What a pity these books have such uninspiring titles and floofy-blah covers, because it hides the really excellent story within from the eyes of those who would appreciate it. I am lucky that the books were recommended to me in the first place, else I'd never have picked one up.
Dark Triumph is excellent. Sybella is a really amazing protagonist--one who causes the reader to bounce back and forth between pity, admiration, joy, awe, sorrow, anger, and exasperation throughout the entire book. Her thought processes are deep and intelligent and focused, and everything is thoroughly thought through and examined in her perspective as she travels through her adventures. She can also--very occasionally--be amusing. Like the fact that she has apparently mastered the art of smiling more completely than anyone else in the entire world, with (probably) hundreds of different kinds of smiles stored in her muscle memory to be pulled out for this purpose or that (I smile slyly, charmingly, mysteriously, sadly, achingly, shakily, brightly, seductively, etc.). And even though in some cases that might just point to an author's overuse of adjectives, in this case it really serves to fit her character (which is interesting because her genuine smiles are so rare).
I do not have a problem with the love that develops between Sybella and Beast. In fact, I kind of adore it. The way that it creeps in so slowly and cautiously, and completely unromantically, completely honestly... and the way Sybella rejects herself and pushes away and denies her own feelings because she cannot think to put her own desires above the protection of those she cares about. How she so often alludes to what she calls her tiny and shrunken heart, and then stops that nonsense when she begins to realize that love is the way out of the darkness inside her. Real love. A love built on friendship and bravery and fear for each other, on working side-by-side against such an enemy. A love that has absolutely nothing to do with physical attraction or prestige or fluffy romance.
Before I finish (because I don't really think I have that much more to say other than that these books are intriguing, exciting, thick, and extremely well-written), I would just like to mention one scene--one line of narrative really--that really stood out to me in the beginning of what I suppose would be considered the climax of Dark Triumph. It is just such a Sybella thing to do, and such a refreshing way of looking at what could be a hopeless situation: when she is finally brought, bound, before d'Albret, and she looks at him like... well, I'll let the line explain itself.
I stare coolly at him, as if he has been brought before me to be held to account for his crimes. --pg. 370
It is such a simple thing, and yet it fills the reader with hope (and a certain measure of oh!--which I haven't mentioned in ages) and paints the scene in a new light--one where Sybella, despite being bound and weaponless and surrounded by enemies, is really the judge and justice-bringer presiding over d'Albret's fate.
And it's about time, too.