Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: And I Darken

And I DarkenAuthor: Kiersten White
Series: Conquerors Saga, #1
Released: June 28th 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Length: 496 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

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. 

Before I say anything else, here’s a fair warning: And I Darken is a book so dark and twisted, so very disturbing that you’ll definitely lose sleep because of it. I did. It is also, however, Kiersten White’s best novel to date and the story that might prove to be defining – for her, as well as for young adult historical fiction. I dare say it’s one of the best this genre has to offer.

What if Vlad III Dracula, Prince of Wallachia, son of Vlad Dracul, brother to Mircea and Radu, was born a girl? Would she still be one of the most infamous rulers in the history of mankind? Or would she be a victim of circumstances, a lost girl governed and directed by men? In And I Darken, Kiersten White offers a version of Vlad that is female, but otherwise unchanged, and a fantastic tale of how she came to be known as Vlad (or rather Lada) the Impaler.

Lada Dragwlya and her younger brother Radu were left behind as children in Ottoman courts by their father as a guarantee that he will behave and not betray the sultan. They were subsequently forgotten by everyone, including the sultan himself, and accepted only by the sultan’s son Mehmed. While Radu came to view the Ottoman Empire as a new home where he was much happier and safer, Lada never forgot where she came from and who her real enemies are.

The third person narrative that goes back and forth between Lada and her brother Radu allows us to see a much broader picture of events. Lada’s chapters are understandably longer, but Radu’s are chosen and placed for maximal impact, always shedding light on something we’d rather not see. The relationship between Lada, Radu and Mehmed is a codependent mess, a tangle of feelings between three people who are mostly incapable of being selfless. It is a complicated knot of love, jealousy and anger so deep that it becomes defining. And I Darken cannot be considered a romance by contemporary standards, not with harems and wives and babies being born. But in an odd, disturbing way it is perhaps one of the strongest, truest romantic relationships I’ve ever read about.

White never tried to reshape the past to fit contemporary moral standards. That’s precisely what makes this book so hard to read, and what makes it stand out among many others. These challenges to our modern sensibilities delight us even while they make us squirm in our seats. The complete lack of regard for human life, embodied in our very heroine, combined with a profound disrespect for women and often children, is often enough to make our stomachs turn. But White turns it around cleverly in what can and should be understood as subversive feminist literature.

Recently I wrote about heroines that are supposedly strong and skilled, only to be proven otherwise at first serious challenge. Lada is not one of them. From the very first page, she is wild, savage and brutal, staying true to the historical accounts of Vlad the Impaler. The question of what made him (or in this case her) become that way is what White chose to explore by staying as close to historical facts as possible.

The journey from Lada the Ottoman captive to Lada the Impaler is far from being over. We’ve only just witnessed the potential, the direction she chose to take. If her beginnings are this cruel and vicious, I can’t even imagine what the future might bring. It’s almost a challenge from White to us readers to stay with her and witness this complete deterioration of her characters, not just Lada, but Mehmed and Radu as well. It will be so difficult, but if this book is any indication, it will also be brilliant.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. Yes! I freaking loved this too. It was sad at times and even maddening but oh so good! Can't wait for the next book!

  2. I really liked White's Paranormalcy series but haven't enjoyed some of her other books as much. I wasn't planning on reading this one but with the way you described it, I'm going to add it to my wishlist, Maja. Hopefully I'll think it's "White's best book to date" too :)

  3. Agreed!! I'm both really looking forward to Lada's ruthlessness in the books to come and fearing it!
    It was an amazing book and my fave of Kiersten's too!!

  4. Oh, wow. I've been pretty much avoiding this book like the plague (I can't remember why now, though). I have a feeling I'm missing out. Thanks for the brilliant review, Maja!

  5. I'm good with the dark and twisted, and this one has been on my radar so its great to hear that you enjoyed

  6. I'm so intrigued by this one Maja! For some reason I had no idea this was about a female version of Vlad the Impaler until I read a review for it, I guess I just saw the author and cover and blindly added it to my list. I think I'm going to be morbidly fascinated and appalled by Lada and I can't wait!

  7. Ahh, I can't wait to get my hands on this! White's last foray into fantasy was something I surprisingly enjoyed and all the positive reviews for this one are making me absolutely jealous that I haven't got my hands on an ARC yet! But this is releasing soon and I know I'm going to LOVE it. Wonderful review, Maja! :)

  8. I would read it...most definitely

  9. I'm almost done with this one and I agree. It is so twisted and delightfully so. I'm really curious to where she will take this one next and it has made me even more curious about the author's other works.

  10. I loved this, Maja! The dark and brutal world and the relationships were not like I've read in YA - so fierce.
    Lovely review! :)

  11. Maja...you totally sold this with your first sentence. Now I must Read/listen to it!!

  12. This is one of my most anticipated reads for this year and I was so curious as how White will pull off an anti-heroine. I'm glad that I can rest assure of her skills after reading your fabulous review. I absolutely can't wait.


Thank you for stopping by and commenting. If you're a fellow blogger, I'll visit and return the favor as soon as possible. If your're using Google+ to comment, please make sure that your blog link is clearly visible on your profile.

Unfortunately, this is now an award and tag free blog, but I do thank you for your consideration.