Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Early Review – Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFevers

March 14, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 1 Comment

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFeversDark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on April 2nd 2013
Pages: 405
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Grave Mercy, Mortal Heart, Courting Darkness

four-stars

Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

His Fair Assassin series

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)
Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) {Purchase – My Review}

​’The abbess and I had a different sort of relationship. One built on mutual dislike and distrust, brought together only by our shared needs: mine for a sanctuary, hers for a finely honed weapon she could let loose as Mortain willed. I trust her as much as I do a viper.’​

It seems as if each hand maiden of death ha​s​ her own story to tell and in Dark Triumph we ​get to experience Lady Sybella’s. And hers is quite grim and ​desolate.​ Sybella manages to escape from the frightening place she was forced to call home for most of her life and finds herself at the convent; a place where she finally feels at peace.

‘As Death’s handmaiden, I must be in place so I may strike when the time comes.’

Her peace is short-lived, however, as the abbess instructs her that Mortain wishes her to return to her father so that she can be in a prime position in d’Albret’s household to gain priceless information in order to aid the abbess. The horrors she endured in that household does not make it an easy order to accept.

Sybella is much more ‘rough around the edges’ in comparison to Ismae but her story was still just as riveting. Much of the story is spent with Sybella  ​trying to come to terms with her upbringing and clinging desperately to the fact that d’Albert is not her true father and that she is nothing like him.

​​​​​’Do I enjoy killing? Is it the act itself that brings me joy? Or do I embrace the sense of higher purpose it gives me?’

At its center, Dark Triumph is a story of faith and belief. Faith and belief that Sybella is nothing like her loathsome father and that Mortain is her true father. Faith and belief that the men she has killed that did not bear a marque still deserved their deaths and that it isn’t a sin against Mortain. She struggles consistently with these thoughts and it sets the tone for the entire story.

​​​Much like Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph does include a romance but it’s perfectly balanced so as to not overpower the story in any way. The Beast of Waroch:  the perfectly imperfect love interest is the perfect love interest for Sybella. He’s the one that could ever come closest to being able to truly understand her and loving her for who she undoubtedly is.

​Agonizingly heartbreaking, Sybella has lived through so much pain and misery in such a short time. It may be easy to commiserate with her, however, it’s even easier to praise her for her strength and ability to endure. Sybella is a true survivor, an inspiration, and an unbelievably strong character that you won’t likely forget.

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Book Review – A Certain Slant of Light (Light #1) by Laura Whitcomb

November 13, 2012 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2012, YA 1 Comment

Book Review – A Certain Slant of Light (Light #1) by Laura WhitcombA Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Series: Light #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on September 21st 2005
Pages: 282
Genres: Ghosties, Paranormal, Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-stars

 

In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen--terrified, but intrigued--is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.

 

‘That I am your heart’s secret fills me with song. I wish I could sing of you here in my cage. You are my heart’s hidden poem. I reread you, memorize you every moment we’re apart.’

This was a real shocker for me that I enjoyed it as much as I did. For one, this has been on and off my TBR shelf several times as I would occasionally decide that this is simply not for me and I have no plans to read it. But go figure a few months later it pops up on my Goodreads timeline, I take another glance and decide it may be worth a shot. Thanks, Wendy, for giving me that final push. 🙂

I was actually quite touched by Helen and James’ relationship/connection (at least I was once I overlooked their questionable acts). Helen had been Light (a spirit) for well over a century and not once spoke to anyone that entire time and had never quite realized how desperately she craved the company of another. Their feelings for each other were instantaneous yet it thankfully managed to not feel akin to every other insta-love situation these days in YA literature. Helen and James have their own special situation and instead of calling it insta-love I would consider it more of an extreme fascination with one another as they are the only ones of their ‘species’ as they called it.

I know that I should have been repelled by the whole concept of human’s walking around ’empty’ just ripe for the taking for deceased spirits. That their soul can be absent, drifted off to a new place, while their body remains living its life. It really was a creepy concept/possibility but what honestly scared me the most were Jenny’s religious extremist parents. Before Helen came along, she watched Jenny for some time as she simply went through the motions of life without exuding any sort of emotion. Being so constricted by your family, being forced to obey and follow such rigid rules, and forcing their religion into every facet of your very being? Now that’s scary.

