I did not arrive at the convent of Saint Mortain some green stripling. By the time I was sent there, my death count numbered three, and I had had two lovers besides. Even so, there were some things they were able to teach me: Sister Serafina, the art of poison; Sister Thomine, how to wield a blade; and Sister Arnette, where best to strike with it, laying out all the vulnerable points on a man’s body like an astronomer charting the stars.
I read and enjoyed Grave Mercy when I read it last spring, so I was very happy to receive a review copy of the second book in the series from Harcourt Books (not an ARC, but a hardcover)! Dark Triumph, which is coming out in the beginning of April, tells not of Ismae, but of Sybella, another of the assassin nuns at the convent. She is sent from the convent back to the hellish home she escaped from; her supposed father is d’Albret, who has betrayed the duchess. The abbess promises Sybella that she can be the one to kill her father, but as the book opens, she has been at his castle for a long time, and he still hasn’t been marqued, meaning that the God of Death has chosen him to die. So she must wait, and meanwhile she receives orders from the abbess to help find and rescue a prisoner deep in the dungeons.
Dark Triumph was just as exciting and suspenseful as Grave Mercy, though it was a lot shorter. I found Sybella just as compelling as Ismae, if not a bit more. She’s more conflicted, and she has dark, dark memories within her that she struggles to suppress. Sybella also must confront her inner demons when she is back at her father’s castle, site of many, many, many bad memories. If Ismae is Katsa, then Sybella is like Fire; very powerful too, but much more vulnerable. Much like in How to Lead a Life of Crime, events from Sybella’s life are slowly revealed to the reader as the book progresses, which is an infuriating but effective tactic.
However, if you loved Ismae, don’t despair. She appears in the book occasionally. And so does Duval! A few other characters from Grave Mercy show up too, but Dark Triumph basically focuses on Sybella and her adventures. It is set four years after the events of Grave Mercy, and though it doesn’t really make reference to the specific events in Grave Mercy, you kind of have to read Grave Mercy first, because a lot of the terms and politics are just barely explained, assuming that the reader knows what’s going on. Since I hadn’t read Grave Mercy in half a year, it was a bit confusing at first, but I soon reacquainted myself with the situation, and loved this one.
Of course, there has to be romance, and that takes the form of the mysterious prisoner in the dungeon, who Sybella must rescue and get to the duchess. He’s a renowned warrior, and when the battle lust is upon him, the Beast, as he’s known, is unstoppable. When Sybella accidently gets taken along on the journey to the duchess, they get to know each other better, while battling both d’Albret’s men and French troops. I think I enjoyed Ismae and Duval’s romance together more, but it was still interesting to see their growing attachment to one another. Thankfully, there are no love triangles in this series.
The series is kind of hard to classify in a specific genre. I suppose it would be historical fiction, but I kind of want to call it fantasy even though it’s obviously not fantasy, since there’s nothing magical about it, and it’s set in the real world. But historical fiction doesn’t seem right either, somehow. Kiki Strike is set in New York City in the present day, but I wouldn’t call it realistic fiction. So whether you’re a fan of fantasy or historical fiction or both, this series is great. Start off with Grave Mercy, and then read the even better sequel, Dark Triumph.
Read Dark Triumph:
- if you liked Grave Mercy
- if you like historical fiction
- if you like fantasy
- if you like books set in medieval times
|Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!|