Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on June 28, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
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This vividly rendered novel reads like HBO’s Game of Thrones . . . if it were set in the Ottoman Empire. Ambitious in scope and intimate in execution, the story’s atmospheric setting is rife with political intrigue, with a deftly plotted narrative driven by fiercely passionate characters. Fans of Victoria Aveyard’s THE RED QUEEN, Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING, and Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES won’t want to miss this visceral, immersive, and mesmerizing novel, the first in a trilogy.
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.
This is a hard book for me to review. On the one hand, by the end I didn’t really care what happened. I had lost interest. On the other hand, there were some really excellent characters and character development. So I guess I would say I definitely recommend this book, because it’s well written and has interesting themes, but the plot just wasn’t for me.
First of all, this book is dark. We’ve got an anti-heroine who has issues out the wazoo, along with a brother who is confused about pretty much everything, and then just gets angry about everything. While I found Lada and Radu to be interesting and certainly not your average YA heroes, there was a big part of me that just didn’t really like either of them. Lada held my interest for most of the book; she’s described as decidedly “not pretty”, and she’s capable of killing people with her bare hands (and she does), which puts her on the badass pedestal. She discovers that being a woman is a serious handicap in her time/setting, so she learns how to be a man and force people to do what she wants them to do. She is about the farthest thing from an innocent, sweet protagonist, which made her intriguing for me.
Her brother Radu, on the other hand, lost my interest almost immediately. I found myself skimming his chapters (POV is split between the brother and sister pair). His main conflict had me rolling my eyes, mostly because it involved an annoying love triangle that was just exhausting to read. Not to mention that his character development felt unrealistic to me. He goes from being an abused, sweet little boy who is constantly picked on, beaten, looked down upon etc to being a charming, clever teenager.
There is a romance for Lada that I actually enjoyed quite a bit, and I thought it had some interesting differences from most YA romances (namely that she is competing with a harem for her love’s affection). Like I said earlier, this book is dark. There is abuse, there’s war, murder, torture, executions, concubines, etc. There are also some interesting religious aspects, as this takes place in The Ottoman Empire, and some of the big conflict has to do with conquering Constantinople in the name of Islam.
All in all, And I Darken is a book that I think will be enjoyed by many readers, and I certainly hope that my review doesn’t scare people off. I found much of the book to be quite intriguing, it just didn’t resonate with me like I wanted it to. I definitely recommend And I Darken for those of you who loved An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir; this would be a great next read for you guys.
This book is part of my “NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge” and the “May 2016 Clean Sweep ARC Challenge”. To see more info about my 2016 Reading Challenges, go HERE.
Content: Disturbing images (torture/executions), kissing, homosexuality, violence. Recommended for 16+