Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book Review: Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

Hello everyone! You might know Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin trilogy, and if so, you’ll be excited to hear that her newest novel, Courting Darkness, is the beginning of a stand-alone duology set in the same world. And whoa, this book was good on so many levels- the unique backdrop, the political intrigue, the characters...

Death wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning…

Sybella has always been the darkest of Death’s daughters, trained at the convent of Saint Mortain to serve as his justice. But she has a new mission now. In a desperate bid to keep her two youngest sisters safe from the family that nearly destroyed them all, she agrees to accompany the duchess to France, where they quickly find themselves surrounded by enemies. Their one ray of hope is Sybella’s fellow novitiates, disguised and hidden deep in the French court years ago by the convent—provided Sybella can find them.

Genevieve has been undercover for so many years, she struggles to remember who she is or what she’s supposed to be fighting for. Her only solace is a hidden prisoner who appears all but forgotten by his guards. When tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands—even if it means ignoring the long awaited orders from the convent.

As Sybella and Gen’s paths draw ever closer, the fate of everything they hold sacred rests on a knife’s edge. Will they find each other in time, or will their worlds collide, destroying everything they care about?

I love the premise of Courting Darkness- it reminds me a little of Kiersten White’s And I Darken in the sense that it explores an era in history not commonly seen in YA fiction (in this case, 15th century Brittany and France) while adding a fantasy twist. As a result, the political drama has a realistic and unique note to it; this is not your standard fantasy monarchy with a tyrannical king and obedient puppet advisors- this book follows the complex political struggle as the duchess of Brittany and her court attempt to maintain their sovereignty from France. Politics play a considerable role in this story, and I found it to be well-written and interesting to follow, especially since it’s based loosely on history.

The author also takes the time to develop all the characters and their relationships so that they are realistic as well. Sometimes the relationships in novels can be a little generic (e.g. the stereotypical father figure or the domineering older sibling) when in real life our relationships (with our peers, family, superiors, etc.) are constantly shifting and are extremely complex, and Courting Darkness depicts this well. I would say the relationships between Genevieve and Margot, and between Sybella and the duchess are especially unique. This novel is also impressive given the number of characters involved and the author’s ability to make each one of them have lives, intentions, and purposes that don’t just revolve around the protagonists. The subtle characterization throughout this novel brings all the characters to life, making you view even the minor ones as individuals rather than just plot devices. In all, there is a definite sense that everyone has a life of their own, as if the novel could easily shift to follow a different character and it would still be a well-rounded and complete story.

Finally, Sybella and Genevieve are such compelling protagonists. While both of them are Death’s daughters, they are very different people with unique backstories and circumstances. Both of them are strong characters who are mature, self-sufficient, and refuse to be reined in by others. They are so well-written, and there are many moments and scenes that make you feel everything from indignation and dread to grim satisfaction.

In all, this novel has so many unique characteristics. If you like medieval fantasy, action, politics, and historical dramas, Courting Darkness is for you!


Find Courting Darkness in the Monroe County Library SystemGoodreadsBarnes & Noble, and Amazon.

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