And I Darken | too many awesome things to mention

Synopsis

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.

Synopsis from Goodreads


Details

Author: Kiersten White
Pages: 484 (hardcover)
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy.


First Impressions

When I first heard of this one I knew I needed it. Apparently the author travelled to this place in Romania and was interested in the story of Vlad Dracul... (it's called Poenari Castle - it's in ruins and it used to be one of Vlad the Impaler's castles.)
Isn't it pretty?! Anyway, I've been there too, and I was always interested in the story of Vlad Tepes/Vlad Dracul/Dracula - so I was incredibly excited to read this book.

Growing up + politics + messed up families

The best part for me were the characters - the complexity, the relationships, the emotions. Lada (Vlad Dracul except a girl) is violent, head-strong, smart, resourceful. I didn't think I'd like her all that much (seeing her future is to become Vlad the Impaler) but I do! She's quickly become one of my favourite protagonists because she is always unapologetically herself - violent, feral, socially more like a boy than a girl. And her brother Radu is "weaker," smart in a quiet way, always bullied and never thought to have much value. He is so loveable and seeing him grow up from a child to an adult is amazing.

The political aspect of the story is related to Lada and Radu, and to their father (who's horrible). To me, it was actually really interesting - but I did already have an interest in the time period and in the historical counterparts of the characters.

Religion + power + individuality

There's diversity here, and it's so well portrayed. Whether it's a different religion or a different sexuality, it's always treated well. There's the question of power too, and that's where the feminist aspect of this book comes out to play. Lada is a girl in a man's world. She wants her country back. It's hers. But she's a girl - she's not allowed to fight as a Janissary, she's not allowed to lead, she's not allowed to wield any power of her own. Reading about Lada and how she goes after what she wants is another thing I really enjoyed.

Quick recap and rating

I loved the history, the politics, the slower pace that allowed for character development. And I Darken is pretty long, for YA - if you think that won't matter to you, definitely give this one a go!

Here's the UK cover, by the way - which do you prefer?

Have you read And I Darken yet? Are you going to? I'm obviously suggesting you do!