While I'm probably the last person in the blogosphere to read Dark Triumph, I'm going to go ahead and tell you all about my various feels anyway.
Dark Triumph is the companion/sequel to Grave Mercy: companion, in that it focuses on a different character than Grave Mercy, and in that it has a different tone/focus than its predecessor—it's much more about Sybella's personal journey towards self-forgiveness and personal (as in, in her own mind, not so much in the eyes of others, because in the eyes of Those Who Care About Her, she was never in any need of it) redemption—and a sequel in that it continues the larger political story that began in the first book.
That was a really, really long sentence.
Anyway, so Lady Sybella, like Grave Mercy's Ismae Rienne, is both handmaiden to Death and his daughter. She acts on His behalf, killing those who bear his marque, and she's currently embedded in the household of Alain D'Albret, who is the embodiment of Pure Evil as well as being Sybella's biological father. (As opposed to Mortain, who is her True Father. It's kinda vaguely confusing, but roll with it.) She's there to A) spy on D'Albret and B) assassinate him when (IF) Mortain's marque ever appears.
It's hell being back in the arms—literally, in the case of her half-brother—of her family. In order to fit in and avoid her father's notice (and suspicions), she has to pretend to be callous and vicious, uncaring and bloodthirsty. Being back has stirred up memories that she's tried to exorcise for years, and being back has also given new life to her worry that she's just like her father: heartless, violent, unworthy of love.
After secretly thwarting yet another attempt on her father's part to kidnap and forcibly marry Anne, the Duchess of Brittany, Sybella receives new orders from her abbess: find Benebic de Waroch—a berserker affectionately known as the Beast—in her father's dungeon, free him, and make sure he is reunited with the Duchess, whom he has sworn to protect.
I could go on, but A) you've probably already read it, and B) if you haven't, you get the gist: politics and adventure and romance and personal growth and every good thing.
Because Sybella is so damaged, so emotionally scarred, it's hard to engage with her at first. For the first third or so of the book, everything she feels—or at least everything she admits to feeling—towards others is either dark and violent, or tinged with self-loathing and fear. She hates and fears her family; she distrusts her abbess; she fears that if Ismae knew her true self, that she would lose their friendship. Once she starts to embrace herself, to forgive herself, and to realize that she HASN'T DONE ANYTHING THAT REQUIRES FORGIVENESS, she becomes much easier to engage with, and her fierce joy in fighting, in righting wrongs, and in Beast himself is just... profound.
Like, I felt it in my head, my heart, my gut, my toes.
It deals with faith in God versus faith in those who claim to speak for him.
It deals with blood family versus the family we choose.
It deals with carrying guilt for the actions of others, and with letting that guilt go.
It's not for the faint of heart: it's got incest, infanticide, multiple uxoricides (LaFevers cites Bluebeard as one of her inspirations), rape, murder, torture, mutilation, a gut shot (with intestines!), a threatened (complete with graphic description!) drawing-and-quartering, possible zombification, and I have no doubt that I'm forgetting something.
But at its heart, it's a story of, as I said, forgiveness, love, and redemption; it's a story about how a god can be more than one thing to different people; it's a story about bringing people together through love, encouragement, trust, justice, and inspiration, versus bringing people together through violence and terror.
Lastly, I have no doubt that the Beast of Waroch will be a fan favorite, with his endless warmth, his ice-blue eyes, his honor, loyalty, bravery, and his willingness to let Sybella be Sybella and for loving her for who she is... but my heart belongs to Yannic and his slingshot.
Book source: Bought.