And I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #1
My edition was published in June 2016 by Penguin Random House UK
Tags: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N
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 received a free ARC ebook copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I was so disappointed in this book. The premise sounded fantastic. What this is is basically a re-imagination of the life of prince Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula. He’s believed to have inspired Bram Stoker’s character Dracula. In And I Darken, Vlad is a girl called Lada. So I was intrigued. A young adult book about a female Vlad the Impaler??? Count me the hell in.
What I didn’t realize at first is that this is a series and not a stand-alone. I really wanted it to be a stand-alone. It’s also really slow. Honestly what I wanted was to see the really brutal parts, the impaling people on stakes, the horrific things he did. But, alas, this book doesn’t come this far. It starts in early childhood and ends when Lada is what, 15-16? I forget the details. I understand the early life is important, but it’s just not what I necessarily wanted. Though it could have been made interesting if it wasn’t such a chore to get through.
The writing is just really slow overall. It drags on and on and on. Here and there something interesting happens, but I’m still just trudging through. I started reading it in early June and didn’t finish until late September.
Radu saved this book somewhat for me. Radu is Lada’s younger and more beautiful brother. He’s also gay, and hopelessly in love with the sultan’s son, who’s in love with Lada. This is a very difficult position to be in in 1400s. This is an interesting love triangle for once, and I enjoyed reading those parts. Radu is sweet and kind, the perfect contrast to Lada’s ruthlessness. Reading about his conversion to Islam was also interesting to me.
I just really wish it didn’t read so slow, because there is a lot of good stuff here, don’t get me wrong.
It’s also important to note that this IS NOT FANTASY despite what Goodreads and other sites try to tell you. It’s historical fiction, there’s nothing fantastical or supernatural about it. I never expected fantasy, but some people might and thus it’s important to mention. Alternative history does not fantasy make.
In short, this book is: too long, too slow, and needs more impaling. I did like certain aspects of it, but not enough to continue the series UNLESS I hear from reliable sources that the pace picks up.