Okay, the blog might be a hit or miss this week because I am apartment searching again, and it’s a real pain in the butt; the place we’re looking to move is a 40 minute drive away. Thus I may not be home much to do the things I want to do. Please pray for me, everyone, that we find a place because I need to get out of here. I am getting desperate!!!
But let’s get back to the subject at hand.
My tribulations notwithstanding, I had the time this weekend to read this book by Kiersten White called And I Darken. It’s being released at the end of the month.
And. Oh. My. Gosh.
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Series: The Conquerors Saga, #1
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Historical Fiction
This is truly my new favorite book. It’s exactly the sort of book that I adore. It is amazing. It is perfection. There isn’t anything about it that I can fault.
The novel hasn’t even been released yet, and I already need the sequel.
And I Darken is the retelling of Vlad the Impaler from Romanian history. Instead of a dark young prince however, Vlad takes the form of Lada, a vicious, mean-spirited princess. This first book follows the childhood of Lada and her younger brother, Radu, as they are wrenched from their home in Wallachia and held captive in the capital of the Ottoman Capital as mere children. It is in Turkey that they grow and mature into adulthood. Lada bids her time there, waiting for the day she can return to her homeland, while Radu grows to love the Ottoman culture and converts to Islam. There, they befriend Mehmed, the youngest son of the Turkish sultan. While their bond of friendship becomes unbreakable, Lada is torn between her love of her home country and her loyalty to her brother, who has aligned himself with her enemy, and to Mehmed, the prince of an empire she despises.
It’s a novel of intrigue, love, passion, violence, deception, and pure brilliance.
Forgive me if I repeat myself. I can’t help but gush.
I loved that the plot is actually based on real and obscure historical events. In reality, Vlad the Impaler did in fact have a younger brother named Radu. The pair of them were held captive by the Ottomans, and Radu did eventually convert. White definitely did her research and inserted all these delicious historical easter eggs into the text. Furthermore, the novel did a fabulous job of discussing Christianity and Islam in the Eastern hemisphere without being preachy or pushing an agenda. It was a breath of fresh air to have real religions openly discussed in a YA fantasy novel.
The genre fantasy is loosely applied to this book, simply because it is an alternate universe. Beyond that however, it doesn’t contain any of the normal fantastical plot elements. But it was so good that I didn’t care.
The characters are horribly realistic. They are so flawed and unlikeable that you can’t help but love them, and even see a bit of yourself in them. Lada is easily my favorite. This is the kind of female character I’ve been waiting for, and I’m interested to see how others will react to her. Her disdain for the Ottomans is palpable. She is brutal. And I mean, brutal. It leads to an interesting character arc though as she learns that she can gain power and influence in more ways than violence. Initially she holds quite a disdain for women and sees them as weak, largely because of her own mother’s wilting nature. As she matures, however, and physically become a woman, she has a wonderful internal conflict about whether she should embrace or reject her femininity.
“On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife, and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”
In fact, the novel explores gender roles quite unbiasedly, demonstrating the advantages and cons of many viewpoints on the subject. A major theme is power and the different methods of obtaining it, including through your sex. There is a ton of female power in this book from Lada, who tends to be on the men hating side, to Hima, who uses her feminine wiles to gain prestige.
However, this book is not all about women or Lada, but also explores many dynamics amongst men. Radu is an interesting character in his own right. While Lada is female and Radu is male, they tend to have a role reversal. Their story is one of the most interesting and realistic depictions of siblings I have ever read. The writing depicts the feelings of love, hate, jealousy, envy, and affection that siblings experience in relation to each other. Throughout the book, Lada and Radu constantly swing between being each other’s closest ally to biggest rival.
Mehmed is an intense character as well. Despite Lada’s prejudices, you cannot help but love Mehmed as Lada and Radu love him. He is smart, determined, and genuine. His trust in Lada and Radu despite his own political ambitions creates wonderful cognitive dissonance.
In fact, that is one of the things I loved most about the book. The characters are dedicated and firm in their convictions. Yet, their circumstances and relationships challenge their beliefs at every turn. The internal conflict of the characters is the driving force of the story.
There is much external conflict to be found too. Action is not lacking in this story. There are wars, battles, and assassinations. The author found a great balance in this regard.
Overall, I fully endorse this book and am urging you to read it. It is a masterpiece. Despite having an ebook version of it, I’m going to buy a hardbound…because it’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say! I need it sitting on my shelf.
“You see this as a prison. But you are wrong. This is my court. This is my throne. This is my kingdom. The cost was my freedom and my body. So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”
Thanks, darlings! Tootle loo!