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Courting Darkness (Courting Darkness…

Courting Darkness (Courting Darkness duology) (edition 2019)

by Robin LaFevers (Author)

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1117162,973 (4.09)1
Title:Courting Darkness (Courting Darkness duology)
Authors:Robin LaFevers (Author)
Info:HMH Books for Young Readers (2019), 512 pages
Collections:Your library, Read

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Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers



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This is the first book in the Courting Darkness duology by LaFevers. This book is set in the same world and deals with many of the same characters as the His Fair Assassin series but is set later in time. I would definitely recommend reading the His Fair Assassin series first. This book was amazing. I loved both of the characters we followed and the writing style was beautiful. The world here is lush and intricate, the intrigue complex.

This book alternates between two different heroines. The first is Sybella (who we know a lot about from the previous series). She is serving as handmaiden and bodyguard to the Duchess of Brittany. The second is Genevieve, she is serving in France undercover. However, she’s been undercover for many years and has no idea what she is supposed to be doing or who she is supposed to be serving.

I really enjoyed this a ton. This book is full of lush descriptive writing that is beautifully done and really makes the world and characters come alive. It is a long book and it took me a bit to read, it never felt long though. It was incredibly engaging but does require some concentration to get through. Both Sybella and Genevieve are equally engaging characters and I loved them.

This book is fairly dark in tone. The situations Sybella and Genevieve (and the women around them) are forced to deal with are raw and dark and will make you cringe at points. This was a very intense read and never really let up.

The only thing I was kind of disappointed in was how the book wrapped up. There's no closure on anything...it just stops. Hopefully the second book in the duology comes out soon.

Overall this was an amazing, if very dark and intense, historical fantasy read. It is pretty much a masterpiece in my opinion and is just written with such amazing beauty and care. I loved it, but was a bit disappointed about how abruptly the story ended. I can’t wait to see how things wrap up in the second book and really hope some of our characters catch a break and get some happiness in their lives. ( )
  krau0098 | Apr 21, 2019 |
Student Review By: Sara R. (12th Grade)
Grade Range: 9th Grade and up
Genre: Fantasy
Literary Merit: Good
Characterization: Good
Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers centers around two women, Genevieve and Sybella. Both of them are from Brittany, a country that neighbor France is seeking to annex. In Brittany, the nine Old Gods have been made into saints in order to prevent their eradication by Christianity. Genevieve and Sybella are from the convent of Saint Mortain, the god of death. They consider themselves daughters of death and see death as a holy act. They are trained in the ways of death, from poisons to knives, and they assassinate people who Mortain marks. Sybella is in Brittany, escorting the Duchess of Brittany as she travels to France to marry King Charles VIII. Genevieve and her partner Margot were placed in France as children by the convent to be called to action when they were needed most. However, it has been five years with no contact from the convent and they have almost given up hope. Now, with Brittany and France finally uniting, Sybella will need Genevieve and Margot more than ever.

First things first, this book is a continuation of the His Fair Assassin series. It is highly recommended that you read that trilogy before Courting Darkness. However, I have not read the His Fair Assassin trilogy so my review will reflect that. Starting this book I was excited by the historical fantasy and the concept of assassins. I expected girls throwing knives and kicking butt, but all I got was political intrigue and wars of words. There were repeated references to characters and events from the trilogy that I was unable to understand. But, this book is still very interesting and overall I was left with mixed feelings. At first, Genevieve seemed to be a bitter, naive character, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was proven wrong. Sybella, however, can do no wrong in this book. Everything works out perfectly for her despite the many obstacles in her way, to the point that I almost wanted her to fail for once. Genevieve's romance felt rushed and forced and her trip was extremely boring. All in all, this book feels like one big exposition and rising action for the second book and it never reaches a climax.

Recommendation: I recommend this book to those who enjoyed the His Fair Assassin trilogy and to those who enjoy historical fiction with a fantasy twist. ( )
  SWONroyal | Apr 17, 2019 |
*sigh* I am torn about this book. I got this because I really enjoyed the His Fair Assassin series and wanted to continue the story. But, I got more than I bargained for.

