Author: Kiersten White
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Pages: 484 (Paperback)
Genre: YA | Historical | Romance
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Read: from July 16 to 25, 2016
Source & Shelf: NetGalley | Kobo
ISBN: 9780552573740 (Paperback)
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.
Disclaimer: Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
It took me a while to come to terms with myself when it comes to this book. And I Darken was a book I couldn’t rate straight after finishing it because I was conflicted. I mean, I liked it, a lot, but there was something I couldn’t put my finger on that just didn’t allow me to rate it. I had to distance myself from it in order to organise my ideas. And, now, after almost a month, I can say that this book was amazing!
Before advancing into the review, I need to say that I felt a little bit bipolar while I was reading this. If you follow me on Goodreads and have been up to date with my reading status there, you might have noticed that while I was reading And I Darken, I kept switching from “not entirely sure about this” to “ok, this is getting super interesting” in a matter of pages. I think it just took me a while to get into the writing style, to follow the voice of the narrator and the story itself. In the end, I couldn’t actually see this book written in any other way.
This book is pretty much the beginning of Vlad the Impaler’s story but with a twist – it’s a gender swap story and it’s Lada the hero. Set in the Ottoman Empire in the fifteen-century, Lada and Radu are pretty much abandoned by their father in this huge and intimidating Empire, leaving their home, Wallachia, behind. As they grow up, Lada begins to plan her revenge and a way for her to reclaim her home back. Until she meets the Sultan’s son, Mehmed, and Radu and Lada are torn between their home and their friendship.
Lada was a character that I found hard to understand at first. I mean, she’s a kick-ass character indeed, managing to be more than a woman in such a close-minded empire where women pretty much don’t have any right. She loves her brother Radu and would rather hurt him to protect and save him than let him enter her heart and see him in pain (she prefers to be the one hurting). When she meets Mehmed, she becomes more of a determined young woman than a scared child. And when she falls for Mehmed, she reveals another side of her that spent most of her life locked. But for me, the best aspect of Lada was her want to be a warrior, her determination to be more than a concubine in a men’s world – she wanted to be someone worth following. Her insecurities are part of her will to protect both her brother and Mehmed. Under her mask of bad-ass hero, she’s a human being trying to save those she loves.
Radu was, in my opinion, the most developed character in the story. He is the opposite of Lada. He’s frightened, pretty much her shadow while growing up. Until he meets Mehmed and his determination is to save, protect and love him. He grows into this young man that is no longer afraid. And though his relationship with Lada has its ups and downs, there’s always this bond between that is unbreakable no matter what.
Actually, Radu’s story ended up hooking far more than Lada though I enjoyed both of them. Why? Radu has a secret that in such a medieval period and part of the world is pretty much tabu – Radu falls in love with Mehmed! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a twist I admit I did not see coming. And somehow it was a twist that made the story and the relationship between siblings so more interesting and intense. Was it a weird love-triangle involving siblings? Yes, but the fact that both of them love the same person in different ways was very interesting and gave Radu such depth I couldn’t help but feel for him.
Mehmed was the character that helps the siblings as they are thrown into this new world where they’re nothing more than leverage. He helps Lada and Radu have a place, a meaning and even though he wasn’t my favourite character, he played a big part in their lives. Without Mehmed, Lada and Radu wouldn’t develop the way they did and wouldn’t grow up to become such powerful players in this big empire. I think his character has a lot more to offer in future books and I’m waiting for him to understand Radu a little bit more.
The writing at first sounded strange to me. The narrators voice sounded off, distance. Only when Lada and Radu finally meet Mehmed and their friendship blooms, I began to feel the narrator’s voice. I guess that was one of the main reasons I was, at first, reluctant in continuing reading this book.
But when I finally got into the narrator’s flow and found its voice, I began to enjoy the book so much I was pretty much hooked.
The historical aspects of And I Darken were somewhat knew to me since this is part of history we barely know that much and getting into this new world was slightly strange. The Ottoman Empire really gives the story such a complex background to the book that it makes it even more interesting.
Overall, And I Darken is a great book filled with action, political intrigue, religion diversity, secrets, betrayal and history. I dare say this is an intense book that will make you curious about history, determined as Lada and cunning as Radu. I became attached to the siblings and will be waiting for the continuation of their story. I cannot wait to see Lada as the Impaler.