AND I DARKEN (The Conquerors Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Hardcover, 475 pages
Published Date: June 28th 2016
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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, 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.
This is by far the hardest book to rate. I’ll be honest; for the first half of the book, I was keen on giving it 3 hearts. At some point, I was even comtemplating DNFing it. By gods did I take a complete other direction the second half of the book. If you pick up this book, I definitely recommend that you go through the whole thing. You will not regret it. You might hesitate at first but you should push through because it gets so much better.
So this books starts off in Wallachia where Lada is born to Vlad Dracul and his weak young wife, Vailissa. He is immediately dismayed that his wife bore him a girl and hatefully names her Ladislav.
“Ladislav,” he declared. It was a feminine form of Vlad. Diminutive. Diminished. If Vasilissa wanted a strong name, she would have to bear him a son.
This, I believe, is the root of Lada’s fierce, wild behavior. She is truly manic and scary. She doesn’t just make threats and trot about declaring she’s some badass. She actually is a badass. As a reader, you just know that whenever she makes threat, she would most likely get through with it. It’s horrifying. I love it.
“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.”
She grew up thinking her mother weak and trying to impress her father, trying to get him to see beyond her gender. She knows that in this world she’s in, females are deemed useless except to be bound with marriage and so she despises her younger brother, Radu, who, by being born male, is automatically entitled to many things a woman is not. Radu is beautiful and kind. In contrast to his sister, he is weak. People mistreat him for that- including Lada- but no matter how much Lada despises him, she is also very protective towards him and manages to get him out of trouble a lot of times. Just like how Lada wants to impress her father, Radu wants to impress her. Their relationship is this complicated thing that just breaks my heart. Sometimes I hate her for causing Radu such pain and then I hate him because he doesn’t understand the way his sister takes care of him. It’s just so…
Lada grew up thinking her father a hero and doing anything to impress him, but then their father’s true colors are revealed when he gives both his children to the ottoman courts as a pawn in a treaty. Here is where they meet Mehmed. It is where most of the story takes place.
The book is mostly focused on politics and history. There’s also quite a bit on religion (which I never could’ve expected). At first I was bored, but as I kept on reading, I started to realize that it wasn’t boring but masterful. Because unknowingly, I got so immersed in Lada and Radu’s life that, even though I kept threatening to stop reading, I simply COULDN’T. This book pulls you in unlike anything I’ve ever read. You might not necessarily like the protagonists but you grow attached them. You’ll want to know what happens to them, you just care.
The character development in this book is so subtle yet very profound. By the second half of the book, I knew both Radu and Lada in and out and this made me almost addicted to them. I fell in love with both sharp-teethed, feral Lada and sweet but deceiving Radu. The way they grew into themselves and the people they came to be just makes so much sense according to their traits and that just made them come out as real people.
I personally didn’t like Mehmed. I don’t trust him much, but that didn’t take away from the story. In fact, it added to the complex entanglement that is their love triangle. You don’t have to worry about the love triangle either though. Because it’s not like other stories- the way it works. It’s done quite well. But it was sooo painful. I don’t want to spoil it but let’s just say it’s a source of such heartbreak for one of the characters and whenever their heartbreaks, yours will break right alongside them. It was weirdly one of my favorite parts of the book. Although, I wish we could see their friendship with Mehmed develop a bit more because it was fast and the author kinda glossed over the start of their friendship.
Another favorite part of the book was how the attainment of power and the difficulties of being a woman were incorporated into the story. There are many characters that Lada will meet- characters who are women. And they kinda have their own little stories that are subtly but effectively incorporated. Each has their own ways of wielding power as a woman that Lada either agreed on or disagreed with. But I feel like they taught her a lot along the way and helped reinforce her fierce spirit and resulted in even more character growth.
“You see this”-Huma gestured to the room, the building, and finally to herself- “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.” Her fine eyebrows raised, mouth playful, eyes hard. “So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken so that you, too, can have power?”
There was also a violent underlining throughout the story and it instills a sort of fear in you. Radu’s bullies, Lada herself and especially after both were given to the ottoman courts. Because of their position, you keep fearing for their lives, always on the edge because Lada’s insufferable behavior and Radu’s delicate nature could literally be the death of them. There were no battles in this book. Although there’s a lot of politics and talk of conquest, there’s no actual war. But there are some fight scenes and overall gruesomeness.
“The price of living seems to be always death.”
“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.”
The way gender roles, politics, power, religion, and love were interwoven in his story is so impeccable, so immaculate. This is one of the books I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. So glad I gave it a chance although some aspects of it scared me off. Read it, guys. It’s worth it.
I was so happy when I saw that it was a trilogy. There’s not much info on the next book but atleast the story doesn’t end here.
I have many speculations about where this story is going and what’s in store for Lada and Radu so if you’ve read the book, head on over here:
Check out some more quotes from this book here:
Expected Publication: 2017
Expected Publication: 2017