And I Darken
By: Kiersten White
Release Date: June 28th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
I must admit to not really being a fan of White’s prior work, but, I couldn’t resist the summary for And I Darken. I had an interest in Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) in my younger years so there was no way I’d not be reading this book. The fact that White decided to make Vlad’s character female- sign me up. Plus, this time period is so largely ignored in YA historical fiction.
Overall, I found this book to be incredibly successful and full of historical detail, character development, and intrigue. It does read a tad on the slow side because there are lots of details and a great amount of time was covered. I think that if you are a historical fiction fan (or reader of adult fiction) this won’t bother you one bit. If you need your books to be fast moving you might feel this book is on the slow side. I feel that it is so worth the read because through these slower moments you really get to know the characters and understand them deeply.
The story was told in third person alternating between Lada and her brother Radu. I loved that these are real historical figures (with Lada being Vlad but female). This brother and sister really were held captives of the Ottoman Empire to keep their father in check. Of course, White took liberty with the characters and what occurred during this time period (as far as I can tell it was not well documented what happened to them there). It was fascinating to see the historical bits woven into this book and evident that White has a vast knowledge and understanding of the time period (from my perspective). I highly recommend researching some prior to or while reading. I found it really added to my reading experience. Do not feel, however, that it is necessary to do so! It is not! White provides all the details you need to know and in an easy to absorb way.
Beyond the time period, I really loved the depth of the characters. Lada was wonderfully brutal and though she was all rough edges there’s something…delicate about her? It was a mesmerizing mix that White did an excellent job with. Her younger brother, Radu, was all emotions and insecurity. The novel spans from these character’s birth to their young adult lives. Through this we really grasp who they are deep inside and it was impossible not to love them and to feel their hurts and fears.
Those that fear the love triangle there was one (sort of?) It wasn’t your typical triangle and I never really got the impression it was ever more than unrequited love on one person’s behalf. Some might be sensitive to it, but I felt it was done well and didn’t detract from the story. I felt that though there was a good amount of romance in the book it was not overwhelming and ended up lending itself to help develop rather than take away from the storytelling.
And I Darken was a really strong historical fiction with some obvious changes to how the real events occurred (obviously switching Vlad’s gender being the biggest) which only made the story even more appealing to me. I love the depth of the characters, historical detail as well as how much time spanned in this one novel. I feel that this is by far the strongest work White has created and I can’t wait to read where she takes this story next.
While talking about this novel on Twitter with Sarah from The YA Book Traveler she compared the UK cover to a picture of Vlad and I’ve got to share it: