Review: And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1) by Kiersten White
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.
2.5 Out Of 5 Stars
Genre: Another-World, Historical, Teen--
Lada has wanted nothing more than to make her father proud and rule her people in Wallachia, but instead she finds herself and her younger brother Radu abandoned to the Ottomans, basically political prisoners. The siblings end up befriending a boy, just to find out that he is a prince of their enemies, but maybe they don't have to be enemies... In a world full of politics and war strategies, a young girl and boy must find their places.
I went into this story with the highest of expectations because I love Kiersten White as an author and as a person, the cover is so gorgeous (my favorite book cover of 2016) and the idea of a female Vlad the Impaler filled me with (dark) joy. I may have set myself up for failure because this story was not even a little bit like I thought or hoped it would be. Keep in mind that I have a lot of friends that LOVED this book and counted down the days until they could read book 2, but I struggled here.
I wanted an action-adventure type story, but instead I got a book that was a very slow political historical novel. The first half of the VERY thick book dealt with the siblings growing up, skipping through the years to show the kind of negligent abuse they dealt with, which sure, it played a role in shaping them, but I was super bored. I kept putting down the book and reading more exciting stories and then picking the book back up because I am compelled to finish every book I read. In this situation that worked out, because the second half had a lot more action than the first, but it was still really slow political actions and super depressing. I had no idea that these were real people in history, just with some creative spin on it, until after I read the book so if you are a history fan this might be right up your alley- I am not a history seeker, so I was only moderately interested in any of it.
I respected the beejezus out of Lada, I thought she was capable, skilled, shrewd, loyal, and would make the best leader her people could have ever have hoped for. She went against the grain and trained hard as a soldier, being able to hold her own against most men. My favorite part of the book was when a high ranking very feminine woman accused her of wanting to be a man and Lada told her she was wrong, she was happy being a woman she just wanted to be the strongest, best version of herself. If that is not girl power (especially in a time where women basically did not exist) I don't know what is. But here is the thing, I did not necessarily like her. She was my favorite person in the book, but that is not necessarily an endorsement.
The other two main characters were Radu (who I actively despised) and Mehmed which I attempted to ignore. Radu was a big whiny cry baby, wearing his emotions on his sleeve and needing others to help him, and I just wanted him to go away. As he got older he became more interesting to me and his character was great at smoozing and politics, but then he went and betrayed Lada when she needed him most, and I totally wrote him off. Lada would have, and consistently did, so much to help Radu, and he didn't care because his loyalty was to another, who really just used him. Which brings me to Mehmed, who felt more like an idea than an actual person to me. Sure he was a prince, soon to be in power, but he did not feel fleshed out and I could have cared less about anything pertaining to him. The whole love triangle in the story was super awkward, and I wanted to cheer when Lada refused to be second to someone else's power.
I heard book two has more exciting things happen so I may pick it up to read, I am still conflicted on that idea though. This book was not for me, but I love the author, and I am sure others will really enjoy this kind of story.