And I Darken by Kiersten White
Published by Delacorte Press on June 28, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction
Pages: 496 – hardcover, 498 – paperback, 400 – ebook
Format Read: eARC
Rating: 5 stars
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.
Alright, so, I’ve been wanting to write this review ever since I finished the book at 5:30 a.m., but unfortunately, I had to go to sleep. Ugh, life necessities. I don’t know if I can properly articulate what I feel about this book, but I sure as hell will try my hardest!
Now this is a book that is unlike any that I have ever read. From the get-go, we are introduced to the book’s dark and gritty atmosphere. The synopsis compares it to Game of Thrones, but I’ve only watched 5 episodes of that so I can’t really judge. What I can tell you, however, is that this book is going to sink its claws into you from the beginning until the very end. There’s this suspense and darkness about it that keeps you flipping page after page after page. Trust me when I say, you will devour this book.
This story has elements of fantasy incorporated into an alternate historical universe set during the pinnacle of the Ottoman Empire’s success. Although not very historically accurate, the book does an excellent job of depicting various religions and politics in an objective way, which I loved. The story itself is also very unconventional, for sure — with its unconventional setting and unconventional heroine and unconventional atmosphere. This all makes it so unique and original.
However, the main driving force of the story is the complex, dimensional characters. Our protagonist is the fierce Lada, short for Ladislav, and she is basically the alternate female version of Vlad the Impaler. Lada is the epitome of fierce anti-princess. Her wickedness & sinisterness are very palpable things in the book. I might even dare call her psychotic. However, her POV makes us sympathize with and feel empathy for her, framing her in a slightly humane manner. Lada defies everything a woman should be in the 1400s. She despises being a woman and does everything in her power in order to not be seen as one. Later on, she learns that women themselves are weapons, binding their time and then striking. I really admire Lada’s character – she’s wild and shrewd and cruel and calculating. A force to be reckoned with!
In contrast, we have Lada’s brother Radu. He is pretty and delicate and sensitive, pretty much the polar opposite of Lada. He’s usually the one that needs protecting, in the physical sense. However, later on, we learn that Radu is better at defending himself in other ways: through charming smiles and insincere speech and praise-filled assurances. ‘Kill ’em with kindness’ is probably his motto. What Radu lacked in substance, he more than made up for in charm & kindness.
Lada and Radu’s sibling dynamic is an intriguing one for sure. They are practically the embodiment of yin and yang. Their relationship is tainted with frustration, misunderstanding, and jealousy, yet they both manage to put each other first. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve seen in YA. In this book, their relationship is merely a thread in the web of other complicated relationships in this book.
Contrary to what you might believe, there’s no love triangle in this book, although it may seem like one. Mehmed and Lada’s slow development of their relationship was nice, but I don’t think Mehmed is a good match for Lada. I feel like he holds her back from her true potential, as it is so often subtly hinted at in the book by others. *cough* Mara, Bogdan, Nicolae. *cough* In the first half of the book, Lada is as wild as ever, but in the middle of the second half, she kind of stops fighting. She’s content with what she has, which was all given to her by Mehmed. I remember thinking,“I thought you didn’t want to be tied to what a man gave you? I thought you were going to take what is yours and not have it given to you?!”
Moreover, let’s talk about the compelling, captivating plot, shall we? It literally made my head explode! (In a good way) The plot is so fast-paced from the very start, and there’s never a dull moment in this book. Hold your horses. I don’t mean fast-paced as in sword-fighting, arrow-shooting, knife-stabbing action, although there is plenty of that to go around. I meant the political intrigue that’s so abundant in this book. There are so many mind-blowing machinations and jaw-dropping twists & turns! The complexity of all that, in addition to the author’s eloquent writing style, makes for an unputdownable read.
To briefly sum it up, And I Darken has complex dynamics that are all tangled in a dark web of betrayal and frustration. That’s not all, though. The attention to detail, the intricately woven setting & plot, the meticulous characterization, and the portrayal of history & its religions… These all make for a truly phenomenal page-turner of a book. A perfect read if you’re looking for something dark, unconventional, and unputdownable!
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is in no way impacted my views & opinions above.
Rating: 5 fish