Review: AND I DARKEN by Kiersten WhiteAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press on June 28th 2016
Pages: 496
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Historical, Medieval, Religious, General, Royalty, Young Adult
eARC provided by Delacorte Press

AmazonBook Depository

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.

Well, this book took me completely by surprise. I mean, I always hope to love a book. I had no idea I would like this so much. Lada Dragwlya enters this story (and my soul) in the best way ever. She is cunning and absolutely her Father’s favorite. He loves her wicked heart. Radu, Lada’s younger brother, doesn’t have it so good with their father. It turns out that it doesn’t matter because they are bartered off in a peace offering to a neighboring kingdom. They will be killed instantly if  their father breaks his promise. So what I thought would be a bit of a vampire-y novel turns into something wonderful in the Ottoman empire. In the Ottoman empire, they befriend a young prince who ends up ruling it all.

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This story is almost too complex for a review.

The historical setting. This book lays out the battle between Christianity and Islam over the holy city. The both want it, so these neighboring kingdoms both flirt with taking the city. This is all happening in the background over years and changing of power between the old generation and this new one. Lada and Radu end up living in Islamic Ottoman. I don’t know how accurate this story is, but it seemed completely plausible to me. Children were bartered in historical times and the women had to make peace with their lack of rights.

The religious aspect. It would be impossible to tell this story, in this location, without religion seeping in. Zealot is a word I tend to shy away from in books, but this story managed to talk about them without sounding preaching or choosing a side. Radu is the boy who converts, much to the dismay of his sister. Radu befriends some of the most loyal Muslims in the kingdom and he can’t help but see the beauty of their lifestyle. His conversion takes years, but it is fun to watch. His heart leads him to serve a bit half heatedly as he struggles with his sexuality and its view in the Koran.

Lada and Radu. There is something about an antihero as a protagonist that makes me swoon. Lada is wicked and strong willed. This results in a woman who grows to lead an army, in an Islamic country. Try making THAT believable! Somehow it actually works because Lada is genuinely lovable in her wickedness. Because Lada and Radu have this relationship with a prince, (who is destined to be Sultan), she gets away with so much more than other woman in this culture.

Radu is the yin to Lada’s yang. He is such a sweet boy, which exhausts Lada to no end. She loves him and she recognizes that he must toughen up. His religious journey is so much of his story, but he also falls into unrequited love in this empire. The rejection he lives with fuels him to become an irreplaceable part of the kingdom. He inserts himself into a place of safety. I can’t explain, without giving away the whole story, how he does this. His cunning manifests in other ways and it is fun to watch how his persistent disposition works for him.

The writing is descriptive and detailed. I love a story that takes me right there and allows me to see the scene as well as feel it. Without going into too much detail, the author creatively sets the scene where these characters live. The stark contrast between Lada and Radu’s homeland of Wallachia and the Ottoman empire in which the are raised is well told. This story is told in alternate perspectives from Lada to Radu. These characters are almost polar opposites in the same situations. It is brilliant to see how they interpret their environment.

Mehmed. This is the prince who is not even in line for the throne but accidentally ends up trying to be sultan. We don’t get is perspective at all, but this character has so much influence on Lada and Radu. I loved and hated him. He frustrates me and makes me swoon. I want him and I despise him. How could I feel this way about a fictional character? Lada and Radu both have a vested interest in Mehmed and they both want him for themselves, but in different ways.

To sum it up: Without trying to go too far into detail (too late), I am just going to say that I loved this story. This isn’t something I could read in one sitting. I read this over many days and then sat on this review for over a week. It took time to sort my feelings, and I am still not sure I am ready to explain how much I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this story. It is complex and well told. It left me rethinking other books and how they COMPLETELY pale in comparison.

If I gave 6 star ratings, this book would get that extra star. It is going down as one of my absolute favorites of the year. For the author to do all this, in a YA setting, blew my mind. This is only book one in a SAGA. So now I pine for the next book and hope you ALL read it so we can fangirl together.

My Rating

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Check out the trailer for And I Darken

About Kiersten White

3027554KIERSTEN WHITE is the New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy; the dark thrillers Mind Games and Perfect Lies; The Chaos of Stars; and Illusions of Fate. She also coauthored In the Shadows with Jim Di Bartolo. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, which, in spite of its perfection, spurs her to dream of faraway places and even further away times.

I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

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