Courting Darkness - Sometimes you just really want to stab a regent

Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
title: Courting Darkness
author: Robin LaFevers
pages: 512
format: eARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | BookDepository | Goodreads
rating: 3/5
genre: Fantasy, Historical
topics: Royalty, Mythology, Religion, Assassins
warnings: Sexual assault/harassment

Court intrigue and assassins

Immediately following the events of Mortal Heart (seriously, do a reread if you need it, this book picks up days later and does no recap), Courting Darkness follows Sybella as she supports her duchess, Anne of Brittany, in becoming the queen of France. At the same time, she's trying to protect her two younger sisters from falling into the custody of their older brother, fending off both legal and physical attacks from him. When they arrive in the French court, Sybella has to hide her convent training or risk drawing suspicion. She finds a new enemy in the king's sister, the former regent who absolutely hates Anne and is doing everything she can to strip the new queen of influence.

At the same time, Genevieve was sent as a sleeper agent into the French court five years ago. But after not hearing a single peep out of the convent in all that time, she's starting to doubt her purpose and her mission. Through a series of lies and misunderstandings, she thinks her holy duty is to travel to find the king of France and petition him to save the convent, so she escapes her household with the help of a mysterious prisoner and faces all sorts of dangers on the road to the king's court.

So...all that sounds like it should be a plot

The story is told through dual POVs, alternating between Sybella and Genevieve. And while a lot happens in the book and there's plenty for me to put in a summary it just...doesn't really feel like a plot? There's a series of events that happen, and they lead to...???? The conflict that serves as the climax of the book is actually a side issue for most of the page time, and the main drama of Anne joining the French court is rather meandering with no goal or conclusion.

Granted, I really liked the scenes in the French court, and the verbal sparing and double-speak going on between Sybella and the regent is some excellent intrigue that I was really fond of. I just wish it went somewhere.

Genevieve had a more traditional plot, with a goal and rising action and a character arc. But she was doing a disservice by sharing the page time with Sybella, who had an actual villain in the form of the regent and her brother. Genevieve, meanwhile, had mostly just random encounters that stood in the way of her goal but weren't actually related to it. It's like the pieces of a complete plot got split between the two POVs, leaving each frustratingly lacking in something.

But what about the romance?

Because of course there's romance. And frankly? I liked both of them! Sybella and Beast continue their romance from Dark Triumph, and they are beautifully supportive of each other throughout the book. It was really nice to see them continue on in this series and I hope we get even more of them in the next. New character Genevieve had a developing romance with her road trip partner, and that was really nice as well. I liked the progression of their relationship and how Genevieve's particular emotional hangups factored into things, how it made the "two steps forward, one step back" nature feel earned and organic.

Some random things

  • I thought the duchess was like young 20s based on how she acted and then the author's note reminded me of her real age and I got retroactively squicked by...basically everything that happened in the book. (See sexual assault content note. Which was bad enough without throwing in a reminder that she's underage.)
  • Ages in general are hard to tell, everyone is just called "young" regardless of whether their 8 or 18. Only one character felt like she was even acting her age, so that confused things more.
  • Second reminder to re-read the previous books if you don't remember them well, there is no catch-up in this book unless they added it after the ARCs.

Final Thought

I keep thinking of this book as boring and then remembering how many people get brutally murdered and then I just end up like this
Will I read this author again? Sure
Will I continue this series? Look, I hated Grave Mercy but Dark Triumph was a favorite, so I've an established pattern of much preferring second books by this author. Of course I'll read the next one. No title yet, but you can add it on goodreads.
Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't say boring so much as a bit slow and plodding. Especially G's journey. It just went on and on. And, I would definitely recommend reading the first series, even though supposedly this can be read without. Thanks.