Robin LaFevers, 2013
Premise: Sybella blessed the day she was told she was a Daughter of Death and taken into Mortain’s convent to be taught to kill. Because her human father, the nobleman d’Albret, was the stuff that nightmares are made of. But now she is back in his household, spying for the young Duchess of Brittany, and trying to keep both her life and her sanity intact long enough to kill d’Albret.
If you liked Grave Mercy, don’t be foolish like me and allow a few years to go by before you read this sequel. I was intrigued but terribly confused for several chapters before I remembered barely enough of the political plotline to pick up on how this story fits into that story.
I remember being very interested in Sybella before, as she was a mysterious side character in book one, and at least the first half of her story lived up to those hints. She was subject to an incredibly dark childhood, but now must face those demons, external and internal, while she works secretly on behalf of the convent.
She constantly wonders whether the darkness that she sees in d’Albret is in her as well. She is good at the skills taught at Mortain’s convent. She enjoys killing those who deserve to die. Adding that to her background, it’s only natural that she worry about the darkness within her. Balancing what she wants with what the convent wants, her past with her potential futures, and her instincts with her fears, are her core conflicts, and they are well handled, for the most part.
And she’s really interesting, and her story is complex and haunting….for the first half of the book.
And then there’s a romance.
And really, really I’m fine that there’s a romance. It’s done well, and the characters fit together in a satisfying way. Even if there is some painfully maudlin stalling in the form of some predictable I’m-sure-he-hates-me-so-I’ll-hate-myself-no-of-course-he-doesn’t-really shenanigans.
And then she gets a big piece of plot/character/world knowledge dropped in her lap by the protagonist of the first book. Maybe this wouldn’t have bugged me if I’d remembered the first book, but I found it awkward. It could have been more effective if she’d discovered more of it on her own.
And THEN late in the book she gets a big dollop of (spoiler) mental and spiritual healing from the visit of a divine character who only appears the once. Which, for me, rather makes the whole story that came before seem unimportant. It’s all a bit deus ex machina, and between this, the romance, and the way the final fight shakes out, for a badass assassin maiden, she sure depends on validation from a lot of dudes.
All that said, I did still enjoy the experience of reading the book, and the parts that were good were very good. I’m intrigued by the third book as well. Maybe I won’t let years go by again? Or maybe not.
3 Stars - A Good Book