by Robin LaFevers
First sentence: “I did not arrive at the convent of Saint Mortain some green stripling.”
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Review copy provided by my place of employment.
Others in the series: Grave Mercy
For a year, I have been trying to handsell Grave Mercy to customers here in Wichita by telling them it’s a book about very awesome, kick-butt Nuns of Death. (Because, seriously: why wouldn’t you want to read a book about a kick-butt nun of death??) But I have not had a single success: no one has bought the book. (So much so that we haven’t gotten Dark Triumph in.) After finishing this one, though, I think I need to change my tactic: while the main characters are assassins, these are rich, layered, fascinating works of Historical Fiction, with adventure, passion, and politics (not just country politics, but those between men and women), at every turn. For the adult readers, who don’t normally go for the YA stuff: if you liked Discovery of Witches or Outlander or any Phillippa Gregory book, you will love this one.
The overarching story of Duchess Anne’s attempt to hold on to Brittany in the late 15th century picks up where it left off in Grave Mercy (not necessary to read, but helpful): she’s holed up in Rennes trying to figure out who’s trustworthy, while her main adversary (and vile human being) d’Albret is in Nantes, plotting against her (he wants the kingdom any way possible, and she turned him down for marriage). The nominal story, however, is not Duchess Anne’s but rather, Sybella’s, one of those assassin nuns. She’s been sent to infiltrate d’Albret’s household, get information, and possibly kill d’Albret, if she can get close enough. D’Albret’s house is not a happy place for any woman (all five of his previous wives from less-than-natural causes), but Sybella has one more layer to this madness: she is d’Albret’s daughter.
I’ll just wrap this up by saying this: it’s dark — there is evil in Sybella’s world, and that doesn’t make for an easy read — but it’s not so dark that it’s unreadable. I loved the romance; it came on slowly, and for once the romantic interest wasn’t Tall, Dark, and Handsome. I loved how LaFevers played with the politics of men and women, and how Sybella used everything she had to work with in her favor. She is smart, yet she doubts herself and her mission, making her a wonderfully complex character.
I can’t wait to read the next one.