The book is written from a returning character's perspective (Sybella) and a new character's perspective (Genevieve), switching every chapter or so. This is a typical format for many books these days and I understand why the author did it this way for story-telling and suspense purposes, but I was disappointed that it wasn't like her previous ones where although the series was told from the perspective of three different women whose stories and characters were interwoven and interacted, each of the three books was written wholly from one woman's perspective.

We continue Sybella's story, which was the main focus of the second book, Dark Triumph, from the His Fair Assassin series. It is mostly centered around her sisters' safety, which is her greatness weakness. Our new character, Genevieve, has her own fatal flaw and that is her inability to trust people. Her story is mostly centered around coming-of-age stuff, and also serves to bring a very minor character from the previous series to the forefront. Now, I realize characters have to have some sort of fatal flaw for them to be human and relatable, but I was honestly tired by the end of the book of these flaws, to the point where in my head I was often like, "DEAR GOD I GET IT SYBELLA YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR SISTERS AND GENEVIEVE YOU CANNOT TRUST ANYONE." This latter from Genevieve was starting to border on how I felt about Zam's "trust" issues in Witch's Reign. (Thinking on it now, the overemphasis of the flaws in this book had similar results for these characters as they did for Zam in Witch's Reign.) I found myself questioning Sybella's and Genevieve's choices more heavily than I did in the previous series. Not that they have to be perfect and it wouldn't make sense for them to never make bad choices, they were just... more questionable choices that seemed less sensible than their character build would dictate, particularly Sybella. I think because eventually the choices were less about options they were weighing and more about trying to out maneuver fate, so then the flaws ended up creating self-fulfilling prophecies for these women through their attempts to circumvent the flaws. I think what I am trying to say is that the flaws were too much of a focus and drive for these books and I eventually got bored with the characters because they became one-dimensional and unlikable—even non-sensible.

I was also disappointed and confused that this was centered around Sybella and not Ismae or Annith because 1) I like Ismae and Annith better and was more interested in their stories and 2) I don't really understand what this means for the continuation of these storylines. Are all the duologies going to be about Sybella and Genevieve? Is there going to be a duology for each girl and each duology will add another new character so in the end we'll have six main assassins? Or maybe Genevieve is the only constant in these duologies and she has one with Sybella, one with Annith, and one with Ismae? Or maybe Sybella and Genevieve's stories will be told with this duology series and then the other girls' stories will continue with yet a third series? I think this, along with the format of the storytelling, feels random to me and I can't fit it in with my brain's previous categorizing of this world—I want to know that this randomness serves a purpose and isn't just an attempt at being clever just for the sake of cleverness.

The amount of political considerations in this book is staggering, and I was impressed at the interweaving of it all. So, though I experienced a bit of a loss of interest in the characters themselves, I was still very interested in the story as a whole and where things would go. For the most part it was never so complex that I couldn't keep track of it all. There are also some nuances from the previous series that I felt were a little odd or not tended to, but because this duology series is not finished, I can't tell of it was oversight or if the author just hasn't gotten there.

The point at which disappointment entered my heart and affected my interest level in the whole book was when I had only three hours of the book to listen to and I realized how many loose ends and unanswered questions were still lingering—and that basically none of it would be resolved at all. In the first series, though the stories continued, the end of each book was satisfying because at least some of what was going on was resolved and there was some closure. I didn't feel like I had spent 17 hours of my life listening to a story for basically no reason except to maybe set things up for the other books by opening 20 additional twisted plot lines with no resolution.

