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The New York Times Bestseller!
“Absolutely riveting.” —Alexandra Bracken, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Darkest Minds
This vividly rendered novel reads like HBO’s Game of Thrones . . . if it were set in the Ottoman Empire. Ambitious in scope and intimate in execution, the story’s atmospheric setting is rife with political intrigue, with a deftly plotted narrative driven by fiercely passionate characters and a fearsome heroine. Fans of Victoria Aveyard’s THE RED QUEEN and Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES won’t want to miss this visceral, immersive, and mesmerizing novel, the first in the And I Darken series.
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.
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.
“A dark and twisty fantasy . . . think Game of Thrones, but with teens.”—Seventeen
“Sinister, suspenseful, and unapologetically feminist.”—Buzzfeed
“Will completely spin you into another time and place.”—Bustle
“Takes no prisoners, offering up brutal, emotional historical fiction.”—NPR.org
An ALA Rainbow List Top Ten Selection
About the Author
@kierstenwhite on Twitter.
Read an Excerpt
1435: Sighisoara, Transylvania
Vlad Dracul’s heavy brow descended like a storm when the doctor informed him that his wife had given birth to a girl. His other children—one from his first wife, now nearly full grown, and even a bastard child from his mistress, born last year—had been boys. He had not thought his seed weak enough to produce a girl.
He pushed through the door, into the close, heavy air of the tiny bedroom. It stank of blood and fear and filled him with disgust.
Their home in the fortified hill city of Sighisoara was a far cry from what he deserved. It sat next to the main gate, in the suffocating press of the square, beside an alley that reeked of human waste. His retainer of ten men was merely ceremonial, rendering him a glorified placeholder. He might have been the military governor of Transylvania, but he was supposed to be the ruler of all Wallachia.
Perhaps that was why he had been cursed with a girl. Another insult to his honor. He was in the Order of the Dragon, sanctioned by the pope himself. He should be the vaivode, the warlord prince, but his brother sat on the throne, while he was governor of Saxons squatting on his own country’s land.
Soon he would show them his honor on the end of a sword.
Vasilissa lay on the bed, soaked in sweat and moaning in pain. Certainly the weakness that took root in her womb had been her own. His stomach turned at the sight of her, princess now in neither demeanor nor appearance.
The nurse held up a squalling, red-faced little monster. He had no names for a girl. Vasilissa would doubtless want something that honored her family, but Vlad hated the Moldavian royals she came from for failing to bring him any political advantage. He had already named his bastard Vlad, after himself. He would name his daughter the same.
“Ladislav,” he declared. It was a feminine form of Vlad. Diminutive. Diminished. If Vasilissa wanted a strong name, she would have to bear him a son. “Let us pray she is beautiful so we can get some use out of her,” he said. The infant screamed louder.
Vasilissa’s royal breasts were far too important to suckle from. The wet nurse waited until Vlad left, then held the babe to her common teats. She was still full of milk from her own child, a boy. As the baby latched on with surprising fierceness, the nurse offered her own prayer. Let her be strong. Let her be sly. She looked over at the princess, fifteen, lovely and delicate as the first spring blossoms. Wilted and broken on the bed.
And let her be ugly.
Vlad could not be bothered to be present for the birth of his second child by Vasilissa: a son, a year younger than his sister, practically chasing her into this world.
The nurse finished cleaning the newborn, then held him out to his mother. He was tiny, perfect, with a mouth like a rosebud and a full head of dark hair. Vasilissa lay, glassy-eyed and mute, on the bed. She stared at the wall. Her gaze never even drifted to her son. A tug on the nurse’s skirt brought her attention downward, where tiny Lada stood, scowling. The nurse angled the baby toward his sister.
“A brother,” she said, her voice soft.
The baby started to cry, a weak, garbled sound that worried the nurse. Lada’s scowl deepened. She slapped a dimpled hand over his mouth. The nurse pulled him away quickly, and Lada looked up, face contorted in rage.
“Mine!” she shouted.
It was her first word.
The nurse laughed, shocked, and lowered the baby once more. Lada glared at him until he stopped crying. Then, apparently satisfied, she toddled out of the room.
If Vasilissa saw her daughter wrestling on the floor with the dogs and the nurse’s son, Bogdan, the nurse would lose her position. However, since the birth of Radu four years ago, Vasilissa never left her rooms.
Radu had gotten all the beauty their father had wished on his daughter. His eyes were framed by thick lashes, his lips full, his gentle curls kissed with a hint of Saxon gold.
Bogdan screamed as Lada—Ladislav, now five, refused to answer to her full name—bit down on his thigh. He punched her. She bit harder, and he cried for help.
“If she wants to eat your leg, she is allowed,” the nurse said. “Quit screaming or I will let her eat your supper, too.”
Like her brother, Lada had big eyes, but hers were close-set, with arched brows that made her look perpetually cross. Her hair was a tangled mass, so dark that her pale skin appeared sickly. Her nose was long and hooked, her lips thin, her teeth small and—judging from Bogdan’s angry cries—quite sharp.
