Monday, June 20, 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult, Alternate History
Source: Delacorte via NetGalley


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.
Review by Nara

It's not too often that you come across alternate history books in YA, and certainly not often that you come across alternate history books set in the Ottoman Empire. I know basically zero about Mehmed the Conqueror and Vlad the Impaler (who are actual historical figures), but what Kiersten White seems to have done is gender-flip Vlad to be the female Lada.

Lada is extremely unstable as a character. She is quite headstrong, with all her dreams basically based on her being treated like a boy, and then like a man. She's violent and volatile and to be honest, does little to make you like her. But strangely, I did like her. Her type of character is one that you seldom see in a protagonist, especially not in YA fiction.

The other point of view character the series focuses on Lada's younger brother, Radu. He's basically the opposite of Lada in everything- more beautiful, more delicate and much more cunning. That saying "it's the quiet ones you have to look out for" was basically made for Radu. I found him much more likeable than Lada, just because it was easier to understand his motivations and he was frankly just more stable.

Mehmed, the son of the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, is the character who ties the siblings together with this semi-love triangle. It's a bit difficult to tell where this love triangle is heading, although it is quite clear who is interested in who in this first book. To be honest, I didn't really liked Mehmed at all, mostly because he did all these irritating things in the second half of the book that weren't helpful for either of the siblings. It's going to be interesting to see how the dynamic between the three of them changes throughout the series, especially after what happens at the end of And I Darken.

The book is quite character focused, and if you prefer books that drive the reader through action, then this book may not be quite as suited to you. It's one of those well crafted tales that simmer along, showing you the many facets of the characters (both protagonists and secondary characters) before major events occur. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where White takes her protagonists in future books.

Really liked it
Overall: 8/10
Plot: 3.5/5
Romance: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5