Genres: Historical Retelling
Format Read: Paperback
Published by Corgi Childrens on July 7th 2016
Book Depository | Buy from publisher
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she'll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.
And I Darken was not something I ever expected a writer like Kiersten White to publish. While I own White’s Paranormalcy series, the only book of hers that I’ve read prior to And I Darken was Mind Games, which I was not a fan of. But this just goes to show why it’s so important to give authors another chance. And I Darken is just so vastly different to anything that White has written before, and I can definitely tell her writing has vastly improved since I picked up Mind Games.
I love history and I’m always excited to explore a different take on a period during our historical past. And I Darken explores a period which I’m not too familiar with, but one that I definitely want to learn more of — the reign of the Ottoman Empire. The series is a retelling of Vlad the Impaler and Mehmed the Conquerer, and what’s brilliant is that White turns the history of Vlad Dracula on its head and asks, “what if Vlad the Impaler was a girl?”
OMFG YES GIVE ME MORE!
Lada, to her father’s disappointment, was born a girl. Born with a permanent frown and vicious before she could crawl, she despises the thought of being a born a girl and all the limitations that it brings with it. Her little brother Radu on the other hand, was born a beautiful child…but lacking the features and personality expected of a man and heir to Wallachia. And I Darken follows the lives of Lada and Radu as they’re ‘given’ to the Ottoman Empire by their father in exchange for aid. It’s an exploration of how a new world and life can change and shape the two characters as they grow older in a foreign country so vastly different to the one they were born in. And yes, it’s a very, very loose retelling but I don’t even care because this book was just brilliant!
It is brutal, unforgiving but also beautifully written. And I Darken is definitely a slow burn and predominately character driven, so I understand why some people would be put off by the pacing. But if you enjoy the exploration a character’s growth through different stages of their lives (especially in such an interesting character like Lada — I mean, Vlad the Impaler…as a girl!!), then you will enjoy this series a lot.
While Lada is brutal and unforgiving, her brother Radu is the complete opposite. Gentle and easily shaken, they present two different sides of a coin whose personalities often clashed. But despite their differences, Lada and Radu’s bond is strong. Their shared experience of abandonment by both their mother and father shaped them as they grow up in a country they do not call home. But while one finds solace in honing her skills as a warrior, the other finds comfort in a religion so different to the one he once knew.
I absolutely loved the way that Islam is explored in this book. With everything that is happening in the middle east at the moment, people tend to forget that Islam at its very core is a religion of peace. Radu’s experiences with Islam and the way it shapes him throughout the novel paints a very beautiful picture of the religion at a time when there’s so many conflicted views about it in our own world. I think White has given a breath of fresh air to the religion in a very respectful way.
While And I Darken remains a loose retelling, it does touch upon many historical aspects too. Like Mehmed the Conquerer. While real life Lada and Radu probably never grew up with Mehmed, their blossoming friendship with the Sultan’s son in the book ties in well with real historical events. Like Mehmed’s first ascension to the throne, only to be stripped of the title of Sultan by the return of his father from ‘retirement’. Both Lada and Radu find their own roles to play by Mehmed’s side as they grow older, while dynamics change and friendships grow into something…more.
And I Darken had me hooked throughout the Christmas period. I couldn’t put down this book, and it was just what I wanted from a historical fiction retelling. It introduced me to a new a intriguing period of history that I can’t wait to explore on my own. If you’re looking for something similar, definitely give and I Darken a go. Safe to say, I’m waiting in anticipation for the next book in the series as I’ve become way too invested in the lives of Lada, Radu and Mehmed.
Thank you to Penguin Australia for providing a copy of And I Darken for review.