“Souls and thrones are irreconcilable.”
And I Darken (Darken, Book 1) by Kiersten White
Synopsis: 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.
About the Author: Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy; the dark thrillers Mind Games and Perfect Lies; The Chaos of Stars; and Illusions of Fate. She also coauthored In the Shadows with Jim Di Bartolo. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, which, in spite of its perfection, spurs her to dream of faraway places and even further away times. Visit Kiersten online at kierstenwhite.com and follow @kierstenwhite on Twitter.
Genre: fantasy, young adult, historical fantasy, romance
More Info: hardcopy, 484 pages, published by Delacorte Press on June 28, 2016
I usually don’t read historical fiction as I am not a fan of history in general; it is not my best subject. However, following these characters in the 1400’s Ottoman Empire made it bearable. Honestly, I enjoyed this book more than I thought due to its individuality and its division from modern YA. The novel is based on real-life events and people, such as Vlad the Impaler (the main premise for Lada) but with a fantastical twist.
First impression: Lada is a badass! The beginning starts from her birth and even at a young age she is vicious. Despite her feminine gender, she is tougher than most adult men. She is possessive of her brother, only one year younger than herself. Her mother was weak so she declared the land of Wallachia her mother. She hungers for the love of her father but no matter her accomplishments, she remains invisible and expendable. For this, she pushes herself to be the best, especially in tactical operations. I thought Lada had more freedoms that an average women in her era would have due to her 1) fictional status, 2) historical male counterpart, 3) “fortuitous” circumstances.
Lada is ugly, violent, and strong. Radu, is handsome, gentle, and weak. Lada, despite all her faults, is protective of her brother, Radu. She keeps her harsh interior by saying she is the only one who should have the privilege of torturing or killing her brother. The two compliment one another with their respective strengths and weaknesses. Although Radu seems fragile, he grows into a cunning young man.
Radu grows into himself over the course of the novel. After being abandoned to the Ottoman Empire, his supposed enemy, as collateral for their father’s treaty, he finds solace in religion, studies, and people. He has a very kind demeanor and can make friends anywhere. Over the course of the book the empire becomes his home, in place of Wallachia.
Then comes Mehmed. He is the third son of the sultan born from the concubine, Huma. He is amused by Lada and comforted by Radu, and they quickly become a close-knit circle. Brother and sister eventually build an intense hold over him. As the sultan of “unfortunate” circumstance, they save him repeatedly from assassination attempts and political mistakes. Love triangle ensues:
“‘You have no love to give him, and I have no love he will accept.'”
I wasn’t quite sure where the plot was going. There was no discernible storyline, except following the lives of Lada and Radu, with Mehmed in between. However, as the main characters grow so does the plot with complications of love, religion, politics, and violence.
As a general side thought, I LOVE THE COVER! The simplicity of the dagger and purple flowers are so contradictory and match to story to a T. The UK version is also amazing, with Lada glaring at you from the cover.
Overall, the book was pretty clean in regards to sexual and gruesome activities, although there were some chilling descriptions of torture. The writing was very well put together. The historical information was accurate in general; White found the middle ground between fact and fiction. I read this book at a regular pace, which for me is about 2-3 days. And I Darken wasn’t a one-night stand absolute page turner, but I did keep coming back for more.
I was not disappointed by the ending. I think it is true to Lada’s character and I hope in the next books that she can refine her dark passions. I want Lada to remain a badass while further discovering herself without relying on her brother or lover.
I got this book at Target as a signed copy for 20% off. Since I gave this book 5/5, I do believe it is worth the money for the hardcover. But online copies are always available and usually cheaper.
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