In this second of the His Fair Assassins series (set in the 15th century as Brittany tries to fend off France) by Robin LaFevers, Dark Triumph, Sybella is sent back by the abbess to her childhood residence. The book stands entirely on its own, but for those who first encountered Sybella in Grave Mercy, readers learn why she seemed so haunted.
Sybella reveals that her brother Julian started out by protecting her from their violent father, but, in exchange, came to expect a physical intimacy from her. LaFevers handles this complex topic respectfully and responsibly. She clearly depicts Sybella's lack of choices in an abusive household. She needed her brother's protection in order to survive her father's ruthless and mindless violence. Then Sybella goes to the convent seeking refuge, and the abbess sends Sybella right back to her abusive family (as a spy), violating any sense of trust Sybella might have begun to form at the convent.
The difference is that this time Sybella knows how to protect herself; she operates from a place of strength and intelligence, and begins to acknowledge that she is as skillful a healer as she is an assassin. As difficult as Sybella's past is, LaFevers shows how these seemingly insurmountable challenges now aid her in her calling to help defend Brittany and the duchess. Sybella is a survivor, and an uncanny judge of character. Now, as a mature teen, she knows almost instantly whom she can trust and whom she cannot. So when she meets Beast, the last of the duchess's soldiers to fall in conflict with her father's men, Sybella immediately recognizes him as a friend and ally.
Her wish to confide in Beast is hindered only by her fear that he will think less of her for all that she has endured in her father's house. This is a redemptive book for its example of how telling one's darkest secrets starts the beginning of the healing process and how one trusted friend can more than compensate for an army of enemies.