She was contrary and vicious and the meanest child the nurse had ever cared for. She was also the nurse’s favorite. By all rights the girl should be silent and proper, fearful and simpering. Her father was a powerless tyrant, cruel in his impotence and absent for months at a time. Her mother was every bit as absent, withdrawn and worthless in their home, incapable of doing anything to help herself. They were an apt representation of the entire region—particularly the nurse’s homeland of Wallachia.
But in Lada she saw a spark, a passionate, fierce glimmer that refused to hide or be dimmed. Rather than trying to stamp out that fire for the sake of Lada’s future, the nurse nurtured it. It made her feel oddly hopeful.
If Lada was the spiky green weed that sprouted in the midst of a drought-cracked riverbed, Radu was the delicate, sweet rose that wilted in anything less than the perfect conditions. Right now he wailed at the nurse’s pause in spooning the thin gruel, sweetened with honey, into his mouth.
“Make him shut up!” Lada climbed over her father’s largest hound, grizzled and patient with age.
“How should I do that?”
“Lada! Bite your tongue. He is your brother.”
“He is a worm. Bogdan is my brother.”
The nurse scowled, wiping Radu’s face with her apron. “Bogdan is not your brother.” I would sooner lie with the dogs than your father, she thought.
“He is! You are. Say you are.” Lada jumped onto Bogdan’s back. Though he was two years older and far bigger, she pinned him to the ground, jamming her elbow into his shoulder.
“I am! I am!” he said, half giggling, half crying.
“Throw Radu out with the chamber pots!”
Radu wailed louder, working himself up to a fit. The nurse clucked her tongue, picking him up even though he was much too large to be carried around. He put a hand in her blouse and pinched her skin, which was loose and wrinkled like an old apple. She sometimes wished he would shut up, too, but when he did speak it was always so sweet it made up for his tantrums. He even smelled nice, as if honey clung to his mouth between meals.
“Be a good boy,” the nurse said, “and you can go sledding with Lada and Bogdan later. Would you like that?”
Radu shook his head, lip trembling with the threat of more tears.
“Or we could visit the horses.”
He nodded slowly and the nurse sighed with relief. She looked up to find Lada gone. “Where did she go?”
Bogdan’s eyes widened in fear and indecision. Already he did not know whose wrath to fear more—his mother’s or tiny Lada’s.
Huffing, the nurse tucked Radu onto her hip, his feet bouncing against her legs with every step. She stalked down the hall toward the narrow stairs leading to the bedrooms. “Lada, if you wake your mother, there will be—”
She stopped, holding perfectly still, her fearful expression matching Bogdan’s own. From the sitting room near the front of the house, she heard voices. Low voices. Men’s voices. Speaking in Turkish, the language of their oftentimes enemy, the Ottomans.
Which meant Vlad was home, and Lada was—
The nurse ran down the hall and burst into the sitting room to find Lada standing in the middle of the room.
“I kill infidels!” the child snarled, brandishing a small kitchen knife.
“Do you?” Vlad spoke to her in the language of the Saxons, the tongue most spoken in Sighisoara. The nurse’s Saxon was crude, and while Vasilissa was fluent in several languages, she never spoke with the children. Lada and Radu spoke only Wallachian.
Lada waved the knife at him in answer to the question she did not understand. Vlad raised an eyebrow. He was wrapped in a fine cloak, an elaborate hat on his head. It had been nearly a year since Lada had seen her father. She did not recognize him.
“Lada!” the nurse whispered. “Come here at once.”
Lada stood as tall as her short, stocky legs allowed. “This is my home! I am the Order of the Dragon! I kill infidels!”
One of the three men accompanying Vlad murmured something in Turkish. The nurse felt sweat breaking out on her face, her neck, her back. Would they kill a child for threatening them? Would her father allow it? Or would they simply kill her for being unable to control Lada?
Vlad smiled indulgently at his daughter’s display, then bowed his head at the three men. They returned the bow and swept out, acknowledging neither the nurse nor her disobedient charge. “How many infidels have you killed?” Vlad’s voice, this time in the melodic romance language tones of Wallachian, was smooth and cold.
“Hundreds.” Lada pointed the knife at Radu, who hid his face against the nurse’s shoulder. “I killed that one this morning.”
“And will you kill me now?”
Lada hesitated, lowering her hand. She stared at her father, recognition seeping across her face like milk dropped in clear water. As quick as a snake, Vlad snatched the knife out of her hand, then grabbed her by the ankle and lifted her into the air.
“And how,” he said, her upside-down face level with his, “did you think you could kill someone bigger, stronger, and smarter than you?”
“You cheated!” Lada’s eyes burned with a look the nurse had come to dread. That look meant injury, destruction, or fire. Often all three.
“I won. That is all that matters.”
With a scream, Lada twisted herself up and bit her father’s hand.
