Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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, 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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).
“She plucked a rose and held it to her face. She hated the way roses smelled, their sweetness too fragile. She wanted a garden of evergreens. A garden of stones. A garden of swords.”
And I Darken is a book that catches you off guard. I never expected to love it this much, despite my love of European history. Usually, I prefer historical fiction with a tad bit of fantasy to make it exciting, but this, lacking anything near to fantasy, was enough by itself. I think it’s a misconception in the book world that And I Darken has fantasy in it. Let’s clear this up now: There is no fantasy in this book. Maybe it’s concluded that it “must have magic” because it’s a retelling? Or because it’s not telling history the way it really was? Or because the cover is pretty (which it is, seriously)? I honestly have no idea where the idea that this book has magic in it came from. The only thing separating it from the reality of the time is that Vlad the Impaler is female and her name is Lada.
I actually didn’t like Lada. Out of context, that would seem positive. Who would I be if I liked the genderbent Vlad the Impaler? However, I think most people did like Lada, brutality and all. She’s definitely not a heroine; she commits gruesome murders too much for that. If I were to title her, I would say Lada is an antihero and Radu is the hero. I don’t even know where I’d put Mehmed, what do you do with characters who act like trash and are trash?
That said, I think Lada is a very well-written character. She’s ruthless. I don’t quite believe it’s necessary to like her to enjoy the book. I loved every piece of it, but hated Lada. She’s so cruel and heartless and I usually go for the softer characters (thus why I can now claim Radu as my son).
I was taken more by Radu’s storyline, too. From his perspective, I could see why Mehmed was so attractive. When it switched to Lada’s however, I found myself hating him, because I could see he had ulterior motives. I think that’s what I loved so much about this book is that the story changed with the perspectives and you really do get a different view of their lives and the world around them with the narration change.
“But you always have a choice. You can choose to find comfort and solace in God. You can choose to be brave and compassionate. And you can choose to find beauty and happiness wherever they present themselves.”
However, I wish Kiersten White would have included Mehmed’s perspective as well. He felt really flat to me and I think that came as a result of being seen through the eyes of two people who worshipped the ground he walked upon. It would have been interesting to see his perspective to give another layer of depth to his character. Though, I think it definitely set up his place in the story by showing him through these eyes. I’m rather torn about him, because as I said earlier, he is trash, but I think I could grow to like him if I were shown more of him. Hopefully that will change with Now I Rise, which I have just started reading.
All in all, this book was amazing. It’s fast-paced with beautiful prose and a plot to go with it. It’s perfect for anyone who loves history, honestly. It was a nice bit of shock to read a description of The Great Mosque in Edirne, Turkey, too, because that’s one of the pieces I have to learn for AP Art History.