And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1) by Kiersten White
Published by Delacorte Press on June 28, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction / Pages: 475
Format: Book/ Source: Library
Rating: 4 stars
This historical re-telling of Vlad Dracula’s childhood is fascinating, as plot twisty as a viper, and slightly off the mark from what I hoped it would be.*
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, 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.
*I am being slightly persnickety today. I really enjoyed this book as shown by the lovely 4 stars it got, but there was a certain aspect I didn’t quite believe.
The main characters
Ladislav, Lada for short, was supposed to be a boy. Her father, Vlad Dracul, dismisses her for being a girl, but she refuses to be meek and obedient (go girl!). Lada is vicious, unrepentant, and loyal to her brother and homeland – even after they are left as a hostage to the Ottoman Empire (which is shown to be very very scary indeed).
Radu, Lada’s younger brother, is a much more sensitive soul. While he comes across as weak compared to his super fighter elder sister, Radu is a master at hiding his emotions and charming his way into secrets. He is also such a GOOD person at heart that certain parts of this book mad me want to steal him from the pages, give him a teddy bear, and cuddle him while he drinks hot chocolate (in front of a fire while listening to Christmas music, I can dream right?).
Mehmed is the third, youngest, and least favorite son of Sultan Murad. He meets Radu and Lada by accident one day and they become the bestest of friends because Lada doesn’t coddle/cozy her way up to him like most courtiers would (because she is secretly a porcupine made of daggers). Lots of plot points revolve around Mehmed, so I don’t want to write too much about him otherwise I’ll be giving delicious plot twists away!
The good stuff
- The setting is a totally unique one – Ottoman Empire plus Eastern Europe politics of the 1400s??? SUPER FASCINATING. Kiersten White obviously did her research for this one. I learned so much about the Janissary’s (elite military forces that were taken as children to be tribute by the Ottoman Empire and forced to convert to Islam), court politics and regional alliances. This is definitely a great time period that HF books are missing out on.
- There is a love triangle, but not one you would expect (or at least, it whacked me over the head)! I usually despise love triangles, but I think I came to love the characters involved in this one too much for me to hate it. It also helped that while there is soooome angst about it, the angst does not overwhelm the entire book/plot.
- The writing and the characters are really well developed. Not only do we get a strong female character in Lada, but there are lots of secondary characters who are described so well that it’s easy to follow who is who. Murad, Mehmed’s mother, Vlad Dracul, and more all influence the MCs, the plot, and each other with realistic motivations/desires/fears. That’s not an easy thing to do!
The bad stuff
- Lada’s obsession with Wallachia (her homeland) – it is referenced a lot in the book that Vlad told Lada her real mother was Wallachia, but her obsession with returning home is hard for me to believe. Yes, she did not willingly move to the Ottoman Court, but she also spends YEARS there and develops RELATIONSHIPS with people and yet she keeps thinking about LEAVING. WHY?!?!?!? She makes these plans more than once, so I won’t say whether or not they succeed, but it’s all because of Wallachia and how her homeland needs her. She has not heard from anyone in Wallachia since moving to the Ottoman Court so how does it need her???? Why her and not Radu? I think a lot of this stems from the author wanting to follow the real Vlad Dracula’s life, but I personally did not see or feel the intense reasoning that drives Lada on this point and it pops up A LOT.
That was really the only bad thing that drove me crazy while reading, because this really is an awesome book! If you are on the fence about it, you should definitely give it a shot.
** I am also learning how to take photos – this post was one of the first! I would have re-taken them as I’ve gotten a lot better, but I already returned the book to the library. >.<
Have you read this book? What bothers you when you’re reading a book? Do you know any other great books set in this area of the world/time period?