Cover Igniting Darkness: A blade on fire surrounded by white filigree

About the Book

Title: Igniting Darkness (Courting Darkness #2)
Published: 2020

Cover Story: Burning Brightly
BFF Charm: Yay, 100% That B
Talky Talk: Good But Bleak
Bonus Factors: Just Desserts, Medieval Weaponry
Anti-Bonus Factor: The King
Relationship Status: Sisters

Careful, Sweetie: spoilers! This is the second book in the Courting Darkness duology, so if you haven’t read the previous one, you should probably hop back in the TARDIS and go curl up in the library by the pool with the first book before continuing.

Cover Story: Burning Brightly

This is a fun contrast to the first book’s cover that still manages to pack in a lot of little nods and symbolic imagery related to the story within. I love a smart cover design!

The Deal:

This sequel picks up immediately where the first book ended, which is in a big, steamy pile of oh, shit. Genevieve had returned to the French court specifically to sleep with the King—who’s long lusted after her—so she could curry his favor to petition him to reverse his decision to disband the convent of Mortain’s daughters. Except she finds out that the king had no clue they even existed and now that he DOES know she and Sybella are assassins and that his queen, Anne of Brittany, knew about it this whole time, he’s pissed.

Sybella is still deep in her own political quagmire because she had Beast whisk her sisters away from the castle in secret and murdered the men who came to kidnap them. Now the lawyer her jerk of a brother sent to collect them is shouting “murder!” in the king’s ear and demanding Sybella be arrested.

And that’s just at the palace. While all this is going on, there’s also rumors of another rebellion rising up in Brittany, and Maraud is on the hunt for General Cassel, the violent man who murdered his brother and is ensconced in the inner circle of the king’s advisors. How many people are these nun-assassins going to have to kill to get out this mess? (The answer is: a lot.)

BFF Charm: Yay, 100% That B

Yay BFF Charm

In the last book, I was reading Genevieve’s parts from between my fingers because she was barreling towards an epic destruction of her own making. But after she hits rock-bottom, she finally meets Sybella, learns some hard truths, and decides to fix her mistakes. Truth and maturity began to temper and channel her impulsivity into an iron-willed determination that I appreciated and admired (even if I questioned her belief that the king could still be swayed to be anything more than a sexist, capricious man).

BFF charm with Lizzo's face.

Meanwhile, Sybella is still a stone-cold B, even if she doubts herself once in a while. She faces imprisonment, death, and the ire of very powerful people with aplomb and dignity. Nothing but good things for Sybella, please.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

LaFevers was a real pal and gave me just enough romance to see me through the bloody moments. Everything was very sweet and turned out like I’d hoped, and while there wasn’t a lot of time for passionate embraces, the characters made do with what they had.

Talky Talk: Good But Bleak

Reading this book was stressful. It’s huge, and while I was fairly confident that based on LaFevers’ prior works, we’d get a satisfying ending, there were a lot of pages between omg, they’re all gonna be beheaded and happily ever after. The characters deal with so many obstacles and injustices and crappy leadership that while I liked the book, I didn’t always completely…enjoy it? I think there was definitely some fat that could’ve been trimmed from the first third when there was just a lot of “X goes to the throne room to explain themselves; X goes to the king’s room to explain themselves; X learns that despite what they say, the king will agree with someone else other than them” and rinse and repeat.

But, thankfully, things began to move at a faster clip once our core characters escape to Brittany and start getting out there DOING things. I don’t regret reading Igniting Darkness at all, and definitely stayed up way too late to finish it, but you should brace yourself for a story of history, politics, and a touch of magic that can get bleak.

Bonus Factor: Just Desserts

Silhouettes of women in jail cells against a red background from the musical Chicago

*sings* They had it comin’, they had it comin’, they only had themselves to blame… It will seem as though events get worse before they get better, and rest assured, I would’ve thrown the book away in frustration unifnished if we didn’t get some good comeuppance.

Bonus Factor: Medieval Weaponry

A group of soldiers carrying spears and shields

There’s a few battle scenes and sieges and quite a lot of things that go boom, and while war is totally wasteful of human lives and horrible in practice, all the medieval weaponry was, abstractly, very interesting to read about.

Anti-Bonus Factor: The King

Portrait of King Henry VIII

The most frustrating parts of this entire book were the conversations Genevieve would have with the king, in whom she saw a streak of goodness years ago. She hopes to cultivate it before people like his sister Regent or the evil General can tamp it out for good by bending and swaying him to their greedy desires for France.

And that, therein, is the problem with this turd-king. He is a weak-willed man who never got enough love as a child and was also raised to think his shit doesn’t stink. He is wishy-washy, petulant, and selfish, and I begged Gen multiple times to just stab him with her poisoned pins and then go stab the rest of his cabinet, too, for good measure, because this whole monarchy needs to be burned to the ground. (Anne can stay as long as she gets some better advisors.)

Relationship Status: Sisters

I’ve got a soft spot for you, Book. You’ve been through hell and came out a fighter, and while it can be tough to go to those dark places with you, I want to be there for you however you need me. We may not be related like the daughters of Mortain, but I still care for you anyway.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from HMH Books for Young Readers. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Igniting Darkness is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.