Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult

Review: And I Darken | The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White

AND I DARKENNo 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, 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.

5 stars

Historical Fiction | Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance

Holly nuggets, I have died and gone to book-gasm heaven. Seriously where do I even begin with my review on this? I can point out the obvious – I love historical fictions, because hell I do, but honestly this is beyond that. Kiersten White takes a historical backbone and twists it into a deliciously compelling, well written, dark young adult saga that grips you from the start.

I will also admit, once I got started I didn’t stop for a second, I inhaled it. I was goryhell beguiled… What I liked most about this is that it is young adult yet skim on thin line of holy hell, is this really YA Fiction? It is nastier, brutal than I expected. Loosely based from Vlad the Implarer, set in Transylvania in the highlight of the Ottoman Empire. Which for those who are historical buffs like me, know the way this can chuck along; the political intrigue, the rich development of differences of it being an alternate history is just phenomenal. 

My favorite aspect? Next to the historical affiliations? The characters. Plain and simple. Lada is the female Vlad and she is brutally fantastic. There is no way around how else to describe this woman. The badassery that is Lada is beyond compare. At no point is she described as beautiful, radiant – her looks are not in any way her best attributes, which is refreshing for such an influential heroine. Rough around the edges, resilient, and possible a little sociopaths habits, she definitely takes the cake of female leads.

At the beginning, she shows these habits, and really as the novel showcases her growth into adulthood, she really comes into her world of realizing what womanhood can mean, and what she isn’t meant to be. Calculated, very stern personality who grows to show how she has a multitude of hatred for her own sex. She finds it crippling for her goals – she is suffocating yet she realizes what she needs to do to gain her control. 

And because I said characters, I do mean I have several characters that I have a hate/love conflict of emotions with. Though I absolutely LOVE Lada, it was her brother, Radu who I really feel this dynamic is going to spiral a web of more deceit. From the beginning, Radu is always considered the Beautiful, something Lada will never amount to, and he lives up to his rumor. The complexity of their relationship as siblings is really hard to digest. I will not deny though as well, every perspective I read of him, I feel more towards Lada’s viewpoint, he is weak. He is single minded and believes he needs to cave on his beliefs, his morals – I find him naive and childlike. I will be very curious I see his development… I hope he grows more to realize his mistakes. 

Mehmed also annoys the living piss out of me. Curious I am, the friendship triangle between the three is interesting to say the least. I am not sure if I find it enduring or troubling. I have a theory as well tangled in his backbone, I don’t feel as though his personality is black and white as it appears during the read. Not saying he is entirely hiding something, I am simply stating (without spoilage…) that I don’t think he is entirely true in the circle of friendship – he is power. Point blank.

Obviously the biggest point I really enjoyed is the historical round about. White really captured the religious aspects, both from exploring from different angels, creating the mindset of what you would expect from that character and their beliefs while not taking away from the actually meaning. It wasn’t preachy, it wasn’t overly religious but because of the historical backstory, it delivered on what I felt it needed to without harnessing any judgmental slaps. This also really developed the overall world building centered in Eastern Europe. Taking in the geographical situation of the characters, the kingdom, how the fighting occurred – it really grasped the essence of the history without feeling like I was in history class. 

Basically in a nutshell, I fucking loved this novel. I cannot wait to continue this saga. The web of relationships that both have me teary eyed, chuckling, gut wrenching pained, to the conflicts of political  power – it has me gripped. From start to finish, I am hooked like a fish on a bait line. The detail is stunning, well written, I loved the inspired historical view, the characters really hit my heart; I am truly invested at this point and I need more!

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