“God’s wounds!” He dropped her on the floor. She tucked into a ball, rolled out of his reach, then crouched, baring her teeth at him. The nurse cringed, waiting for Vlad to fly into a rage and beat Lada. Or beat her for her failure to keep Lada tame and docile.
Instead, he laughed. “My daughter is feral.”
“So sorry, my lord.” The nurse ducked her head, gesturing frantically at Lada. “She is overexcited upon seeing you again after so long an absence.”
“What of their instruction? She does not speak Saxon.”
“No, my lord.” That was not quite true. Lada had picked up Saxon obscenities and frequently yelled them out the window at people in the busy square. “She knows a bit of Hungarian. But there has been no one to see to the children’s education.”
He clucked his tongue, a thoughtful look in his shrewd eyes. “And what of this one? Is he as fierce?” Vlad leaned in to where Radu had finally peered outward.
Radu immediately burst into tears, burying his face once more in the nurse’s shoulder and shoving his hand beneath her cap to wrap it in her hair.
Vlad’s lip turned up in disgust. “This one takes after his mother. Vasilissa!” he shouted, so loud that Radu was terrified into silence interrupted only by hiccups and sniffles. The nurse did not know whether to stay or leave, but she had not been dismissed. Lada ignored her, wary eyes fixed on her father.
“Vasilissa!” Vlad roared again. He reached out to snatch Lada, but this time she was ready. She scrambled away, crawling under the polished table. Vlad rapped his knuckles on it. “Very good. Vasilissa!”
His wife stumbled into the room, hair down, wrapped in nothing but a dressing robe. She was worn thin. Her cheekbones jutted out under grayed, empty eyes. If the birth of Lada had nearly killed her, Radu’s had drained whatever life she had left. She took in the scene—Radu tearstained, Lada under the table, and her husband, finally home—with a dull gaze.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Is that how you greet your husband? The vaivode of Wallachia? The prince?” He smiled in triumph, his long mustache lifting to reveal thin lips.
Vasilissa stiffened. “They are making you prince? What of Alexandru?”
“My brother is dead.”
The nurse did not think Vlad looked much like a man in mourning.
Finally noticing her daughter, Vasilissa beckoned to her. “Ladislav, come out from under there. Your father is home.”
Lada did not move. “He is not my father.”
“Make her come out,” Vasilissa snapped at the nurse.
“Can you not command your own child?” Vlad’s voice was as clear as a blue sky in the freezing depths of winter. The sun with teeth, they called those days.
The nurse shrank further into herself, shifting so that Radu, at least, was out of Vlad’s sight. Vasilissa looked frantically to either side, but there was no escape from the room. “I want to go home,” she whispered. “Back to Moldavia. Please let me.”
Vasilissa’s tiny frame trembled. Then she dropped to her knees, lowered her head, and took Vlad’s hand in her own. “Please. Please, I beg of you. Let me go home.”
Vlad put out his other hand and stroked Vasilissa’s lank, greasy hair. Then he grabbed it, wrenching her head to the side. She cried out, but he pulled tighter, forcing her to stand. He placed his lips against her ear. “You are the weakest creature I have ever known. Crawl back to your hole and hide there. Crawl!” He threw her down, and, sobbing, she crawled from the room.
The nurse looked steadily at the finely woven rug that covered the stone floor. She said nothing. She did nothing. She prayed that Radu would remain silent.
“You.” Vlad pointed at Lada. “Come out. Now.”
She did, still watching the door Vasilissa had disappeared through.
“I am your father. But that woman is not your mother. Your mother is Wallachia. Your mother is the very earth we go to now, the land I am prince of. Do you understand?”
Lada looked up into her father’s eyes, deep-set and etched with years of cunning and cruelty. She nodded, then held out her hand. “The daughter of Wallachia wants her knife back.”
Vlad smiled and gave it to her.
Excerpted from "And I Darken"
Copyright © 2016 Kiersten White.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Children's Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This story captivated me right away! Even with tons of homework looming over my shoulders, I couldn't put this down! Lada is someone is like to be, fearless, strong, formidable even for her size, a leader, a person to respect. This book showed me valuable lessons on what it means to be free, deciding what one loves, and what one must sacrifice to keep what you love. This book is a piece of art and will be one of my top faves for the year.