Thinking on it now, I can't really think of a one truly satisfying thing about this book. I don't like Genevieve and didn't really care what happened to her. While I don't dislike Sybella, she is not my favorite of the three previous assassins. I didn't care what happened to Sybella's sisters, particularly Charlotte who is like a little sociopath (though I have to admit to morbid curiosity about where the author will take her character). I'm still convinced what transpired with Sybella's sisters at the end will only, as mostly everything else did in this book, come back to bite Sybella and cause yet another emergency with her sisters for Sybella to be panicked about. The only character I was really interested in leaves the story to do their own thing about 3/4 through with no resolution to their story. The Queen (formerly the Duchess) takes a back seat and so many of her areas of the story were just painful to read/listen to that I couldn't even enjoy her character, though I do like her. The King is kind of... eh. The Reagent is a delightfully devilish and ruthless character (not just because of her plotting but also in that you can almost wish you had her on your side and admire her mind), but I was so hoping she would get her comeuppance at the end... no resolution there either. None of the political questions or concerns were tended to. Even Beast's appearances were sort of underwhelming and their relationship has become a little odd for me. It was also an emotionally exhausting read with all the explorations into relationships and plotting and endless waffling. I was super confused about the convent and surprised at how little clarification was given about any of that. Redeeming values could be that the sexy times were more vivid in this book (not raunchy but more descriptive and compelling) and Father Effram was in it a bit and I like him, but neither of those are enough to raise it in my eyes.

The handling of the courtly intrigue is mainly why this is at 4 stars instead of a 3 or 3.5. I almost brought this down to a 3.5 while writing this, but I am giving the author the benefit of the doubt since usually my reading experiences with her are more positive. Also, in all fairness, I think some of my disappointment in this book may stem from assumptions and expectations I didn't even know I had due to my love of the first series until I started reading this one, which may have colored my opinion a bit. So, I'll continue giving this series a chance and see if it I come to like it more. I am hoping as the duologies go on that the author's vision will become clearer, though I wish more of this had been clear to begin with. ( )
  wordcauldron | Mar 13, 2019 |
Rivetingly addictive!

As usual I was grasped by the power of LaFevers writing. I found myself totally keyed up fully there with these young woman assassins thrust into a life that can unravel in an instance, a life where their choices are really few except to keep going, keep protecting; and when they're deeply undercover, to await a sign! But what if that sign never comes and you have no way of ascertaining what might be or not be?
A deeply addidictive medieval historical fantasy set loosely at the time of the court of Queen Anne in fifteenth century medieval Brittany in the latter part of the French Breton war. Right in the thick of things are the assassin novices who serve St. Mortrain (the god of Death).
Underlying all is the old age story of women being used in the struggle of intrigue and politics, where noble daughters are bartered to ensure the continuation of the rule of the powerful.
Three narratives are running concurrently:
That of assassin Sybella in her role as protector of the Duchess of Britanny, who is to marry the King of France. And Beast her partner and lover leads the Duchess's guard. They have with them Sybella's two young sisters whom protecting from her depraved brother Pierre.
Then there's the Duchess of Britanny and her struggles to maintain any vestiges of rule even as the men around her whittle them back, helped along by the King of France's sister.
And lastly we have the assassin novice Genevieve who is embedded in Anne's entourage awaiting direction. Unknown to her changes have swept away all knowledge of her and her sister novice. Except for a whisper remembered by Sybella. In the meantime Genevieve has encountered a mysterious prisoner, and that encounter will have consequences.
A strong and intricate read, where adversity against the powerful is key.

A Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Young Readers ARC via NetGalley ( )
  eyes.2c | Feb 12, 2019 |
An intriguing story of court politics, Courting Darkness is set in 1400 France/ Brittany.
Told from the point of view of two girls, sisters of Mortian. Sybella, badass and lady in waiting to the Duchess of Brittany has a complicated family history, and struggles to protect and care for her two small sisters. When the Duchess travels to the French court to marry the King, Sybella’s loyalty to the Duchess makes her and her sisters a target of the very hostile regent of France.
Genevieve another lady in waiting, has been undercover for years and is struggling to stick with her mission after her fellow sister has turned against her. When Genevieve receives some distressing news she comes up with a plan that has her rushing into the dangerous world of French politics.
( )
  Ash_a_Leee_05 | Jan 29, 2019 |
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When Sybella discovers there is another trained assassin from St. Mortain's convent deep undercover in the French court, she must use every skill in her arsenal to navigate the deadly royal politics and find her sister-in-arms before her time--and that of the newly crowned queen--runs out.… (more)

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