And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1)


And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1) by Kiersten White

Blurb:

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.

Review:

As the baby latched on with surprising fierceness, the nurse offered her own prayer. Let her be strong. Let her be sly. She looked over at the princess, fifteen, lovely and delicate as the first spring blossoms. Wilted and broken on the bed.
And let her be ugly.

It took me an unexpected long time to read this book. Not because it was so bad that I could hardly pay attention but because it was so good I wanted to give it as much attention as possible without other obligations getting in my way (and there were a few this week, unfortunately). Honestly, I read the first two pages and was so fascinated already that I decided to put it away until I had enough time to truly and attentively read it. Which I did and could have been easily disappointed by. Luckily, I was not.

Lada had a sense for power – the fine threads that connected everyone around her, the way those threads could be pulled, tightened, wrapped around someone until they cut off the blood supply.
Or snapped entirely.

And I Darken is pretty fucked up in a way I had neither expected nor really ever encountered before. On the one hand there is Lada: strong, ruthless, cold, and ugly and on the other hand there is Radu: lovely, loyal, warm, and weak. The two of them are entangled in such an intricate web of love and disdain I have rarely (if ever) encountered between siblings in any sort of fantasy book (although "fantasy" might be the wrong term? It's an alternate history retelling with lots of political intrigue and no magic). Obviously, such a combination keeps a reader hooked from start to finish. But it is important to note that this book would not have worked if the relationships between people (and the characters themselves) were not portrayed as interestingly and competently as they are.

There is more to this book, though, than just the characters. The writing is beautiful and captivating. Not as dreamy or "brutal" as some other books tend to be but a fitting mixture of the two. It is straight forward and never devolves into philosophical haze about your true purpose or your true love or anything mushy like that. On the contrary, if there is any pondering of philosophical questions then it is all about debt and payment – how much do I have to suffer to stay alive? How much do my loved ones have to suffer? What am I willing to pay? What am I willing to sacrifice?

Which brings me to the heart of this story: Lada. She is such an interesting character and it would be very easy to dislike her because she doesn't care about people, or rather doesn't seem to care. But what I find especially interesting is how much I understand her because she is portrayed so vividly. I understood while she made people suffer, I don't condone violence but seeing the world through her eyes I understood why she reacted by lashing out. Considering all the "badass female characters" one usually encounters in fantasy, Lada is truly special. She is not someone you can simply like because she's sassy, you have to understand how she works and then you can grow to like her. She is competent but doesn't ever dwell on that. She is mean and understands violence better than anything else.

However, as interesting this book is and as much as I liked the setting I had the same opinion as Lada: I wanted her to get out of the Ottoman empire and back to Wallachia where she could truly start her quest to seize her country. Moreover, I expected her to do exactly that and was kind of surprised by how long she ends up staying with Mehmed. While that didn't take away from the story it did take away slightly from the experience.

"And that is why you become a dealer of death. You feed death as many people as you can to keep it full and content so its eye stays off you."

Rating:

Well, obviously I totally recommend you read this book: 4/5 stars.

Details:

Name: And I Darken
Series: The Conqueror's Saga
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 496
Where?: Amazon

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