All I can say upon finishing this book is . . . YES! It was just so freaking good. In fact, probably my favorite YA of the year so far. It’s been long enough since I read the first book (“Grave Mercy”) that I can’t honestly remember too much about that one—I liked it A LOT, I know, but I don’t remember enough to pinpoint exactly how “Dark Triumph” compares. But I’m pretty sure that I like “Dark Triumph” even more than “Grave Mercy,” just because I don’t see how the ridiculous giddiness that I felt when I finished this second book could be beat.
Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?
One thing I’m sure of: “Dark Triumph” is a much darker book than “Grave Mercy.” I remember “Grave Mercy” being more about political intrigue, but the scope of “Dark Triumph” is much more personal. Ismae in the first book doesn’t really have a personal investment in all the scheming and dealing going on in that book, at least at first, but for Sybella in this second book, everything that goes on is deeply personal. She’s fighting demons of her past that have once again become demons of her present. And those demons just keep getting worse. And ickier. Seriously. From the beginning, I knew that Sybella’s family life was horrible, but it just kept getting worse and worse until I didn’t know how she survived it.
But as it got increasingly terrible, my respect for Sybella grew. Pretty much from the start of the book, I felt more of a connection with Sybella than I had with Ismae. I don’t know why really—Sybella is not exactly a warm and loving person. With her past, there’s not really any way she could be. But I loved her strength and her ability to not let her crappy circumstances distract her from her goals, and I appreciated that despite all she’s been through, she’s still kind in her own way. It would be so easy—and understandable—for her to just give up, but she never does. And that unfailing core of strength when it would be easier and more convenient to be weak won me over pretty dang quick.
And now let’s just take a minute and talk about Beast. Or really, as I say in my head every time, BEAST!!! I vaguely remember him from the first book, and I know I liked him there, but oh my gosh he grabbed my heart in this one. I think I was a goner from the point where he chucked the sword at that guy’s head. He’s just so perfect for Sybella. He’s strong enough to handle the weight of Sybella’s past and optimistic enough to want to do so. And he respects her strengths and skills as well and doesn’t pull any alpha-male crap, despite obviously being very much an alpha male.
Overall, a fantastic book and a fantastic second book, which is even rarer. You don’t necessarily need to have read “Grave Mercy” to understand what’s going on in this one, but I recommend doing so—I definitely found myself wishing, especially towards the beginning, that I had reread “Grave Mercy” so I could remember what all was happening. Anyway, I obviously loved this book. There was one small-ish thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars, but other than that, I think this book deserves a very strong 4.5.
Rating: 4.5 / 5