Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DARK TRIUMPH Triumphs as a Sequel to GRAVE MERCY

I'll try to keep the gushing short and sweet because we all have things to do and deadlines to attend to today. I also admit my pick of the week will not appeal to those who do not enjoy YA novels...or darker, grittier themes and conflicts. The setting is late Middle Ages, and the star of the novel is a female in a time period where rights and freedoms are few and non-existent.

I thrive on novels where the heroines are clearly marked by their time period and the society they intermingle with, but still rise beyond their circumstances without being anachronistically ridiculous. I'm sure this series rides that edge, so to speak, since these particular heroines are given a bit more freedom and power, in that they are trained assassins. It does make the ordinary girl from this time period at least interesting, when normally her life story would be about her being married to a pig farmer...or under the tyrant-thumb of her ambitious baron of a father.

My disclaimer aside: Oh, I so totally adored DARK TRIUMPH. It was so, so, so dark. And it was so, so, so captivating. And I am so, so, so in love with the Beast, a knight who is a bit crazy, doesn't understand the meaning of limitations, loves killing (if they deserve it, obviously), and is honorable to the point of getting everyone killed at least a dozen times before the book is done.

The heroine is a bit more...pragmatic, has a lot more scars that makes her less trusting and not value herself as a person as much as Beast does, and also loves killing. The latter is one of the Beast's very favorite things about her. He says, "Ismae kills with a sort of earnestness, but not with any real enjoyment." Like Sybella does. I'm not sure why it's funny to me they both love their jobs as trained killers so much, but it does; or maybe it's a sign of my progressive burnout, I envy people who enjoy their work as much as these two do. Doesn't matter. There are doses of clear levity in the novel to help balance out the dark and gritty circumstances and themes throughout.

This is a historical fantasy book, so while some of the characters are historically accurate and some of the events are indeed true, some things have been edited for the time considerations. (War is ever so much more exciting in a novel than it is in real life. There's a lot of boredom in war; and Twitter wasn't around yet to keep everyone apprised of location, plans, or commentary. Though it would be funny to see what the Twitter accounts for this particular time period and historical figures would be, considering the Duchess in question they are protecting is a thirteen-year-old girl, who acts about three times her age and probably did at the time too, since she would be the only person she knew for sure was interested in her well-being.)

If you read the first book in this series (and that would be suggested), this heroine is much darker than her predecessor. She is who she is, and it becomes clear why she is who she is. She's almost an anti-heroine, but there is enough light/good in her to root for her. 

So if you like assassinations, various poisons and weapons in action, burly knights--who aren't conventionally handsome at all, heroines who are capable and have entertaining perspectives about their current situation, and yes, a hero to sigh for--you may too enjoy this book as much as I did.

I can't imagine anyone enjoying this book as much as I did. I *LOVED* this book. I want to canonize the Beast for all heroes to aspire to from henceforth. (See, the book is even contributing to this ridiculous way of speaking.) Go find this book. Be sure to remember to thank me when you're all in a delicious haze of post-novel afterglow.

DARK TRIUMPH by Robin Lafevers.


Maureen said...

There is such a pure irony in a YA novel featuring female assassins. Especially one who loves her job.

I'm always a fan of characters who love what they do...Jake is a pirate and he loves being a pirate. Miranda is a sexual witch and loves sex. (Which is really helpful when you're a sexual witch.)

It's like the Bombays, and how they believe in doing a job right...

Glad you enjoyed this book. Since your job is driving you batty, perhaps you should take up assassination...?

Marnee Bailey said...

I've been meaning to search Grave Mercy out at the library. (I just typed Gravy Mercy. I must be hungry.) I think I'd like this but I think I should try it from there first. I've been trying to cut back my ebook spending. Just SOOOO easy.....

But they sound really interesting. I love the idea of teenage assassins. LOL

MsHellion said...

YA novels now aren't the YA novels of my youth, the Sweet Valley High YA novels. *LOL* Personally I love the change of more daring, gritty characters in daring, gritty situations--so long as the characters behave how people would behave in that society. If you've been conditioned to think your place in life is at the bottom of the barrel, you wouldn't start thinking your place is at the top without someone or something to have replaced that thought for you. I don't believe it could happen alone, per se, though I'm sure there's an exception for every rule.

I agree: it would blow to be a sexual witch and not like sex. *LOL* Though might be interesting to have a sexual witch who doesn't...and comes to a better appreciation for it and her gifts.

