Friday, June 21, 2013

Assassin Meets Beast

Historical fantasy can be a beautiful thing when done well, and Robin LaFevers does it masterfully with her His Fair Assassin series. In Dark Triumph, she tells the dark tale of another of Saint Mortain's handmaidens, Sybella. 

Sybella's worst nightmare is returning to the home of her father, Lord D'Albret. D'Albret is not only a traitorous beast insistant upon forcing the duchess to marry him so he can control her land, but also to call her his next conquest. Since all six of his previous wives have died mysteriously, this does not bode well for the duchess. But Sybella's sister through Mortain saved the duchess. Now Sybella's post in her own home is to be the mole in the lion's den. The only way the abbess got her to return was with the promise she could kill D"Albret with her own hands. But after much time has passed and the Mark of Mortain has not graced D'Albret, giving Sybella the sign to finish him, she realizes she doesn't think she can wait a single minute longer before killing him even without the Saint's blessing. 

It is just then that she receives a message from the abbess to save a prisoner from D'Albret's dungeon. When she arrives, it becomes clear she is going to need help getting the heavily damaged beast of a man out of his cage in his beaten, semi-conscious state. Baron of Waroch, affectionately referred to as Beast, is half-dead already, but with the help of a jailer turned ally, Sybella is able to free him. In the confusion of their escape, however, she is knocked unconscious and take with them. Knowing it means D'Albret will peg her a traitor, she has no choice but to escort Beast to the duchess. What started out an assignment for the abbess and Mortain turned into a journey Sybella had not thought possible, both physically and emotionally.

You know, there is something about historical fantasy that just sucks me right in. I don't know what it is, but if done right, it gets me every time. And the His Fair Assassin series is addictive for me. I avoided this book for a little while until I had some time to really sit down and get sucked into it, and boy am I glad I did because it was SO good I couldn't put it down. In the first book, you see a little bit of Sybella, but not much. And what you do see isn't all that great- she is pretty mean and angry and bitter, but in this book, you find out exactly what made her that way. And boy, is it ugly. What this girl had to endure at the hands of her maniacal father and brother is a fate worse than death. LaFevers can write a villain like no other villain I have ever read about. I mean, if you can read about D'Albret and not want to kill him yourself, then I have to question your own sanity! I don't think I ever could have imagined such a vile, disgusting human being in my life! 

The beauty in LaFevers' writing is how she can make a character like Sybella redeemable. In fact, the redemption is the best part. I absolutely loved Beast and watching him and Sybella together was amazing. Both had their own demons to deal with before they could look at each other with any hope, but the beauty was in their ability to love and heal each other, and darn if it wasn't fabulous to watch! This was an amazing story, and I know so many adults and young adults who would enjoy it. I think if you know anyone interested in historical fiction with a touch of fantasy, this is your series. If you liked Graceling, Demon King, Throne of Glass, etc., you will love this series. And now I must wait for the third, anxiously biting my nails to see what happens to all of the daughter of Mortain!

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