Sunday, October 23, 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White Review

"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."

I can't describe how intriguing I found And I Darken to be. From what I've heard, it is not dissimilar to Game of Thrones. However, as someone who is neither fond of pirating or has HBO, I'm a little lost at that allusion at pop culture. But I can see parallels between Lada Dragwlya and Vlad the Impaler. It is not surprising when one considers the fact that the character of Lada is inspired by the author's own imagination of a female Vlad.

The story and its plot showcases Lada, her brother (Radu), and Mehmed. The beginning starts off with Lada's childhood and her strained relationship with her father. It's a surprising place to begin, but it is incredibly relevant to Lada's characterization and character growth. In fact, Lada's rough and borderline cruel character contrasts sharply with Radu's softer nature. The contrast and differences between the two siblings is an unusual introduction, but it fits Lada and Radu perfectly and hints at their future. 

The setting is incredibly complex, and I feel as if I need more historical context, because there are many points in the book where I falter and wonder the "whys" of the background. Why do the Ottomans react a certain way to people from Wallachia? Why are the underclass of the Ottoman treated with a different standard? What are the politics behind the two different places? But the author graciously provides some context, which is more than enough to paint a bright, dark, and colorful picture of the Middle Ages. The author should be given cookies for setting up the story in a country that is not England, France, or Spain. 

The relationships and interactions between Lada, Radu, and Mehmed are fascinating to watch. The relationship between Mehmed and Lada alone is intensively complex with manipulation, love, and a bundle of other feelings. I can dive into the strange relationship between Radu and Lada, where familial feelings are not always enough to make up for the cruelest and seemingly heartless actions. It is the relationships that are pushed forward in And I Darken and what truly gets me interested in the book. 

The ending leaves off at a dramatic point, and I can't wait to see how Lada evolves into a more dark version of herself. I will also look out for Radu and Mehmed interactions, because they truly are some of the high points in this novel.  

Overall, And I Darken is a dark, fascinating novel. It's the type of book containing a controlled and planned car wreck we rubbernecks can't help but watch. I'll definitely keep my eye out for more of Lada's journey and her rise into power. 

Rating: Four out of Five

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