And I Darken by Kiersten White
Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance
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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.
“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”
Powerfully captivating, richly dark, emotionally disturbing, and utterly gut-wrenching, And I Darken captures readers from the opening sentence. Don’t expect this world to be kind, and certainly don’t hope for the characters to be either. This princess will not only slit your throat but also revel in doing so.
Lada Dragwlya, the princess of Wallachia, thrives in brutality. She lives in a world where women do not rule and are the possession of men. When her father uses her and her young brother, Radu, as political pawns and sends them to their enemy, the Ottomans, she must play a deadly game in order to survive. When they meet Mehmed, the son of the sultan, their lives change. While they band together, their troubled and poisonous relationship may test even the strongest bond.
Historical fiction is somewhat difficult to work with since the author must not only make it believable and factual but also make it entertaining. Kiersten takes this part of history and claims it as her. Yes, she does stay true to important events, but she brings a new twist to this written past. And I Darken is dark, rich, engrossing, and richly detailed. It compels you to turn the page.
While I found this world Kiersten builds sinister and haunting, I wanted to find out how these characters survive in such a brutal world. I enjoy reading twisted stories, but sometimes I needed some time to process what just occurred and separate myself from the book.
And I Darken may be the difficult yet rewarding book I’ve read this year. It is a story about survival. Sometimes, people simply survive or die, and in this world, the odds are stacked against everyone, especially women. Kiersten explores the way life existed back in the 15th century. What she achieves is a beautifully written and plot-driven story. I haven’t read any of her previous work, but her attention to detail and richly layered and complex character arcs set the bar for other historical fiction novels.
“Her spine was steel. Her heart was armor. Her eyes were fire.”
The characters are at the centre of this piece, and Lada, Radu, and Mehmed captivate me beyond what I thought they would. Lada, my spirit animal and queen, will burn this world down and walk through its ashes. Her cruelty hides her weaknesses and her love she holds for Radu and Mehmed. Sometimes I thought that she was too vicious, but look at who she is. She’s the female Vlad the Impaler. The scenes where she shows her vulnerabilities overshadow her savagery. I love her progression throughout the story. And her scorn for the treatment of women enrichens the story.
Radu, my little cinnamon bun, breaks my heart. He faces constant beatings and torture at the hand of his brother and other children. But he transforms into a complex character. I welcome more gay characters, and Kiersten elegantly handles his secret part of his life, and I have to thank her for doing so. Mehmed, the sultan’s son, is iffy for me. The relationship among the three are more complicated than the synopsis portrays. Half the time I wanted to throttle him, and the next I sympathized with him.
If you’re looking for a YA story that breaks the mould and strikes its own path, pick up And I Darken. But understand that this book demands more than just your attention. Take a chance on it. This well-woven novel surprises even me. And I cannot wait how Lada, Radu, and Mehmed survive the next journey.
“Fire burned in her heart, and her wounded soul spread out, casting a shadow like wings across her country.”