I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.And I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror's Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press on 2016-06-28
Length: 498 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2017, Blogger Shame Review Challenge 2017
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for historical fiction so I’m ashamed to admit that this book has set on my TBR shelf for more than a year. And I Darken by Kiersten White is the first in an alternate history series that imagines Vlad the Impaler as a woman. Honestly just typing that makes me giddy. I was so excited to start this book. It’s an interesting concept to take one of history’s most feared men and make him a woman. I was more than a little curious to see how the author would pull it off while also staying true to what is known about the time period.
And I Darken follows Lada and Radu Draculesti from birth. Told in 3rd person limited, the story unfolds showing Lada’s cruel nature and Radu’s “angelic” grace. Personally I’m not a big fan of 3rd person POV, but it works well for this story and these characters. Lada is someone that you both pull for and shy away from. She is cruel, spiteful, and full of anger, yet she has her tender moments that make you realize she is someone who comes from extreme circumstances. Radu is naive, childlike, and the constant recipient of his sister’s torment. There are moments you feel sorry for him and others where you wonder how he could think such things about his own flesh and blood. He is a tortured character, always struggling to find the balance between right and wrong. The chapters alternate between the siblings, giving you a clear picture of who they are.
I was impressed with the amount of history the author manages to place in this book. Of course liberties are taken, they have to be with Lada being a girl, but for the most part the author keeps the history accurate. If you are unfamiliar with the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Vlad the Impaler, it’s an interesting read and gives a little background to this story. Lada and her brother are sold to the sultan by their father as payment to keep his throne in Wallachia. The two are only 12-ish when this happens and so they spend their formative years growing up in the sultan’s care. Knowing the danger they are in, it puts an edge of suspense to their growing up. Radu is innocent and follows all that is taught to him, while Lada resists, setting her sights on returning home at the first chance. Yet neither of them could have predicted Mehmed, the sultan’s son. Mehmed completes their circle. The siblings trust him and love him, yet do they really know him?
Overall, I was fascinated by Lada’s story as it played out on the pages. I was enraged for her and cheered her on with all her small rebellions. She is truly a feminist character in a time period where women were possessions. She insists that she is not. Radu broke my heart. He is such a tortured character, first by his sister and father and now by himself as he converts to Islam and makes choices he doesn’t quite understand. Seeing the characters grow from children to adults and all the trials they faced along the way made for an excellent read. If you enjoy historical fiction and political intrigue, I highly recommend it.
Now on to the sequel…