Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Summary: “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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).
Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”
I think I have found one of my new favorite series, possibly in the top ten series that I have ever read. Words cannot express how much I love this series. It combines some of my favorite elements of books: history, retellings, character development, diversity, and slow burn romance (if you’ve read Now I Rise, you know what I’m talking about). Kiersten White, in my opinion, has written a masterpiece, and from here on forward I will read any book she publishes, even if it’s a compilation of all the grocery lists she has ever jotted down on scratch paper. Actually, I might draw the line at that, we’ll see.
Honestly, though, this series really does have a special place in my heart. I still don’t like Lada, but the last one hundred pages, which were very Lada-centered, had me on the edge of my seat. Those pages were brutal, but it was some of the most well-done character development I have ever seen. She is one of the strongest, most self-reliant female characters I have ever read about and if that doesn’t interest you, I don’t know what would. She’s a fascinating character to delve into, no matter how much I hate her actions. She is the epitome of an antihero. Oh, how I love morally grey characters. Literature often makes history beautiful where it never was. Thank you, White, for not making this beautiful.
“Mercy is the one thing I cannot afford. Not yet. When Wallachia is stable, when we have rebuilt, then yes. What we do now, we do so that someday mercy will be able to survive here.”
I think it’s important to note here that this really isn’t Lada’s book either. The last bit is centered around her, but the majority of the book is about Radu and his adventures in Constantinople at the side of Cyprian (who I shamelessly love). It was really interesting to see Radu’s character develop as he struggled with which side he truly aligned. Was he with Mehmed, the man he worshipped, or with Cyprian? I am so fascinated by foreign affairs and politics in general, so this part really peaked my interest. I also find the concept of spies really interesting.
As well, the drifting between Lada and Radu, both finding their own place in the world, Lada’s in Wallachia and Radu’s not yet to be found, was great to read about. This isn’t an ordinary sibling story. It’s the story of two siblings who grew up at each other’s side realizing that they both can be strong on their own. It’s heartbreaking to read about, but I loved it nonetheless. It’s an aspect of life not often read about, and an aspect of these brutal stories of the past not often explored.
“Tonight, she felt the full weight of that loss. The loss of a brother who would have stood at her side and fought this battle of manners and politics for her. The loss of a man who would have laughed at her dress and her hair but also been desperate to be alone so he could undo it all for her.
Perhaps she had never stopped being that girl lost in a place where she could never have power.”
As for the side characters, I am so glad we got to see more of Nazira. I love her friendship with Radu and I love her so much. She’s truly an amazing character. I am so grateful that this book doesn’t shy away from the hardships the both of them face.
“I cannot imagine a god who hates anything that is love, any way we find to take tender care of each other. I want you to find that same love, and I never want you to hate yourself for any love that is in you.”
I almost rated this four stars. Almost. Through the beginning, I found Lada’s chapters somewhat disinteresting. However, that was all dismantled within the last portion of the novel when Lada was at her most interesting. Now, in the amount of pain I am from that cliffhanger, I can’t even imagine this being rated any less than five stars. Bright We Burn is way too far away. I can’t wait for July of 2018. How am I supposed to be that patient? I can barely wait for the end of the school day! Ugh, that ending was cruel. If you haven’t started this series yet, I would recommend waiting until closer to Bright We Burn’s release date.