Loved this book. Very engaging with great character development
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** And I Darken by Kiersten White Book One of The Conquerors Saga Publisher: Delacorte Press Publication Date: June 28, 2016 Rating: 4 stars Source: ARC sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): 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. From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken. What I Liked: I admit, as excited as I was to read this book, I was also pretty apprehensive. The book is pretty long (the ARC is huge!), and the synopsis definitely makes it sound like there is a love triangle going on. Well, I started the book and found that I could not put it down! It started off a tiny bit slowly, but I love how things picked up. I'll definitely be looking out for the sequel! Lada is the daughter of Vlad Dragwlya, a fierce, wild, almost crazed young girl who is bloodthirsty and refuses to be tamed. Radu is her brother, younger by a year, gentler, and much more of a softhearted crybaby. Both are forgotten by their parents. Both are deposited to the Ottomans when they are 13 and 12, by their father. But the Ottomans aren't all enemies, as they were taught to believe. Radu finds a friend in Mehmed, a son of the sultan and third heir, and while Lada trusts no one, she comes to be a friend of Mehmed's as well. Years pass, and Lada and Radu grow comfortable in the Ottoman empire. But when Mehmed becomes the heir to the empire, everything changes. There is only war and bloodshed and sacrifices and heartbreak. About a third (or maybe two-fifths) of this book is spent while Lada and Radu are young. The story starts when Lada is born, and then Radu. And then they are five and four, and their mother leaves them. And then they are eleven and ten, and Radu is just as weak and Lada just as ferocious as ever, And then they are thirteen and twelve, and the story really starts here. When the pair is forced to flee to the Ottomans, and they are left there by the father, their lives change. About five years pass, and the rest of the story goes from there. Lada is scary! From the beginning of the story, she scared me. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. This is the first book I have read by Kirsten White. I really enjoyed the story and the characters. Lada and Radu aren’t your typical brother and sister. Lada is very brutal, and doesn’t mind getting dirty for what she wants. On the other hand, Radu is a crybaby. Both want attention and love from their father, the leader of Wallachia. When they were young, the Ottoman empire took them as leverage, and raised them in their courts. Soon, Lada and Radu meet and befriend Mehmed, the sultan’s son. As they grow older, their friendship turns into love and longing, where they will do anything to protect one another. I will admit that the first 5 to 10 chapters were very boring. However, once I was captured into Lada and Radu’s storylines, I didn’t want to put the book down. The story was very interesting and kept me wanting to know what happens next. I thought the author’s writing was pretty good, and will definitely check out her other books. The overall plot was good, and I enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of the story. I think having the book follow both Lada and Radu was a great choice because the reader is able to know what both are thinking, feeling, and doing. Since each chapter switched between the two characters storylines, it left me wanting to know what happens in each one. Lada’s character was very powerful. She was in a time where women were told what to do and men basically owned them, however, Lada never let that get in her way, and I find that to be admirable. While she did have to make sacrifices, she was still strong and stood behind her choices. Overall, I can’t wait to see what happens next with Lada and Radu.
I've been eyeing this book for ages, but could never summon the courage to pick it up. The reviews were far too mixed, and my time far too precious. I finally convinced myself to jump when this book and the second book, Now I Rise, went on sale for $1.99 apiece on Kindle. Oh, boy, I am SO glad that I did. I was hooked at the 40% mark. I loved this book. It's nothing like I was expecting, though I had no clue what I was getting myself into going in. I'm so excited to start the second book and double excited that this trilogy is complete so that I won't have to wait for the third book to be released!
A dark, rich and brutal historical YA novel that re-imagines the story of Vlad the Impaler with Vlad as a girl. Lada is terrifying and compelling, and White does an excellent job delving into the harsh life that created her. I've already got a copy of the second book in the trilogy lined up!
Tumultuous historical fiction! And I Darken by Kiersten White, book one of the Conqueror’s Saga tells the story of Lada (a female version of Vlad the Impaler) and her brother Radu, as well as Mehmed, who will become a great Conqueror. Lada was born with an intense and strong personality; this is the only way to catch the attention of her father. The only time she’s kind or shows weakness is in helping her younger brother. Their father wakes them before dawn and takes them to a different ruler’s home for protection, but he ends up leaving his children to receive an education. This education consists of cruelty along with their lessons. As Lada and her brother Radu grow, they each find their particular talents and tend to go their separate ways. Lada is outspoken, boisterous and skillful in fighting and Radu is quiet and personable and enjoys religion. I learned more about Islam because of this book and my appreciation of Islamic beliefs grew. The author used the historical information that she could find on two great leaders- Vlad the Impaler and Mehmed the Conqueror- to create this interesting series of intrigue, action and danger. I love when authors explain their process of creating their books and share the research they discovered. Kiersten White lists historical books of information on her subjects and also tells readers why she chose to make Vlad the Impaler a female character- Lada. Lada adds depth, drama, love, loyalty and intensity to the story. And I Darken is the beginning of the turmoil of The Conqueror’s Saga, 4 stars! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration and all opinions and thoughts are my own.
The character and story development is fabulous. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
This was an amazing story with much political intrigue and and meticulously crafted characters. It was thrilling and left suspense at every turn. Not to mention its beautiful and enthralling story line. I am 11 years old and have read many books but this is my absolute favorite no doubt. If there were more stars to give I would give them. I recommend this book to anyone who is even slightly interested in historical fantasy!
