I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
And I Darken by Kiersten White
Release date: June 28th, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.
“I am no longer the daughter of the dragon.” She lifted her chin, sights set on the horizon. “I am the dragon.”
Writing this review is really difficult. I wanted to really like this book, but in the end felt underwhelmed. It was alright, not bad but not something that I loved. Now, this could be because it took me a really long time to read. Longer than I usually spend on a book. I don’t know…this is usually the type of book that I really, really like. History, strong kickass female main character, romance…it’s just nothing in this book compared to the fun and emotions I felt while reading Rebel of the Sands and Starflight. Yup, it’s hard to finish and enjoy a book when you are suffering from a major book hangover! I wanted to give up, but am glad that I didn’t. And I Darken has a lot going for it, it just didn’t have the “wow” factor that I thought it would.
What attracted me to the book was the whole what if Vlad the Impaler was actually a woman? Interesting right? It’s not a pure historical retelling, but one that utilizes actual historical individuals to completely change the historical timeline. The story revolves around Lada and her younger brother Radu, two siblings so different I had a hard time believing they were actually related to each other. Lada is fierce, rough and intimidating. She features all of the stereotypical male characteristics, while Radu is meek, sensitive and often forgotten about.
I really liked Lada at the beginning. Who wouldn’t? She was everything I loved in a female character. She was both physically and emotionally strong. She fought hard and beat the boys at their own games. She worked tirelessly to be seen as more than just a pawn to be married off for political gain. But that’s pretty much where her character development ended. Lada never really changed, she was always the girl who didn’t feel or understand emotions and was always using violence to get her way. It became overdone and unrealistic. And Radu…oh little Radu…his character had the complete opposite affect on me. I found him to be annoying at the beginning. Everyone was always bullying him and he cried a lot! But Radu was more than just a handsome face. He engaged in political intrigue and struggled with religious and moral beliefs.
This is the first book in a trilogy and I am intrigued about what will happen next. The ending perfectly setup the followup, which is scheduled to be released sometime next year. Even though I wasn’t fully sold on this book I do plan on reading the sequel. There were hints early on in And I Darken, but I really want to know how Lada becomes the monstrous Vlad the Impaler. How did she take the thrown? How does her relationship with the Ottoman Empire change? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!
In the end, I was hoping for a book where the female lead was more than just a stereotype. Strong women don’t always have to be more manly to be taken seriously. I hope in the next book there is more of an emphasis on Lada’s intelligence than on how many men she can kill.