Dark Triumph by Robin Lafevers

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His fair assassin series, bk 2. Andersen Press, 2013. ISBN 9781849395755.
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Historical fantasy. Supernatural. Assassination. Romance. Following Grave mercy (2012), a ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013, comes the story of Sybella who had arrived at the convent full of despair and on the brink of madness. Trained as an assassin in the art of poison and seduction, she is sent back to her father's castle, the very place that she had fled from. She is forced into a life of subterfuge and as the weapon that serves Death she is obliged to seek justice, often by using poison or her weapons. Her life is terrible and when she discovers Beast, a knight imprisoned in the castle's dungeons, she embarks on a dangerous journey to free him and help the Duchess secure Brittany.
This is a stunning story that is so well rounded in its plot, background and characters that it is difficult to say what stands out. Sybella's story is heart breaking and her background of abuse is gradually brought out in all its misery throughout the book. Her plight is so perilous that it is difficult to see how she will be able to triumph in the end, but she is a strong, determined girl who bravely works out what has to be done for justice. Her meeting with Beast and his compassion and understanding opens doors to self-forgiveness and enlightenment. Beast is a wonderful foil for her character and the growing love between the two is a highlight of the book. This is a dark story, the villain d'Albret is vicious and cruel, but the interaction between Beast and Sybella soften the corruption of power that pervades the book
At the end is a historical note that tells which characters and incidents are historically true and Lafevers has managed to bring to life this period of late medieval French history, while setting up a fantasy religion that worships Death and has a convent dedicated to his work.
Fans of fantasy by Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue), Juliet Marillier (Shadowfell and Raven flight), and Melina Marchetta (Lumatere chronicles) will love Grave Mercy and Dark triumph.
Pat Pledger