And I Darken by Kiersten White

Posted July 8, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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And I Darken

And I Darken

by Kiersten White

Series: The Conqueror's Saga #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press on June 28, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
Target Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on 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, 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.

 

My introduction to Kiersten White was through Paranormalcy.  After experiencing that trilogy and The Chaos of Stars, I sort of expected the standard retelling that was a little angsty and there was eye-rolling romance and you know the sort, yeah?  Holy smokes I was not ready for And I Darken.

This book is a whole other level from her other work.  At least what I’ve read!

And I Darken combines the best of historical fiction with an extra dose of darkness and incredibly robust POV characters.  The world is rich and alluring while also sill feeling very real.  For some reason, I expected magic.  There is no magic.

Lada’s love of Wallachia paints the world of this book from the very beginning.  Although Lada is, from the moment of her birth, dark and unpredictable, her love of her country abounds above all else.  We sweep through the grand palaces of the Ottoman Empire and the quiet countryside of Wallachia and it’s all beautiful and stunning.  It is all a silent character in the background, and when we discuss stories of sultans and princes, it’s good that the kingdoms they love so much feel alive.

I didn’t expect Lada, as a character.  I think she’s what surprised me the most.  Lada Dragwlya is fierce and brutal from the first.  Reading YA has trained to expect redemptions, and both YA and historical fiction teach me to look for romances that “fix” everything.  Which is silliness, but there you have it.  Lada is unlike almost any character I’ve read.  She manages, somehow, to be both a villain and a character you care about, which takes some skill in writing.

Radu, Lada’s younger brother and our other POV character, opposes Lada in every characteristic.  Where she is cruel, he is kind.  Where she is rash, he is thoughtful.  They make very good foils to one another and I enjoyed the alternating perspectives.

I also appreciated that Kiersten White did not shy away from religion in this book.  Religion is so intertwined with history, particularly with wars, and yet, it’s rarely included.  I really enjoyed the inclusion of Islamic practice in this novel, particularly because it was shown in a positive light.  I do not practice, so I cannot say whether it was accurately shown, but my impression was that she was respectful.

That said, And I Darken is presented as historical fiction, which implies historical fact.  It’s also a Dracula retelling, which is decidedly not historically accurate.  In trying to marry the two she’s created a book that takes place in the Ottoman Empire, which is a relief in a world where YA novels so enjoy Western settings.  Unfortauntely, I did stumble across this Own Voices review, and I encourage you to take a look at it, as the reader was so insulted by the depiction of Romania they couldn’t even finish the novel.  Just something to be aware of.  In my ignorance, I enjoyed it, but I came across this after finishing.  My impressions of the setting were not of dark dungeons and filthy peoples, as the reviewer claims in the comments, but it nevertheless stands to be noted that there are MAJOR historical inaccuracies that have offended Romanians because when you are trying to represent the story of an underrepresented people, accuracy matters.

If this can be approached as pure fiction – and whether or not you are able to do this or feel comfortable doing so is up to you – this is an highly entertaining book with compelling characters and I enjoyed it!

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

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Do you enjoy gender-bent retellings of classic novels?  If so, what others would you suggest?  Let me know your favorites in the comments!

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