Oh, how I wanted to love this book! It’s a retelling of Vlad the impaler, but Vlad as a girl!! How amazing does that sound? Lada and her brother Radu are children of the Dragon and ruler of Wallachia. When they are sent to the Ottomon Empire and held as insurance for their father’s continued obedience, Lada vows her revenge. However she didn’t plan on Mehmed. Neither did Radu. Radu, always overlooked by everyone he knew, finds peace and solace in the Ottoman court and a true friend in Mehmed. When political tensions and plots arise, they both must decide where their true allegiance lies. I mean how fantastic does that plot sound?! I was really excited to start this book. However, I almost pulled a DNF. I never pull a DNF. Here’s my problem with And I Darken–I HATED these characters. I could not get behind ANY of the main protagonists. Which caused me not to care one iota about what happened to them. Lada was a complete and utter *itch, I’m sorry to say. Now, I get that was the point, but I could not for the life of me find any sympathy with her when she didn’t get what she wanted or when things went wrong for her. In fact, I thought she deserved it. Radu was a little more likeable and interesting, however the majority of the novel was spent listening to him whine. GET UP AND DO SOMETHING IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT. He does a bit toward the end, but even so he takes the back seat on a lot of his own life. And Mehmed? Mehmed is an entitled, spoiled brat. He wants it all and doesn’t really take into account anybody else’s feelings. I’m sorry. This is the first book in a while where I just couldn’t get on board. I feel like I’m one of the few out there who didn’t LOVE this book, but I have to be honest. I did enjoy the historic aspect of it and the twist on Vlad. That was about it though. I’d had the sequel on my TBR to review for a while and I think I’m just going to have to skip it. I’m not invested in these characters enough to care what happens to them.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. Now, there is no doubt that the writing is outstanding but I just expected more from the story. I found that it lacked action and battles, which, from a historical fiction based somewhat on Vlad the Impaler, I fully expected. Instead I got a story that was slow paced, lacked world building, and was heavy on religion. The sultan with his harem and multiple wives absolutely disgusted me and here’s why 1. I found how women were treated was horrid. 2. Women in the harem were only used for reproducing, so that the sultan had plenty of heirs lined up. 3. Women were sold to the harem or fathers traded their daughters. Apparently it was considered an honor. Not my definition of honor but hey, I’m just a reader. 4. The fratricide (killing of sons and brothers in order to keep the throne) that was going on was sickening and that’s all I will say on that subject. I found that I didn’t connect with the characters at all. Like, I could care less what happened to them. Lada or Ladislav was not a good person but she was strong willed, which was good for her because apparently she was ugly as sin. We finally have a female character who used their brains instead of their looks to further themselves. Radu, Lada’s brother was the beautiful one. He is very kind but never stood up for himself. He was wishy washy and weak, never standing up for himself. He couldn’t even tell his sister that he converted to Islam for fear of what she would say. Only in the last ¾ of the book did he even remotely start to show signs of independence and growth. Overall I wasn’t impressed with the pacing or the characters but I am curious as to what will happen in the second book after how this one ended so I will probably pick it up at some point. Although I am really in no hurry to do so.
Full review posted at lyseofllyr DOT blog COMPLEX CHARACTERIZATION Lada and Radu, in particular, are written with exquisite care. Lada is a fierce and wonderful girl/woman, but White doesn’t neglect softer feelings as well. Lada does care about people in her own way. I’m particularly fond of her response to Radu–she flip flops between despising him and being fiercely protective, just the way most older siblings do. Authors seldom balance their “strong female characters” in a way that I can tolerate, much less admire, so I really, really appreciated Lada. Radu is equally well-developed, although I identify less with him. He transforms from a sniveling child into a young man through delicate character development. He does feel like more of a “type” to me–more familiar, woven of elements I’ve seen before. But perhaps I was harder on his character because I liked Lada so much. His development was accomplished with a light touch and obvious skill. NO SUGARCOATING This book is violent. History is bloody and White does not gloss over it. She’s not gratuitous, but there is lots of blood. I admire the balance. (I’m saying balance a lot here, but it’s a very, very important element.) AN ACTUALLY TOLERABLE LOVE TRIANGLE/SQUARE/DECAGON I despise love triangles. Frankly, I don’t like a lot of angst in relationships at all. But the love triangle in this book (which also includes a harem, hence the decagon) feels natural and–wait for it–in balance with the other plot points. Kudos to White for writing a love triangle that didn’t make me gag and throw the book! LOTS OF PLOT Speak of balance in plot points… There’s a lot going on in this book. Politics. Violence. Growing up. Love. Learning skills. Religion. Family. Friendship. Vengeance. Intrigue. Betrayal. A lot of plot. And White handles all of that plot with grace. The book is longish (~500 pages), but not overwhelming. The pacing is excellent and each plot point feels natural, like it’s on beat without throwing the rhythm in your face. Strongly recommended.
This is a beast of a book, but well worth the time. The characters are interesting and very well written. I cant wait for the second book of the series.
