Today was the release day for this incredible, mind-blowing novel from Kiersten White. Thanks so much to NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Title: And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) by Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Expected Publication: June 28th, 2016
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.
If you had told me back in January that one of my favorite books of 2016 would be a female-centric retelling of Vlad the Impaler, I would have shaken my head in disbelief.
Lada is the ultimate anti-princess. She’s brutal and ruthless, and shows little affection to either her mother or brother, both of whom are too weak to be worthwhile in her eyes. This doesn’t mean that she’s cold or reserved, though: Lada is an undying fire, fierce and roaring with vitality from the very beginning. As we see her grow over the span of several chapters, it becomes obvious that beneath her rage and cruelty are a protective streak for Radu a mile wide, and a deep, complicated bond with him that twists and turns to shape their futures as pawns of the Ottoman Empire.
The character and story development are absolutely flawless. So much of the book is dedicated to the growth of Lada, Radu, and Mehmed, and each detail and crevice of the setting around them is explored with every choice these three characters make. Parts of the book feel slow and dragging at times, but the writing itself is so descriptive and captivating that I was hard-pressed to find a point where I was anything less than completely enthralled. There are a lot of gritty, cringe-worthy moments where I had to put the book down because I was reeling from the impact, and yet it took no time at all for me to get sucked back in. This is not your average young adult fantasy – some of the things Lada does makes Kaz (for you Six of Crows fans out there) look sugary sweet by comparison. I absolutely devoured every last bit of it.
In just under 500 pages, And I Darken succeeds in weaving an intricate origin story of a girl whose love for her country fuels the fire in her veins, a boy whose weaknesses become his greatest strengths, and a prince who discovers the price of closeness in war. Themes of family, politics, gender, war, sexuality, betrayal, and the passion of love are all expertly crafted and work together seamlessly to keep readers hooked to the very end. Fans of Game of Thrones, Six of Crows, and An Ember in the Ashes will adore this dark and gritty addition to their book collections. Pick it up on Amazon today!