Narrator: Angela Goethals, Suzy Jackson
Series: Courting Darkness Duology #1
Published by Recorded Books on February 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: 17 hours, 33 minutes
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble
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?
Courting Darkness is the first book in a new duology featuring Sybella from the His Fair Assassin Series. It can be read without any prior knowledge of the previous series as Robin LaFevers brings you up to speed, but I think you miss some of the magic of the Daughters of St Mortain (God of Death) if you didn’t read the original series set in this world. The story is told from two alternating PoVs. Both are daughters of St Mortain, training in the convent in all the ways of death. Sybella’s Pov is with the happening close to Anne of Brittany. Genevieve is the other PoV and she has been a sleeper in the French court for five years with not a word from the convent, just waiting for her time to be activated.
Anne of Brittany has been through a few possible engagements and one marriage by proxy to Maximilian of Austria trying to keep her duchy intact. She might still be a young girl but she has played the game of politics for a long time. We pick back up with her as she is traveling to marry Charles VIII, King of France. This puts her in new dangerous territory as she will have far less direct power being married to a King. Anne will have to go head to head with Anne De Beaujeu, the current regent of France, who is going to make it difficult for Anne and Charles to get close to each other in her bid to hold onto the power she currently has.
Sybella’s book Dark Triumph was my favorite book of the original His Fair Assassins series. I was so excited to continue on with the Historic Fantasy revolving around Anne of Brittany. To say expectations were high is an understatement. I loved Sybella in Courting Darkness, she has come a long way from the broken, cynical girl she used to be before falling in love with Beast. To see how she is now, the one who can find good in a situation and protect those who are innocent, is a fantastic facet of her character to see.
Sybella has also made an enemy of the regent as she tries to minimize the humiliation Anne goes through before and after marriage to the King of France. Sybella had people to protect from her brother, Peirre D’Albret, and making an enemy of a powerful woman could put them in even more danger.
Genevieve reminded me a little of the old Sybella, in that she is adrift and alone, without a friend in the world. She hadn’t even finished her training at the covenant, before being placed as a sleeper in the French court and she feels lost, hoping and waiting for some word she is needed. Sybella had a way of making me like her even when she was trying to be a lone wolf, Genevieve’s character didn’t do that for me and so I found myself a little frustrated with her.
Genevieve wants to love and trust so badly, but she pushes any away that try to get close to her, thinking it will just make her weak. She has a connection with Maraud, a prisoner, in the castle where she lives. As they build a friendship, I had high hopes it would lead to a deeper connection but every time it gets close, she smashes it. As we got closer to the end of the book there was a scene, I was hoping would never happen, but it did and it really hit me emotionally how much I was really upset that Genevieve carried out that part of her plan. I remind myself she is young and hasn’t been in the fold of the covenant for so long, that her intentions were good, but the consequences might be dire.
The prisoner, Maraud, that she ends up traveling with, is completely likeable on the other hand. He often carried their chapters, as I really adored the man and his heart. I liked how honorable he was and you could tell he is a good man to the core. I look forward to seeing him in the next book and wonder if we might even get a PoV from him.
Between the two PoVs, we get a really good indications of the strife and challenges happening in France at this time. It is also clear there are some big changes happening and plots afoot not only against Anne, but possibly against the King as well.
I enjoyed this new book set in a world I once loved. I’m very curious to see how things play out now that everything has been set in motion and have high hopes for the conclusion. I’m not sure I liked it as much as the original trilogy, but that has a lot to do with being frustrated with Genevieve and not liking some stuff near the end of the book. Still overall it was a satisfying tale and a good sign that I was so emotionally invested in the story.
I would still recommend starting with Grave Mercy as it sets up the world in this series so well.
“Women like her are worse than the men they serve. They cling hardest to the very rules that cage them, ruthlessly ensuring that all other women are equally trapped.”
“You are not an apricot. You are a blade that has been brutally forged, painfully hammered, and wickedly honed. You are steel, not poison. You are deadly, not depraved. They are very different things, Sybella.”
“I had as many choices as you did. It is just that I have never seen shame in whoring nor understood the need to lie to oneself by dressing it up with silk and jewels.”
Angela Goethals is back as the voice of Sybella. She does a solid job capturing the complex emotion Sybella is feeling in her new role and surrounded by enemies. Suzy Jackson also gives a strong performance. I really enjoyed her in Skyward and continue to find her voice fills out the narration well. While Genevieve drove me a little nuts, it wasn’t due to Suzy.
Listen to a clip:
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Oh I confess that this one is completely new to me but I would be curious to how the duaology is in a whole
I’ve not read this author before. Glad to hear you are enjoying this new duology. I bet this one has a lot of intrigue and conspiracy in it.
That it does. There is action but most of the book is the political intrigue.
She finished up the trilogy I read by her pretty strongly, so I’m hoping the same can be said of this when it is done.
I listened to this one and definitely preferred Sybella’s storyline, too, Robin.
I just love her. I totally was all in when I found out she and Beast would be in it.
I have Grave Mercy from the library but only time will tell if I have a chance to listen to it in the next couple weeks. I hope so. Great review Robin!
I hope you find time for it Anne. I loved the tie into actual historic events and the Daughters of Mortain (Assassin Nuns) are pretty fantastic if I do say so myself.
I loved the first two books and own the third, but got scared to read it. I just might dig it out, then buy and hold this one until the mood strikes..lol
The third book has a great twist to it. I didn’t get it until it hit me in the face.
This is a really good companion and if you like Sybella, I assume you did since you loved the second book, you should like most of this book too. Hope you eventually find time for the rest of the series.
Excellent review! I read this one without having reading His Fair Assassins and I agree that it felt like I was missing a little something in terms of backstory that would have made it an even better read. I went and bought the trilogy though and definitely want to go back and read that because I really liked the world and the characters.
If you enjoyed this one without the first series than I KNOW you will enjoy the His Fair Assassin series. 🙂
I haven’t read anything by this author, yet. But it sounds as though I need to track her down – great review, Anne!
Historic Fantasy isn’t something I read often but I think she does a great job staying true to the events of the time and adding some Fantasy into the mix.
I knew I wanted to read this book but now that I know it features Sybella, I am even more excited. Great review, Robin!
Right!!! I love Sybella so much and she is just as good in this. Plus we get a few sweeter moments between her and Beast.
I haven’t read any of Robin’s work, but I will be checking my kindle and reading list.
I hope you enjoy it Sherry
I pre-ordered this one and can’t wait to read it. I have it on my nightstand as one of the ones I want to get to right away. I am glad you liked it but would have liked you to have rated it higher. I plan on reading both in this duology.
3.5 is not a bad rating from me. I definitely enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.
I might have struggled with Genevieve a little but I see her story arc having a lot of potential and I definitely love seeing Beast and Sybella again along with a few other cameos from beloved characters of the His Fair Assassin series.