I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press on June 28th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
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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.
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.
I’ve been putting off writing this review because my feelings for this book are so hard to put into words. First of all, I LOVED this book. I received an ARC of this book when I attended YALLWEST earlier this year. Prior to getting the ARC, I hadn’t heard of And I Darken, and even reading the synopsis didn’t really grab me. So needless to say, this book really took me by surprise! As much as I loved this book, I can recognize that this book isn’t for everyone. I’m going to do my best in this review to not only talk about the things I loved about it, but also the things I think some people might not like – that way you can make an educated decision about if this book is something you might enjoy reading! I think people who go into this book with appropriate expectations will have a better chance of enjoying it.
This book is a historical fiction set during the height of the Ottoman empire (around the mid-1400s). While the historical aspect is based on true history, there are definitely things that are different. I think this is why some people might consider this to be a historical fantasy, but there is no magic in this world so I think of it more as an alternate history instead. I loved this setting because it is a time period that I am not very familiar with. I’ve recently watched the TV show Da Vinci’s Demons, which is set during a similar time period and the Ottoman Empire makes an appearance on the show. Having seen that show definitely helped me to visualize scenes from the book, in conjunction with Kiersten White’s beautifully descriptive writing. The writing is definitely descriptive, which I know can be a turn off for some people, but I loved being immersed in this rich historical setting that I previously hadn’t had much exposure to.
This is a very character driven book and not a plot driven book, which is one of the reasons I’m surprised I loved it so much. Character driven books can be hit or miss for me, as I tend to prefer plot driven books. Every once in a while, I come across a character driven book that is just so well done that I love it – and this is one of them! This book is packaged as a story about a female Vlad the Impaler, which I think can be a little misleading, although it is true. In my mind, I equated Vlad the Impaler with Count Dracula, so I thought I might be getting a vampire story – which was so wrong. Instead, this is a story about a female version of the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler and covers about the first 20 years of his/her life – almost like an origin story. I think it’s important for readers to know that this book spans about 20 years or so. Covering such a long time period makes the plot feel slow, but once I realized the timeline of the story, I didn’t mind the pacing. This story isn’t a quick ride, it’s more of a long journey – it’s just a different mindset! As long as you are prepared for the pacing, I think it works. Also, there is a lot of political intrigue in this book. I really enjoy political intrigue, but could see other readers being bored with this.
I found the characters in this book to be incredibly complex. The book is told from the POVs of two siblings, Lada and Radu. Lada is supposed to be the female version of Vlad the Impaler (who really did have a brother named Radu!). I loved the gender-role reversals that I was seeing in these two siblings. Lada is constantly cruel and ruthless because she doesn’t want to be discounted for being a woman – she wants the men around her to take her seriously. While Lada is pretty cruel to her brother, she definitely has a soft spot for him and I loved seeing their relationship become more complex as they grew up. On the other hand, Radu is the one that is thought to be the weaker sibling and has more of the characteristics that would be thought to be feminine (he is also gay – yay diversity!). He uses his charm and good looks to his advantage in the political game, which becomes important for the survival of those he loves most. There is a love triangle in this book, but it’s definitely not your typical love triangle and I thought it was very well done. Even though I don’t typically like character driven books, Kiersten White was able to make me fall in love with these complex and unique characters. The ending of this book was perfect, despite the heartache it made me feel. By the end, I was crying so hard without really understanding why I was crying – it was just a beautiful ending!
This book was nothing like what I was expecting but it totally surprised me and I loved it! I loved the historical fiction (slash alternate history) setting and the amazingly complex characters. The story is a bit of a long journey, but the ending was so perfect and beautiful that it brought me to tears. I typically do giveaways for my ARCs, but I loved this book so much and the cover is so beautiful (and creamy!) that I’ve decided to keep this one for myself – sorry guys! 😛 As much as I loved this book, I recognize that it isn’t for everyone. I recommend this book to people who love historical fiction with complex characters, lots of policatal intrigue, and a long timeline. It also has positive representations of LGBTQ characters and Islam – sounds interesting, right??