Featured Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White
About This Book:
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. 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 contributed by Melissa Robles, Staff Reviewer*
An Alluring Retelling of Vlad the Impaler
And I Darken is a compelling historical retelling that will stay on the minds of every reader who comes upon its pages. It's wildly dark and alluring, a fierce read that reimagines the life of Vlad the Impaler, but on the shoes of a young girl as vicious as a mighty dragon and her kind-hearted brother.
This book constantly alternates between Lada's and Radu's POVs, meeting them in the early stages of their lives and following along as they are left in the Ottoman empire to secure the loyalty of their father, Vlad II Dracul, voivode of Wallachia. After several years of being privileged prisoners, Lada and Radu form a special bond with the future sultan of the Ottoman empire, Mehmed, yet are forced to survive in a cruel environment that will always see them as slaves. They rise, they fall, and rise again in a deadly world where they must sacrifice what they love in order to claim what is theirs.
I was unfamiliar with the story behind Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia before reading And I Darken, so I couldn't tell then if it's historically accurate or not besides the gender switch, but after finishing it, I immediately researched about this enigmatic character since I was left highly fascinated with Lada and I wanted to know more. I'm still no expert on the subject, but I can see now how certain things were tweaked to fit the storyline better and in awe with the way Kiersten White pulled these changes.
My favorite aspect of this book is how the author handles the character growth between Lada and Radu. Both characters start off as opposites and they remain that way throughout the story, but they each find middle ground in their strengths by the end of this installment. The way I would describe their dynamics is by picturing them as a seesaw or scale. In the beginning you can find Lada at the bottom since she is headstrong, defiant, ruthless and the one working hard to gain power. Meanwhile, Radu can be found at the top of the scale or dangling his feet up high on the seesaw, weightless for his gentleness and kind soul seeking to be loved and cared for. However, while the story progresses, they each level up and become stronger in their own ways, enhancing their skills and personalities for the better good.
Another great thing about this book is how it portrays greatness, encourages gender identity and acceptance. How even back in those times where women were only viewed as wives and were replaceable, Lada manages to seek and forge her own power. Beauty is not on her side, yet this doesn't bring her down, even from finding someone worthy of her passion. She's not by all means a nice person, but she is someone that gains respect. The same goes for Radu, who wonderfully grows up into a charming man who works on accepting his preferences, and yet uses that uses this to his advantage, as a weapon.
Although the pacing of this book comes off as slow, and at times uneventful, it doesn't ruin the chances for the reader to enjoy the story and to anxiously await its sequel. Kiersten White's captivating storytelling make a full comeback in this tale about birth rights, vengeance, slow-burning passion, and the odds of embracing what you are meant to be.