Dark Triumph (Goodreads | Amazon) is a sequel that surpasses it's predecessor. For me, Grave Mercy (review here) was guilty-pleasure fun, but Dark Triumph is something different entirely. It has everything I loved about the first book, mainly badass assassin nuns, but Sybil is a deeper character than Ismae. Her story is twisted and dark.
"Hate cannot be fought with hate. Evil cannot be conquered by darkness. Only love has the power to conquer them both."If you're like me, it's been awhile since you read Grave Mercy. But no worries after a little initial confusion (mainly me remembering who the hell some of the characters were), you're be able to get into the flow of the second book without re-reading the first. Whereas protecting the Duchess was the primary focus of the first book, Dark Triumph is more about Sybil's past and unravelling her self-loathing.
The politics in this novel are maybe more complicated than the first. No only is there plotting against the Duchess, marriage negotiations, trying to avoid invasion, there is also the politics of the covenant of St. Mortain that comes in play. In the first book Ismae is so devout that we don't see the underbelly of the order, but Sybil is naturally skeptical and questions everything. Even where religion is concerned, human ambitions and egos impact the decisions made.
Of course there is romance in this book, and it's even better than the first book because there's so much standing in it's way. Before Sybil can even consider a man romantically, she has to accept that she's not a monster, not broken beyond repair and is worthy of being loved, not just used. That's the type of journey I want to take with a character, when they encounter their personal demons and save themselves.
This was the first book I read in 2014. Thus far it's the best book of the year for me. I cannot recommend it enough.