wondering, that’s not. Oh, yes, the big events are “true”, but except from them, every character is pictured in a wrong way. Take Alain d’Albret, for example. Yes he was betrothed to Anne de Bretagne, but he never had 6 wifes (only one, actually). As for Fedrik de Nemours… he didn’t exist. And so on. To be fair, even Dumas was known for romanticizing grandly his characters, so I’m not sure that it can be considered as a flaw. I thought I’d point it, anyway, because I’m an History nerd (sorry about that). Finally, why in the world are they travelling via Quimper when they intend to go to Guérande? Seriously, lost enough, aren’t you?

Okay, I’m annoying. I stop here. Sigh.

✐ Generally speaking, I quite liked the writing, which was pleasant and flowed smoothly. But then, I must point that I have not the sufficient knowledge to judge if the way the characters speak can be considered as accurate for 1400s (I have to admit that I have many doubts, because it appeared rather modern to me). Now, what I can judge are the mistakes when French language is used. Of course it was rare – Thanks Mortain! – but come on, don’t you think that it would be greatly appreciated if, I don’t know, some French speaker checked before publishing? There are grammar mistakes (“entré” instead of “entrez”) and a weird use of interjections (“mais bon”, in that sentence, doesn’t make any sense. At all.) One might argue that I make grammar mistakes in English as well, and it’s true (sorry about that). But the fact is, I’m not publishing a book, but writing a review.

But let’s talk about the characters, shall we?

Ismae, who has a special talent for poison, is sent on an assignment in the Guérande court. Her mission? To protect the Duchess, Anne de Bretagne, while unraveling the layers of treason the young ruler faces. In a word : Ismae must use her talent to figure out who is plotting against the duchess, including her closest support, Gavriel Duval. Well, I haven’t much to reproach her, to be fair. Indeed I could understand her decisions, and contrary to some (many?) readers I didn’t feel like she gave up her mind for the sake of her love for Duval. On the contrary, she thinks before acting, and if she IS long to realize some facts (DUH), I can’t say that she’s blinded by love, as she wonders why and who and how is right all the freaking time. She didn’t trust Gavriel on sight for Mortain’s sake! Yet… I didn’t care so much about her either. In my opinion her monologues lacked of sincerity and believability, as I often found myself wondering… Who thinks like that? Every thought is too neat, and I never really felt her struggle, question – I was told so, but never get the feeling, you know?

Gavriel, now. He is nice, kind, but has the bad habit to order Ismae around. Yet he is nice. And, you know, he is … he IS …

Well, okay, mostly dull.

♥ That’s why even if the romance didn’t bother me, it never made me swoon either, as I never really saw any chemistry between Ismae and Duval. As the rest of the story, everything felt too
mild
to me, and no, my heart never missed a beat. Lack of strong feelings indeed.

▧ The so-called villains. Yes, so-called, because we are told that they are the villains in this story, but never really shown, or not enough, in my opinion. Take d’Albret, for example. Oh, yes, he seems really disgusting, but what does he really do? Nothing. To me, the only real villains are Ismae’s father and her previous husband.

▧ What bothered me the most was the lack of involvement of the secondary characters. Indeed even if they exist, except for the beginning, the other characters fall into the background pretty fast, unfortunately. Personally, I’m eager to learn more about Beast (how awesome is that name, by the way?) and Sybella – Annith I don’t care about.

See, when I weigh the pros and cons….

… It’s pretty obvious that the cons overtake the pros by far. Now, as I did enjoy my reading still, I decided for a three that I can’t help but find quite generous.

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