And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Expected Publication: June 28th, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: e-ARC, 496 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retellings
Read: May 2016
Kiersten White — Goodreads
I received an e-ARC of this book from Random House Children’s and Delacorte Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
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.
Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
It’s really hard to explain the plot of this book because there are so many different things that make it up. Religion, childhood, politics, love, death, sibling-hood, womanhood, home. There are so many different aspects of this story as we see our two main characters growing up through the years and reaching the point of adulthood.
Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
The writing style is something to get used to because it has a very slow pace. But it’s descriptive and detailed. The world building is excellent, I was very oblivious about this time in history and while some things were confusing, it was very easy to get into the story and the imagery. Things get drawn out because it’s definitely not the story I expected but it’s easy to read.
Characters – 4 out of 5 stars
I’m still not sure how I feel about the characters of this book. On the one hand, I appreciated how well developed and interesting they were, but it was very hard to connect with them. The first is Lada, who is our female Vlad the Impaler and when I say she’s tough, it’s an understatement. She’s a rough and tumble kind of girl. She’s fierce and intense and violent at a very young age. She has a huge amount of anger issues, but she’s also extremely resilient and I loved her spirit though it was hard to know where she was coming from. Then there is Radu, her younger brother, who is all the delicate his sister never managed to find. He’s really sweet and vulnerable, he cries a lot when he was a kid. He’s quiet and he listens to his surroundings. As he grows up though, he becomes more passionate and angry and he starts to make his own decisions, while still maintaining his sensitivity. Then there’s a main character that while we don’t see his point of view, he is an intricate and important part of the story. i wasn’t the biggest fan of him or the actions and reactions he caused in the main characters. But I do understand why he was needed to move the plot along.
I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book from quite a few people that I trust, but I have to say that I was a little disappointed.
The plot is slow. We follow Lada and Radu, siblings taken from their home to the heart of the Ottoman Empire and we follow their childhood as they try to survive and flourish in a new place. I was expecting an action packed story full of death and violence and battles and that wasn’t exactly what I got. There was death and violence and battles but it was all spread about and not the main driving point of the plot. I kind of got the prequel story to what I was promised in the synopsis. The hows and whys of Lada becoming the inspiration for her creation, Vlad the Impaler. I’ve heard things but I didn’t really know anything about this character or the time period from before reading this book and the entire time I felt like it was something I needed to be able to understand what was going on. It wasn’t until 75% of the book that I managed to look up that information and I think it might have hindered my reading experience. Once I knew everything it was a lot easier to understand the relevance of the plot but by that time, it was too late for me to be completely invested in it. I also didn’t realize how big of a role religion and politics were going to play in the book. I’ve never read a book that delves into the Muslim religion as much as this one does and that was exciting for me because it’s something that I don’t know much about. The quest of the Ottoman Empire was interesting and intriguing and kind of made me want to search out more about it and it’s importance in history. Yet, there were some sections of the book that felt drawn out and were very boring with small parts that had the excitement and tension that I was looking for. Critically speaking, this book is really well written, detailed with an accurate portrayal of history even if in an alternate version and includes well rounded, morally gray characters. It just didn’t make me feel anything. I didn’t connect with it on an emotional level which is crucial for me to enjoy a book to its fullest.
Lada is fierce and very manly. She tends to resent the fact that she was born a woman because it places her as weak in the time period she lives in when she is anything but. She’s a very complex character and sometimes I had a hard time coming to terms with her way of thinking because it’s very strategic and kind of harsh. Yet at the same time, she feels a constant vulnerability because of who she is and she fights it constantly, always working to prove herself to those around her. She has a very hard exterior but I feel like there’s a lot more of her to explore in later books. Hopefully I’ll be able to connect with her more.
Radu is a character who is much easier to understand and feel for. He’s almost the complete opposite of her sister and that attracted me to him and his personality. I feel like in this book he is the one that has the greatest character development. He’s very shy, needy and emotional and the beginning. Unfortunately, the harsh realities of life begin to open up his eyes to the negatives and that starts to shape his character into someone maybe not as cruel as Lada but with still an edge of cunning and strategy that is meant to benefit only himself. I’m looking forward to seeing how this change affects their sibling relationship beyond what it already has done.
I feel like Mehmed had way too much focus in this novel specially considering that he is a side character since we don’t get any narration from him. I understood his need to be in the story but the main characters were too dependent, too focused on him sometimes and that got really annoying really quickly. There are other things going on in the world besides this dude and it felt like they didn’t realize that sometimes. It was frustrating because I didn’t see the great appeal with him. He’s very narcissistic and stubborn and privileged and I feel like he manipulates or tries to manipulate the main character’s sometimes.
Overall, I liked this book alright. Critically, the writing is amazing, the characters while frustrating, kept me interested in their lives and I liked the general development of their personalities. The story was a bit slow but once I knew the history behind it, it made a lot of sense to the story this series is hoping to tell. But I just didn’t feel anything about what was happening. I didn’t get the tension and drama and craziness that I was expecting in this book. But I’m hopeful and looking forward to the next books to see how things develop.
So that’s it for this review! Let me know if you want to read this book and if you’re thinking of picking it up on its release date. Comment down below your thoughts on my thoughts and if I changed your mind on this book whether for good or bad. Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!