This was a truly epic story. This story spans a lot of years and tells a sometimes brutal story. I was hooked by the book from almost the first page. I really couldn't get my mind to focus on anything besides this story until I had reached the end. It was a bigger story than I had expected with a lot of intricately woven layers. The characters were amazingly written and I found myself cheering for both Lada and Radu. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this wonderful book. Lada is the daughter of Vlad and she is fierce. The book opens at her birth and even as a very young child, Lada is brutal when needed. Her brother, Radu, does not share the same trait. In every way that Lada is brave and fierce, Radu is sensitive and needs protection. Her father is force to leave both Lada and Radu in the Ottoman courts and they fear that they may never see Wallachia again. By chance, Lada and Radu cross paths with Mehmed as children and from an unlikely friendship. Mehmed is third in line to the throne of the Ottoman empire, a throne he knows he will most likely never hold. He keeps Lada and Radu by his side largely because Lada will not treat him as anything but her equal. I enjoyed the characters in this story. Going into the book, I thought I would fall in love with Lada. Who doesn't love a fierce female character that can hold her own? She isn't pretty but she is brave. I did like Lada a lot but I was more taken with her brother's character, Radu. I didn't realize that there would be as much of a focus on Radu in the story as there was. Radu really grew as a character over the course of the book and he was a character that I found I had a lot of respect for. He was really as resourceful as his sister and could be brave when it was necessary. Mehmed is a character that really left me with conflicting feelings since there were things I loved about him and other things I disliked. The setting of the story was perfectly written. I really could envision this place filled with uncertainty and brutality. The descriptions of everything from the Head Gardeners duties to life in the harem really helped to bring this world to life. I thought that the descriptions of religion in the story was well done and I liked that it was an important part of some of the characters' lives. I would highly recommend this book to others. The story really has so many great elements from the historical setting, great characters, political intrigue, and even a bit of romance. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in this planned trilogy! I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Children's - Delacorte Press via NetGalley.
I could not put this book down. I read it in two days (and that’s pretty fast considering how busy I am right now). To say I enjoyed it is an understatement. So what did I like? First, the plotline and setting are unique. Set in 15th Century Ottoman Empire, Lada, the main character, has few options due to the fact that she had the misfortune to be born a female. From the start of the book, when Lada is a very small child, the reader can see she is headstrong and will revolt against societal norms for women. And we are not disappointed. Lada trains with the Janissaries, befriends the boy who will be Sultan (causing him to fall in love with her along the way) and rebels in every way possible. Lada is a character who is impossible not to love … and to hate. But she is not the only complex and fully developed character in the novel. Her younger brother Radu is a gentler, more compassionate character but one the reader can’t help empathizing with and loving. And the young sultan, Mehmet, is another character that draws the reader in. He, like the reader, can’t resist the draw of Lada. Beyond setting and character development, this book is fast paced and filled with plot twists. One never knows what will happen next. The first book in a trilogy, I will be looking for the next instalment as soon as it is released!
This novel is a beautiful rendention of Vlad Dracula told in the view of Lada. She is stubborn and loud and loves her brother, Radu. The research of setting and lifestyle is amazing. I love this book and can't wait for the next one!
Absolutely loved this book!! A perfect combination of fiction, history, adventure, romance, and more! Fell in love with the characters.
If you only read one book this summer - And I Darken is the book you want to read. The world building is amazing and the characters are so detailed that they seem to come to life while reading. I have read alot of "Dracula" books. Some fiction and some more about the real Vlad Dracul or the history about how he became the myth he is today. So I was quite intrigued when I read the blurb about And I Darken. This is an unusual take on the all so familiar Count Dracula story. I liked the idea that it was a girl that was the strong one and that Lada wasn't beautiful like most of the heroines out there in the fictional world. She struggles not only against her father, which not sees her because she is only a girl and doesn't count in his world, but also against most of the people surrounding her which see her as odd and can't understand her. The only friend she has is taken from her side and so she is stuck with her little brother Radu. My heart went out for Radu. He wanted so desperatedly be friends with his sister he would have done anything for her. But their relationship isn't easy and all his efforts doesn't help him becoming close to her. As they meet Mehmed both Lada and Radu are drawn to him not knowing that he ist the future heir to the land Lada hates. Once again I was more sorry for Radu and not sure if I admired Lada for her resistens or wanted to slap her for not seeing the possibility of having a new friend in Mehmed. When in the end once again everything is ripped away from the siblings they have to make a choice. This book helt me captured from the very first chapter. I was drawn in a world so beautifully described it was easy to feal part of the story, see the world through Ladas eyes, feel her pain. Lada is a fierce girl but also cruel and mean. Not so likeable but my heart went out for her anyway. Radu has a special place in my heart. It almost feels as if he doesn't have a chance from the beginning. He is so gentle and full of love but has no one to give his love to. I hope that his fate changes in the next book. Overall a must read for everybody who loves a dark heroine on a mission and the ones who want to get lost in a world full of adventure, betrayal and hope. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series. ***I received a copy of the book via NetGally in exchange for a fair review***
