DARK TRIUMPH - His Fair Assassin Trilogy (Book 2)
Sybella's duty as Death's assassin in 15th-century France forces her return home to the personal hell that she had finally escaped. Love and romance, history and magic, vengeance and salvation converge in this thrilling sequel to Grave Mercy.
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?
Ello - So here I am in love with another Robin LaFevers book and I realize that there is something fundamentally evil about ARCs. Yes, you get to read a book way before others do. But it also means you must wait so much longer for the next book. This is quite evil. Because I really have no idea how I'm going to handle this wait. Fortunately, I have the remarkable pleasure of interviewing the Assassin Nun Master herself and pick her mind for as much information as we can!
Ello - Congratulations for developing another strong female hero! And what a hero! Dark and damaged but so fierce and yet incredibly empathetic. She is similar and yet so different from Ismae and I love them both! Can you tell us how you approached Sybella and her story that was different from the one for Ismae and Grave Mercy?
Robin - When Ismae first arrived at the convent, both Annith and Sybella just kind of showed up on the page, and Sybella in particular with her brokenness and borderline histrionic personality disorder threatened to take over every scene she was in. It became clear to me that the only way to keep her under control was to promise her her own book. Once I’d decided that, she was able to become the secondary character she was, but she was constantly throwing me heavy, meaningful glances as if to say, just you wait. You promised and you will get an earful. And so I did.
Pieces of it came to me while writing Grave Mercy. For example, I realized halfway through that book who her family was and I was like, Oh my god! And then I had to sit on it for the rest of the book to be certain no hint of it escaped.
One of the biggest differences was the since Sybella had so much backstory and baggage, hers was a much more personal story, told against the backdrop of her own, hugely dramatic life, whereas Ismae was more of a player on the stage of history, and that greatly affected the two narratives I think. Not for better or worse, just different.
Ello – Ah, that explains so much! Because it really did feel more personal and intense! All right - First of all, let me make clear how much I love the Beast! I loved him in Grace Mercy and I just love him to pieces here! I adore the romance between Sybella and Beast, and how they slowly earn each other's trust and respect. At what point in writing this series did you decide for these two to get romantically involved? While you were writing Grave Mercy? Or had you planned all along for them to get together?
Robin - Ah, good question. Let’s see. I think it was also fairly early on in the writing of Grave Mercy that I kept thinking, Beast would be perfect for Sybella, just the sort of guy that would show her what a true heart looked like. And he was supposed to die there in the final battle of Grave Mercy, but I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t write that death, so I left it open, mostly to ease my own heart, but then it quickly became apparent that my subconscious had known exactly what it was doing.
And then, when I began doing the initial writing for Dark Triumph and saw just how intertwined their pasts were and why Beast, more than any other man in the world, would be able to get in under her defenses, I decided my subconscious had been having a very, VERY good day.
Ello – Your subconscious is very smart because I would have been very upset with you if you had killed off Beast. I’m still harboring a grudge for another death in Grave Mercy that I have YET to get over, BTW! Ok so I was fascinated by all of the weapons used in both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph, like Sybella's secret stash of knives. How did you research what sort of weapons were used in this period?
Robin - Well, I do have two sons and a husband who never met a weapon they didn’t love, so we’ve had a fair amount of practical experience around here. Plus, writing in the Age of Google means that no historic fact or bit of research is ever very far away.
Ello - Also, if you were a nun assassin, what would be your weapon of choice?
Robin - I’m afraid I’d lean toward gentle weapons and most likely poison would be my specialty. Also? I am squeamish.
Ello – I’m not! (grins – that’s why I love those knives!) I remember reading that it took you five or six years to write Grave Mercy. For Dark Triumph, however, you were under a much tighter deadline. Was it hard switching gears between these very different timeframes? How were you able to manage drafting the sequel so quickly? And do you have any advice for writers who are undertaking similar deadlines?
Robin - Hoo boy. We just don’t realize what a luxury it is to be able to take as much time as we need to write a book until we no longer have that time, do we? Because yes, it was hard switching gears. Part of what helped is that by taking so long to write that first book, I did have most, if not all, of the world building issues firmly in place. I was still able to have fun with it and surprise myself (the charbonnerie!) but most of that heavy lifting had been done.
The second thing that helped was that because Sybella was in Grave Mercy, I had had to figure some of who she was out while writing that book, so I didn’t hit it cold. Plus, I mentally toyed with ideas for the second book during the various down times that come up during the publication schedule for the first book. Having the story have a less broad scope also helped immensely. Even so, it took me seven hefty drafts to get it where I wanted it. No mean feat in just ten months.
Ello – You are amazing, Robin! This book is amazing! From 5 years to 10 months and this book is just as good, if not better! Robin, you know I'm a huge research hound also. And I'm quite jealous of the breadth of historical research you undertook for this fabulous series. And I know that there are always kernels of research that we fall in love with but can't always find a way to put into our books. Did you find some fascinating historical fact that you would like to share with us here that didn't make it into either books?
Robin - You know, I didn’t! I was able to use all the stuff I fell in love with. Or if I didn’t use it yet, I’ll be using it in book three.
Ello – Speaking of book 3, can you take pity on a desperate person and give us a little teaser about Book 3?
Robin - Gosh, I so wish I could! The problem is, well, see answer #5 above. I’ve just spent very little time with Annith. She was so peripheral to books one and two that I didn’t have the advantage of getting to know her even a little bit. Compounding that was that I realized I’d only ever seen her through Ismae or Sybella’s eyes and had never stepped into her skin and been her, which I am doing now and learning all sorts of surprising things. But of course, nothing I can share. Sorry! (Mostly because it’s all very fluid at this point and hasn’t solidified yet.)
Ello – Ok, I shall suffer by whining in an over the top, melodramatic manner! Thank you Robin for sharing with us a little bit about Dark Triumph! And if any of our Inkpot readers have not yet read Grave Mercy, well, what are you waiting for? And if you have and are eagerly waiting for Dark Triumph, I promise you are in for a gorgeous treat!!