Now I Rise by Kiersten White
Published by Delacorte Press on June 27, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy
Pages: 471 – hardcover, 480 – paperback & ebook
Format Read: eARC
Rating: 5 stars
Previous Books in Series: And I Darken
She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.
After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.
What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?
As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.
Holy crap. Can this series get any better? It’s been such a long time since I read a 5-star book! Honestly, I think the last time I felt this strongly about a series was after reading the first 2 books in the ToG series. If you’ve read And I Darken and found yourself thinking, “Can this get any better?” The answer is yes, my friend. It definitely has.
This series has been coined with the popular phrase: “a teenage Game of Thrones set in the Ottoman Empire” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s brutal & dark, while still managing to remain utterly captivating. This book demands your attention with every single paragraph, making it very difficult to tear your eyes away from the page. So clear your schedules folks!
Our protagonists are Radu and Lada, presented in alternating POVs. In this book, Radu is spying in Constantinople for Mehmed whereas Lada is trying to reclaim the Wallachian throne and become Prince.
I didn’t even think it was possible to love Lada even more than in the first book, but boy was I wrong. She is such a fiercely complex character, gaining her the title of ‘antihero’. However, this does not stop her from demanding the reader’s sympathy and attention. You can’t help but root for her, despite all her cruelty. Even though she struggles with being a woman in a patriarchal and heavily male-dominated society, she sure as hell does not let that stop her. Lada plays by her own rules, and you see many characters throughout this book appreciate that about her.
Meanwhile, Radu is in Constantinople struggling with his intense feelings for Mehmed. As expected, being a spy is no easy task. Radu sees the goodness of the people in Constantinople and grapples with all the atrocities he must commit for their enemy and his friend. He is caught in between, until the lines blur and he cannot distinguish friend from foe. A new character from the last book is brought into the mix, making it even harder for Radu. I really admire Radu’s character for how smart & collected he is, as opposed to Lada’s brashness. In my opinion, Lada seems to see the world in black-or-white, whereas Radu is in the gray zone. His POV highlights all the morally ambiguous choices he has to make, further endearing him to the reader.
This book isn’t all gloom and doom, though. Nazira’s vivacity and charm are a welcome reprieve from all the darkness. She’s probably the purest character in the whole series! The Jannisary characters also bring in a much needed dose of levity. Their funny banter was such a pleasure to read, and their dynamics were top-notch.
As always, the world is so richly fleshed out and the writing so richly expressive that putting this book down was a struggle. Writing a fictional book about history is definitely not easy, so kudos to Kiersten. The history surrounding the fall of Constantinople seems so fascinating; I’m definitely invested in reading more about it.
I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of this book, but if you’re looking for a book with a hella dramatic plot and some hella self-destructive, badass characters, then you’ve come to the right place. I really don’t think this review does this book justice, so all I have to say is — just pick it up, you won’t regret it.
Rating: 5 fish