Don't tempt me with assassination. I know the first few people who'd be on the List. *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Marn, admittedly I got these from the library and had to wait my turn, but they're ones where I'm seriously considering buying copies of because I can see myself reading them again sometime. Or at least seeking out my favorite scenes again.

I don't have an ebook spending problem, but I do have a SPENDING problem. *LOL*

Janga said...

I'm actually reading fewer YA titles now because so much of the genre seems to be either paranormal or apocalyptic or some combination. I guess the New Adult books with their focus on relationships are filling in the YA gap for me.

I spend considerably more on ebooks than I did on print. In addition to all the new books by autobuy authors, I can't resist all the bargains available. I love getting ecopies of old favorites and of favorite series. I've been forced to discipline my spending by buying myself a Kindle gift card at the first of the month. When it shows a zero balance, I can't buy another book until the next month.

MsHellion said...

Janga, I'm not so much into the paranormal (unless it's "angels") but I am into the dysotopian settings quite a bit, which I know isn't everyone's thing. Though admittedly I do adore the Princess Diaries, and if there was another series with that kind of "normality", I'd totally be on board for that. :)

Good strategy on the spending!! :)

Terri Osburn said...

Hellie - Look up Sarah Dessen. If you like the Princess Diaries, you'll like the Dessen books. Kiddo blew through the entire back list in no time.

I have a new appreciation for YA novels since I judged that category for the GH this year. Such a wide open genre. And I love them for keeping my child engrossed in the world of books. So far she loves dystopian, paranormal, straight contemp, and anything John Green writes. Haven't gotten her to try historical. Wait, she read a Victorian Steampunk and loved it.

I'll try (again) to get her to give Robin a try.

P. Kirby said...

"I'm not sure why it's funny to me they both love their jobs as trained killers so much, but it does; or maybe it's a sign of my progressive burnout..."

Actually, for me, a female assassin who enjoys her job, who doesn't spend pages and pages agonizing about how it's wrong to kill, is refreshing and original. While some male soldier/assassin/spies will exhibit ennui or existential angst, usually later in their careers, in general, men are allowed to tolerate, if not outright enjoy, lethal professions. Woman, stereotyped as nurturers, are expected to feel guilty.

As for YA assassins...the teenage brain's ventromedial prefrontal cortex isn't that well developed, which is why they make "good" soldiers. This is why despots in third-world countries conscript "child soldiers" and easily turn them into stone cold killers. My point? A YA assassin who enjoys their job is very plausible.

As for non-paranormal, dystopian YA, I'm reading another book by Melina Marchetta, Looking for Alibrandi, which is contemporary, no magic or "pocky-clypses." There's loads of YA without speculative elements; the paranormals/dystopians just gets a lot more press.

quantum said...

Having enjoyed 'Hunger Games', recommended here earlier, and being a fan of Boadicea and medieval female warriors, I might give this one a whirl. Its good to see those hunky male warriors being outsmarted by lethal female deception. And it's also available on audio.

It should pass the time until Terri's book materialises and Miranda's next adventure appears, though Janga is also finding some gems!

Good job my book budget is healthy!

Another brilliantly magnificent review Helli.
I sometimes think that the reviews are better than the books! LOL

MsHellion said...

Terri, I think I've tried Dessen and she was a bit too...upper-middle class for my patience level. Middle-class problems aren't the same as abject poverty, dystopian outcast problems. In the Princess Diaries, she was such a dork that she was relatable. *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Pat, that makes sense. She doesn't lose a lot of sleep over this. *LOL* She knows too much about these people and how they're really working to be concerned she's shortening their lives before their time. It's not the YA factor of killing that bothers me; she's 17--and that would be "old" for the era when a lot of girls would be married by 13 or 14...etc, etc. And boys of this period are squires from a young age, and can get knighted pretty young: 18-22, before their bodies wear out. *LOL* It's more of the opportunity for women to do that sort of thing that's a little on the edge, but Sybella is a noblewoman (so she's got more time, unless someone marries her off) and she's spent 3 years in a nunnery (which would be a place to be "educated" so to speak.) It feels very plausible.

MsHellion said...

*LOL* Sorry, Q, that the reviews are sometimes better than the books, but I think Beast is the sort of manly hero a guy reader can get behind. He's not Lancelot pretty or anything--he's one of the other knights of the round table...one of the earthier ones.

And I think you'd enjoy Sybella's ability to take control of her own life and keep alive...she's good.

Maureen said...

You know, eventually Miranda will mentor a sexual witch who isn't too sure about the whole sex stuff... One of the books in the tweens, I think...

Pat, you know some scary stuff...