I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up “And I Darken,” aside from the story of Vlad the Impaler if he were female, but this book blew me away. The main character, Lada, is a deliciously evil anti-heroine. She is nothing like the typical YA version of a female character. She’s plain, even ugly, and not in need of any boy. She’s a badass. A badass you never want to meet. Her brother, Radu, is the sensitive and beautiful one. There is romance, but like the plot, I don’t want to spoil anything. I’ll just say I was pleasantly surprised to find a lgbtq character in the book. I highly recommend “And I Darken” to anyone who enjoys a dark story and doesn’t mind gore. That being said, I do want to warn that the publisher recommends the book for ages 12+, and I feel it would be a rare 12-year-old who will be able to handle the subject matter. This honest review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
*I received an E-ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review* The second I heard Kiersten White was writing an alternate history where Vlad the Impaler was a woman I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. Kiesten White absolutely exceeded any expectations I had for this novel. A good portion of the story focuses on our main characters while they are still quite young. At first I was hoping we could skip ahead quickly to their teenage years but I soon became very invested in their childhoods. I have to admit I was expecting a lot of senseless brutality and rolling heads, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of political intrigue this novel contained. Lada's character is fantastically dark. She is cold and calculating and absolutely ruthless, and she has been that way since she was a very small child. Her character is one of the most complex characters I have read about in a long time. She is not happy with the fact that she was born a woman, but she does not let that stop her from becoming exactly who she wants to be, or from getting exactly what she wants in life. She's a little bit crazy and incredibly fierce. Lada is the anti-hero all anti-heroes dream of becoming. We also get a POV from Lada's brother, Radu. His character is just as complex as Lada's, but Radu is Lada's opposite. He is also struggling with his own identity, he is soft and much more compassionate than his sister. Radu's delicate nature often evokes Lada's fury and her protection, which complicates their relationship even further. As the story progresses we get to see Radu come into his own and become just as badass as Lada, but in a more political way. There is so much more to this story than just brutality. There are themes of love, sexuality (both gender and identity), religion, politics, and lots of betrayal. One of the best parts of this story is the brother-sister relationship between Lada and Radu. Their relationship has it's obstacles from the very beginning, from when their father abandons them to an enemy empire as children all the way into the beginning of adulthood as they both navigate their relationship with their closest friend and the Sultan's son, Mehmed. The world building was vivid and the the character development was appropriate for the first book in a series. The romance was minimal but it was complex and highly enjoyable to read about, and you will not find a love triangle within the pages of this book! I love Kiersten White's writing style, she always creates such unique stories, and her newest novel certainly did not disappoint. On another note, can we just talk about how gorgeous this cover is?!
When I first heard about the premise behind And I Darken - Vlad the Impaler, but a female - I knew I had to read this book. I've enjoyed the other books by Kiersten White that I've read, so I had pretty high expectations going into this one. Kiersten delivered a thrilling story, filled with fantastic world-building, excellent character development, and relationships of every type. It was so hard for me to put this book down, and it left me with a ridiculous book hangover when it was over! I am not a huge history buff. I usually know enough to get by, but I still enjoy a good story set in a real time and place. Although the Ottoman Empire and Wallachia are pretty well established settings, Kiersten puts her own touch on things and makes it feel like these places were created just for Lada, Radu, and Mehmed. I loved seeing the world through their eyes, and getting to know them through how they interacted and felt about the people and cultures of these vastly different places. There were many times when I felt like I was actually there, lying under the stars with Lada and Radu, or riding through the countryside with them. I experienced the Ottoman courts with them and it was really interesting to see it from two differing opinions (Lada despises the Ottomans, but Radu considers it more like home than Wallachia). Lada and Radu are such very different characters, and I couldn't help but love them both. Lada is harsh and ruthless, and will do whatever it takes to protect her family and her country. She is not a heroine, but neither is she a villain. She's just doing what she feels is necessary to survive. When she cares about someone or something, she loves passionately. Things are very black and white for her, and there is no gray zone. Radu, on the other hand, is more lover than fighter. He's soft-spoken and would rather use his intelligence to win a war than to go in and fight his way to the top with a sword. He is also very passionate, but tends to have a better handle on his feelings than Lada. Their relationship is very volatile and I really enjoyed watching it develop over the course of the book. They both sacrifice so much for each other, and I hope we get to see more of their relationship in the next book. Then there's Mehmed. Both Lada and Radu care deeply for Mehmed, but neither of them really have a very healthy relationship with him. He's a wonderful friend to them in their biggest time of need, and he helps Radu to become more comfortable with himself and his new home, and breaks through Lada's tough shell and gives her something to direct her incredible passion towards. As the son of the sultan though, his life is complicated and he inevitably ends up hurting both Lada and Radu without ever meaning to. The complex triangle between them is always shifting and changing, and left me wondering how things were going to work out (if they ever would). There are several jumps in time, but they're not really sudden and make sense when they occur. It also helps the plot move along at a good pace, since we skip over the years/months/days when nothing of significance occurs.I thought that the pacing of the book was pretty decent most of the way through, although there were a few parts in the middle that felt like they dragged a little bit. Although most of the plot points wrap up by the end of this book, I could definitely see how there could be room for a sequel, and I hope we get to see much more of Lada, Radu, and Mehmed!
