And I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #1
Publication: June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Format: eBook Pages: 498
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. – Goodreads
I couldn’t put it down. As soon as I got hold of And I Darken I was raving like a five-year-old meeting Mickey at Disney Land, and that feeling stayed with me throughout the entire book. It was incredible.
When the book was pitched, it was compared to Game of Thrones, and while comparing a book to something huge like that is usually a no-no, I believe the publisher actually got it right. The brutality, murder, lust to conquer, deceit and secrets did have a Game of Thrones feel. But And I Darken is definitely in a league of its own, simply because it has Lada (short for Ladislav). An insane, psychotic female protagonist who is weirdly likeable – hold up… Cersei? (Yes I actually like Cersei.)
The story is set in the fifteenth century during the reign of Sultan Murad II. It touches on the religious conflict occurring during this time between Muslims and Christians, and White does an outstanding job of portraying religion without judgement. There were religious characters that were cruel, relentless and oppressive but also characters that were peaceful, kind and generous.
White did justice to her chosen setting; I didn’t have any trouble diving straight into the scenes. I have read her work before (The Chaos of Stars), but I have to say that her writing style and storytelling abilities have completely transformed for the better. She’s now on my ‘buy this author’s books immediately’ list.
Although And I Darken is not explicitly advertised as an LGBT+ book, there is LGBT+ content in it. (Well, just LG if you want the specifics.) I liked this because it came across more of a natural ‘yeah this is happening, and what?’ thing. There wasn’t a massive fuss about it; it wasn’t printed in caps all over the cover or anything. It was simply an aspect of the story that added diversity without making a huge deal out of it.
I stayed up reading all night because the main characters (Lada, Radu and Mehmed) were SO well-written that I couldn’t get enough of them.
I knew Lada would be brutal because the description made that clear, but the extent of her brutality was remarkable. I found myself feeling ridiculously impressed and attached to Lada’s character despite the fact that she would rip candy out of a poor orphan’s hand, only to throw it into a sewer for lols. When it came to fights, Lada didn’t even need a weapon; she was the weapon. The girl was pure energy and terror, and so many shades of complex that I doubt I’d ever figure her out.
Radu was the opposite of Lada and I eventually found myself getting irritated at him, but this was because of how defensive I got over Lada. Seriously, I miss reading her. But Radu was made up of so many layers and his character development was exquisite; he was the character full of the most surprises. He eventually reminded me of Varys from Game of Thrones.
I can’t say much about Mehmed without hitting spoiler zone. Some of his actions infuriated me, and I had to remind myself that I was reading a book set in the fifteenth century, and that kind of stuff was normal (urgh).
I didn’t expect to love And I Darken as much as I did. I don’t usually re-read books, but I can definitely see myself buying the physical copy when it’s out and re-reading it. I’d highly recommend the book to anyone who’s a fan of fantasy and epic books. I would even rave about it to a stranger on a bus, but I’m British; we don’t talk to strangers on public transport.