Review: And I Darken

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Book Review: And I Darken (Kiersten White)
book cover Book title And I Darken
Series/standalone The Conquerors Saga #1
Author Kiersten White
Pages 475
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Historical Fiction
Rating 4.5 star

Official Summary

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.

This was the first book I finished while taking part in ReadThemAllThon. I chose And I Darken to obtain my Thunder Badge because it was one of book that got overwhelmingly positive hype during release weeks. Does it deserve all those hypes? Let’s see.

Characters

If looks could kill, Ladislav Dragwlya could probably murder many people before she turned 12. As it stands, she probably hope she could do so to avoid getting her hands dirty. Don’t get me wrong, she is not a sadistic murderer, rather she is a very practical person who’s never afraid of doing what’s necessary including murder. On the opposite side of Lada was her brother, Radu, a beautiful sweet boy whom everybody loved. These two formed an irresistible relationship that would leave you feeling conflicted, heartbroken, and in more than one occasion angry. Lada despised weakness and since she thought her brother is weak and useless, she despised him and her own feeling toward him. Radu, on the other side, loved everyone and despised cruelty. This led to a very intriguing character dynamics and interaction between the two. There was also Mehmed, whom I cannot quite put my finger on. He is kind, yet very ambitious, and that could lead to either good or very bad things. Before I moved on to the secondary characters, I have to warn you that yes, there’s some sort of love triangle in this book. It was quite an unusual one, but honestly I think the book could do without it because I believe these characters are strong and motivated enough to do what they need to do even without the ‘love triangle’.

Now, let’s talk about the secondary characters. Firstly, there are TONS of them. TONS. For a while I tried to keep track of them, but since most of them vanished without a trace within a few pages (some of them did make a comeback later though) I gave up on the task. Here’s my single major complaint about the book. Yes, it’s amazing to have a diverse cast of characters, and I really liked some of them, but many times it felt like White took them out of the narrative just when they started to pique my interest.
*Enter character A*
Character A: Introduced herself. Made some amazing sarcastic remarks.
Narration: Lada/Radu bonded with Character A, but unfortunately after a few weeks Character A had to leave the town to attend some other business. This left Ladu/Radu feeling alone yet again and started to think about their dear friend Mehmed.

I’m sure not everyone has the same complaint as me, but I’m hoping to see more interaction between … let’s say Lada and Tohin or Radu and Salih or … well you get my point. It’s either that or cut out some of these minor characters. I mean, I wouldn’t mind a 800+ pages book, but not everyone shares my view on this. 😛

Setting

The setting was breathtaking. I know that some readers complained about historical inaccuracy, but as far as historical fiction goes, I think it’s undeniable that White succeeded in creating a vivid background to her story. The story, after all, was based on real history of Vlad the Impaler, only White made Vlad a girl named Lada. Interesting choice, right? There was a map provided in the book, but if you love history, you’ll find yourself taking the time to browse the true history and geographical location of the places in the book. I know a little about the Ottoman Empire, but I had no idea about Wallachia or Amasya prior to reading this book. The cultural difference between these places was described well throughout the book. The author’s decision to integrate religious beliefs into her book was to be commended. She provided us with perspective from both Christianity and Islam and didn’t offend either religion. Integral to the story was the issue of sexuality. I think the way White handled the LGBT issue was beautiful and realistic, but I’m really curious to hear your opinion on this.

Plot and Narrative

And I Darken took time to build up. It started when Lada was born, then told the story of Lada and Radu growing up. Only after that, it brought us the main dishes. However, it didn’t mean that nothing was happening. Instead, the first half of the book was where Kiersten White showed us really strong character development, especially in the case of Radu. Not to dismiss Lada, but she was brutal from Day 1 so no surprise there. LOL.

There are also politics in the story. Quite a lot of it even. I am probably the minority in this, but I enjoy politics in fiction (said the girl who failed to finish The Inheritance Cycle because of the sheer amount of politics – I was young, okay, I will try again sometime). Never fear though, the politics was matched by an equal amount of actions happening in the book.

Verdict

And I Darken is a captivating historical fiction with a fresh take of Vlad the Impaler story, weaved with religions, politics, gender discrimination, and theme of sexuality. It could only get darker from this point on. Bring on Book 2!

Final Score

4.5 star

4.5 stars (out of 5 stars)


Windie
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2 thoughts on “Review: And I Darken

  1. YAS, I AM SO GLAD YOU LIKED THIS! I actually didn’t really notice that the side characters surfaced and vanished so quickly, haha – I just felt that given how the book covers quite a long period of time and how Lada/Radu move from place to place, it’s natural. But anyway! This book does have tons of side characters and I’ve forgotten what many of them do. D:

    I’m really liking the way White handled the LGBT issue, but I didn’t feel like it was a main theme (which is good in my opinion). I’m not sure what else to say about it… the romance just wasn’t my focus point in the book and these relationships, LGBT or not, were more like a subplot than a main plot to me, if that makes sense.

    1. I REALLY LOVED IT. Everyone is so cunning and political (except Lada, she’s amazing in her own way). It does cover a long period of time, but I just feel that some interesting characters only show up for like 2 pages and it saddens me because I want more 🙁 But that’s just me though, I know people who complained that the book is already too long as it is. LOL.
      Yess, totally agree with you. I liked that she treated romance and sexuality as part of the story but not something that defined a character.

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