When I first heard about this book, I knew immediately that it was going to be one of my most anticipated for 2016. A gender-swapped Dracula? YA Historical fiction where the female protagonist is brutally independent, focused on goals outside of love, militaristic, ugly? Sign me up! Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I didn't love it quite as much as I was prepared to do, but I still liked it enough that I will definitely read the next book in the trilogy. This might end up being quite a long review, and it's going to be filled to the brim with spoilers, so I'm warning you all now that if you hate spoilers, you might want to look away. I'll start with what I loved: 1) The writing. Despite being nearly 500pgs long, this book charges ahead as fearlessly as its protagonist. White maintains a breathless pace throughout. The scenery, the history and the characters are wonderfully and richly depicted. 2) The dual narration. Having the story narrated simultaneously by Radu and Lada just worked. They are so distinct, with very separate voices and motivations. 3) The love-triangle. I'll be the first to admit, that I'm not usually a fan of the love-triangle element. But this one was different. Two siblings in love with the same person. We get both of their perspectives, but never Mehmed's. Usually love-triangles focus on the decision of the central love-object, but in this book, we only get the thoughts of the two people who both love Mehmed. The ways Radu and Lada express their love are as different as night and day. Radu coming to terms with his sexuality is heart-breaking and done so subtly and tenderly. Lada softening as a result of her love, but ultimately remaining true to her independence is fierce and poignant. I also just loved Mehmed. What I didn't love as much: 1) Lada's backstory and development. I really liked Lada as an individual, and I liked where she ended up in the narrative and in terms of her own feelings/priorities. However, I think her character development could have been a lot stronger if not for the "born this way" depiction. Even if she had been a brutal child, I could have bought her story if she had grown into it. Instead, White has her midwife pray for all the qualities Lada exhibits. I wanted a more convincing character arc, rather than, Lada's always been brutal. I wanted her to find herself to a greater extent after being given to the Ottomans as a tribute. Instead, I felt like she made choices that were congruent with personal qualities she'd always had, rather than truly growing as a person/character.
Lada Dragwlya has always known that being ruthless in a brutal world is the key to survival--especially for a princess whose only perceived worth is in the man she marries. Lada would much prefer to be measured by her own strength and intellect. To that end, she is determined to prove herself stronger and fiercer than any man. Radu, Lada's younger brother, is known for his charm and good looks. But those traits do little to counter his naivete and kind nature. As the third, and obviously weakest, son of a prince it seems easier for everyone to ignore Radu. But he knows how much can be heard once people forget he is listening. In a world that values action and might, Radu quickly learns to capitalize on his appearance and his social graces while hiding his own cunning spy-craft. Lada is livid when she and Radu become hostages of the Ottoman Empire to ensure their father's loyalty. She rails against the Ottomans and dreams of the day she will be able to escape and return to her beloved Wallachia to restore her homeland to its proper glory and reclaim everything she has been denied. Radu, meanwhile, welcomes the new beginning these surroundings offer and throws himself into the Ottoman culture including their soothing religion, Islam. He hopes that with time he might finally find the safety and peace he's craved for most of his young life. When Lada and Radu meet Mehmed, the sultan's lonely son, they find an unlikely ally. Radu sees a friend in Mehmed and the promise of being understood for the first time in his life while Lada recognizes her own ambition in Mehmed's plans for his future and feels a kinship with him that she never thought possible. In a world where power is a tenuous thing Lada, Radu, and Mehmed will have to weigh their bonds to each other against their desire for control over their own fates in And I Darken (2016) by Kiersten White. And I Darken is the first book in White's Conquerors trilogy which presents an alternate history imagining Vlad the Impaler as a girl. IBoth Radu and Mehmed are also based on real historical figures. A map, family trees, and an author's note help to explain where fact and fiction diverge. This book begins in 1435 with Lada's birth and follows the formative years of her childhood and adolescence before it ends in 1451 with Lada poised, in many ways, to become the infamous Vlad the Impaler of legend. And I Darken alternates close third person point of view between Lada and Radu. Being the kinder and gentler Dragwlya, Radu's perspective is often a much-needed break from Lada's vitriol-fueled outlook. Giving them equal prominence in the narrative also helps to highlight how often Lada and Radu's distinct skills and proclivities compliment each other. This structure also, of course, positions them as obvious foils to one another. White's novel is well-researched and evocative--particularly as she brings the Ottoman Empire to life. Through Lada readers can see the violence and fear that the current sultan uses to maintain order. Alternately, Radu's view of his new home shows the tranquility and comfort that can be found in a new culture and religion (Islam in this case). Although Lada is often reckless, everything about And I Darken is thoughtful from the plotting to the characterization. The epic scope of this series starter demands a slower pace that will reward patient readers. Lada, Radu, and Mehmed's story arcs mirror each other as they all strive in various ways (and with varied resu