This is one of those books where the writing truly took my breath away. It flowed so beautifully and was a real delight. I loved how she kept Helen’s speech true to form considering she wasn’t from this day and age. That type of extra little touch really helped make this a very special book.

This is a novel about love but it’s mostly about learning to forgive yourself for the very reason Helen and James were still on Earth to find each other was because they hadn’t relived their final moments in order to forgive themselves for the actions they made. This was a wonderful, mature, YA novel with hints of romance, paranormal, and learning to find peace.

‘Your mind will never lose anything forever that’s worth keeping.’

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Early Review – Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

March 3, 2012 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2012, YA 4 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on April 3rd 2012
Pages: 576
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Dark Triumph, Mortal Heart, Courting Darkness

five-stars

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

This was an exceptionally written story that managed to suck me in with the very first line and I simply couldn’t read fast enough. For a book with over 550 pages this went extremely quick.

Ismae is seventeen years-old and just has been sold to the local pig farmer for three silver coins. As he inevitably forces her into his bedroom after the local priest has married them, he sees her body for the first time. And the scars that adorn it. After he locks her in a closet, she is assisted by the same local priest that married her and the local herbwitch responsible for the scars on her body and they ferry her out of town and into safety. Unable to fathom what she should be expecting, she arrives at the convent of St. Mortain, the god of Death. Ismae is told that she was sired by the god of Death himself and that he has bestowed gifts upon her of great value.

“If you choose to stay, you will be trained in His arts. You will learn more ways to kill a man than you imagined possible. We will train you in stealth and cunning and all manner of skills that will ensure no man is ever again a threat to you.”

Hmm.. become a bad-ass assasin or go back to the pig farmer. Decisions, decisions.

Duval is a mysterious man who is a favorite to the duchess, but his loyalties are in doubt. Ismae is ultimately sent back with him to court as his mistress. It was obviously inevitable that these two would end up been all lovey-dovey but I was okay with that. Duval was a good match for Ismae in my opinion. At first, I didn’t much care for the ‘little-girl’ mode she went into around him. The girl is an assassin who has killed men in cold blood and she went all weak-kneed everytime he touched her… but I suppose that could be attributed to the fact that she spent more in practicing on poison making than she did in her ‘womanly arts’ classes. 🙂 I think this ended up making the story work better in terms of realism because regardless of the fact that she is an assassin, she is only 17 and has yet to encounter a man that was decent to her and if she didn’t act the way she did I think her actions would have closely resembled that of a robot instead of a real person. Her vulnerabilities are intriguing.

‘I can dodge a blow or block a knife. I am impervious to poison and know a dozen ways to escape a chokehold or garrote wire. But kindness? I do not know how to defend against that.’

I really did love Ismae. She was charming, unintentionally funny, a natural bad-ass, she hides weapons under her skirts, and kills people with jewelry. Enough said. The initial pacing of this story was incredibly fast and it flashed forward 3 years later to when she is a trained assassin within the first 50 pages. At first I was disappointed that we didn’t receive more of a backstory on Ismae, but then again, she was raised the daughter of an abusive man who was a turnip farmer. How interesting could it have been?

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, if it’s done right. I’ve read some pretty dreadful ones. This was a historical fiction with touches of fantasy that blended beautifully in my opinion. I was a bit timid going into this because I haven’t read too many YA historical fictions and the ones I have I wasn’t impressed. That’s the thing with this one though, it may be labeled YA but it’s very maturely written. All in all I’m pretty blown away at how much I enjoyed this. I was enthralled throughout the entirety and was pleasantly mystified as to what the outcome could possibly be… which is quite rare. So many books these days lack that ‘surprise’ factor. By the end though I was practically heartbroken once it was over as I had become so emotionally invested in what happened to these people… I’m so excited for the next book to come out. I think it will be interesting learning more about Sybella after the glimpses we had in this installment. I can’t wait!

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