And I Darken by Kiersten White
Published by Delacorte Press on June 28th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Young Adult
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I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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.
Wow, I just finished And I Darken and I am still at a shock for words. Believe me, I am not usually one to be lost for words but this book did something that not many books have done – it surprised me in how much I loved it! When I began reading, I was interested but not invested but boy did that change. From the end of Chapter One to the end of the book I was hooked. I was devoted. I was completely floored by this story. So, I’m going to attempt to form a coherent review and hopefully it comes out a least a bit understood! There are three reasons that stuck out to me and why I absolutely adored this book.
This story at its core is a historical fiction story that asks the question what if Vlad the Impaler was a woman and how that would have changed the events of history. White weaves such an unbelievable fantastic ensemble of characters that you can’t but fall in love with each and every one of them. The story begins with the birth of Lada, an unwanted daughter of Vlad Dracul, a warlord that has no use for a daughter. In her society, the only use Lada had to her father was the eventual power he would bring her with marriage and instead of embracing that future Lada did the opposite. She kicked, punched, and sometimes bit her way attempting to get her fathers approval. But like all children she came to a harsh reality about her father and it comes at a price.
She reviled everything that it meant to be a woman and set out to prove to her father that she could be as great as a son. Radu, her younger brother is the complete opposite in every way. He is small, scared, and empathetic where Lada is fierce, dangerous, and brutal. The only thing that these two share is their need to be loved and accepted for who they are. This need was a big part of this story and influenced both of these characters and every one of the relationships that these two met; especially with Mehmed, the third son of the Ottoman Empires Saltan. The relationship between these characters are top notch which leads me to my second point…
As complete opposites, Lada and Radu do not have what most would consider a loving relationship. But honestly those with siblings can attest to the fact that no sibling relationship isn’t rife with turmoil and hurt feelings. Lada and Radu take this to a whole new level! The only thing that these two characters share is their almost feral need to be wanted by others. It is absolutely heartbreaking to read. Despite this similarity their differences keep them from seeing each other and their similarities and that creates far one of the craziest sibling rivalries that I have ever seen. There is so much love and hate going on that it could suffocate a room full of people with the tension in some of the books and I absolutely loved it. These relationships, especially that between Lada and Mehmed and Mehmed and Radu change these characters throughout the story and I absolutely love seeing characters grow REALISTICALLY. The relationships and how they grew and changed was realistic and I cannot begin to explain how happy that makes me! Oh gosh I’m starting to ramble! Another thing that this book does a fantastic job at is not allowing the romance to spoil the story or like I said above the characters realistic growth through young children to adults living in a war torn country.
This magical skill White has to write realistic and complicated relationships does not just fall on the three main characters and their relationships with each other but there is also a magic between these main characters, mainly Lada and Radu, with separate lesser seen (but never-the-less important) characters. Each sibling has characters that they meet that shape and mold not only themselves but these characters into better people and I love witnessing that!
The only thing I have to say about the relationships (and a character) is that of Mehmed. I hate saying I won’t say why I have a small problem with him but it is kind of a spoiler and I want to keep this as clean as possible. Let’s just say the guy is 100% oblivious to other people. There is something in each and every one of the relationships this boy/man has that completely take him by surprise and it makes me want to smack him in the head. But even this does not make me hate him. I just pity him a little bit for his complete lack of being able to see what’s in front of his eyes.
Now, this is kind of odd for me to be putting as a point but I loved how easy this book was to read. Most people when they think of historical fiction they are intimidated. There are two types of histocial novel; the one that spends the entire time trying to paint the scenes for you and the other that allows you to paint them for yourself. And I Darken falls into the latter category and I LOVE historical novels that do this and they are the reasons why I love the genre so much! White creates scenes and gives you just enough information that you can fill in the blanks yourself and that creates not only a awesome novel and plot but it allows for a reader (like myself) that finds that they read a little slower than most to just FLY through this book. I’m serious, I finished this book in 2 days and that is something!
If you are looking for a gender bending historical novel with a kick ass and blood-thirsty anti-heroine And I Darken is the book for you! White creates such characters that will make you feel like you’re being soccer punched in the emotions and left to drown in your own heartache. I can and cannot wait for the sequel. I’m not sure my emotions can take any more of this heartbreaking and kick ass series!