Bright We Burn by Kiersten White
Published by Delacorte Press on July 10, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy
Pages: 391 – hardcover, 416 – paperback & ebook
Format Read: ebook
Rating: 5 stars
Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?
Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.
But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.
Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.
Wow. This has been a roller coaster of emotions; I feel like my heart has been ripped out of chest and repeatedly stomped on – something Kiersten White seems to specialize in. It’s been a while since I’ve read such a consistently solid series – from the beginning up till the very end. It has never failed to disappoint, and this conclusion is no different. If you haven’t picked up this brilliant trilogy, then what are you waiting for? The Conquerer’s Saga is sure to take you on a brutal, bloody journey filled with lots and lots of gore, bloodshed, and backstabbing.
“War made monsters of them all.”
This book kicks off right where Now I Rise left off – with our two main characters, Lada and Radu, still at odds with each other. Watching these two siblings navigate the world of politics and weather the hardships thrown at them just reminds me of how far they’ve come since the beginning of this series. Their character arcs are truly phenomenal. Radu and Lada have mostly always been polar opposites, but in this book, they are directly pitted against each other on opposite sides of a war. Their differences have never been more glaringly obvious than in this book.
“Lada shaped herself in spite of her environment. Radu shaped himself because of it.”
Speaking of character development, Radu’s is hands down one of the best character arcs out there. In this web of politics and bloodshed, Radu has always struggled doing what’s right. He’s always floundered in this morally gray area – stuck between Mehmed and Lada, between his love and his loyalties, between the man he serves and the man he loves. However, after years of being beaten down by his environment, he finally stands up and says enough. Finally, Radu willingly chooses to be the good guy. He refuses to become a monster. He chooses his family. He chooses Cyprian and Nazira and Fatima. He chooses love. I found this to be one of the most beautiful aspects of this book, and if there’s ever a character more deserving of happiness in this entire series – it’s Radu.
On the other hand, there’s Lada. Whenever I read Lada’s POV, I felt like I wanted to go to war and bathe in the blood of my enemies.
“What sustains you?”
“The blood of my enemies,” she said.
She is such a complex, multifaceted character – a breath of fresh air amidst a sea of watered-down antiheroines. Lada commits a myriad of villainous acts throughout this book, but – somehow – you still can’t help but root for her. Her ruthlessness reaches new heights in this book as she goes on murderous rampages – it was like watching an incoming train wreck! Her singleminded devotion to Wallachia and her urge to kill anyone in its way should have made her unlikable.
“No one could break her heart if all it contained was her country.”
However, as a reader, we are given insight into her increasing feelings of loneliness and vulnerability as she slowly loses all that she holds dear. Watching her mourn all that she’s lost and breakdown sobbing in her brother’s arms was heartbreaking. Still, she never stopped fighting, couldn’tstop fighting, up until the very end. Lada chose Wallachia over and over, even as that choice costs her dearly. Her choice is directly contrasted with Radu choosing love and family. Even though its what she chose, it’s heart-rending to think about what she could have had. Just thinking about it brings a sharp pang to my chest.
Of course, let’s not forget to talk about the purest characters in this book: Cyprian, Nazira, and Fatima. They were just so innately good and pure and soft with each other. Amidst such war and terror, they found each other and formed a family. They may not have been related by blood, but they protected and cared for each other like they were. I’ll forever be emotional about my family of smol beans.
This book offers much in the way of diversity, as well as female empowerment. I love how this book takes society’s expectations women and flips these expectations on their head by introducing characters like Lada (a female version of Vlad the Impaler), Mara, and Daciana.
“She was a dragon.
She was a prince.
She was a woman.
It was the last that scared them most of all.”
So in conclusion, this has been a wild ride from start to finish – literally. At the beginning of this book, I was so afraid of how Kiersten would choose to conclude this series, but I think the ending she chose was absolutely perfect. It struck the perfect balance between tragic, bittersweet, and happy. Kudos to Kiersten White for crafting such a masterfully written trilogy filled with complex characters, epic battles, and a richly built world. I love this series so much, and I’ll forever hold these characters dear to my heart. This review will never come close to doing these wonderful books justice, so all I can say is this: this series will hurt you and emotionally scar you, but it’ll be one of the best things that has ever happened to you.
Rating: 5 fish!