I think I saw this on Netgalley and was immediately pressing the “Request” button on the sole fact that the story followed a speculative telling of the life and times of Vlad Dracul, the Impaler.
Only, this particular Vlad is a girl.
I mean, WHAT IS HAPPENING.
Of course I had to read it.
AND I DARKEN
by Kiersten White
Delacorte Press, June 2016
Historical fiction, speculative, young adult
Rated: / 5 cookies
e-ARC provided by NetGalley
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.
Once upon a time, I had this crazy obsession regarding Hungarian and Romanian history. Mostly about the fight against the Ottomans in the 1400s-1500s. Mostly about the Hunyadis and Vlad the Impaler. Mostly about the Impaler himself. Mostly about his crazy-ass siege tactics and how the medievalers waged war. I mean, what’s not to be interested about all this chicanery?
And, I mean, come on, the main character in this instance was a GIRL. Who was supposed to be a GUY. And, erm, HIJINKS. Things obviously change, because medieval outlook on a girl doing all these guy-things and making no attempts to compromise her beliefs–for the most part–is pretty dismal. Lada sets out to prove that she can do whatever she needs to do for her country. And do so as a person of the fairer sex. Does she get to her goals immediately and from the get-go? No. Does she do so using her cunning, physical prowess, and sheer force of will much later? Hell yes she does.
“We have nothing. Can you not see that?”
“We have Mehmed!”
Lada looked up. The stars were static, still and cold in the night, all the fire gone from the sky.
“It is not enough,” she said.
As a character, I love Lada. She is, in all sense of the word, fierce. She has one goal which she finds pretty early on in the book, and while many variables are thrown in her way that distracts her from said goal (like hormones and boys), she eventually decides “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” in the most effective way ever. Often within the book, she yearns for more, and it kind of made me smile that as the main character, she strove for a love so much greater than one man.
Unfortunately, I read this under a biased view of the history revolving Vlad the Impaler. Which means I had to turn my brain off regarding historical accuracy of the time period. Also, my opinion on the famous figures of Radu and Mehmed were pretty damn low from the get-go. As a fictional depiction of both Radu and Mehmed become prominent in the story, I found myself at odds with my vision of Mehmed, who seemed like a decent sort of fellow in And I Darken, though he was a rather monstrous man in history (he’s pretty much done his fair share of rape, sodomy, and fratricide, so uh, yeah). As for Radu…well.
I still fucking hate the kid.
Just about every other chapter with Radu in it I almost skipped. I mean, I tried to like him. I thought, “Gee, well, maybe he grows a spine and becomes this really well-spoken, sly, crafty gentleman working up the Ottoman court. Maybe I’ll like him then.” So yeah, he kind of does become rather formidable in his own way, and like his sister, he becomes a bigger player in the Ottoman court and worms his way into the trust of many a politician.
He’s also got the hots for Mehmed. And his pining over this wonderfully godlike specimen of a prince just never. fucking. ends. Radu’s love for Mehmed is intense like the fire of a thousand suns. It is as fierce as a tsunami. As boundless as the skies. Hell, it was a rarity to find a page or two in Radu’s chapter where he doesn’t think about Mehmed or mention him in a conversation. It was an effing miracle to find any mention of Mehmed in Radu’s chapter that wasn’t cream-filled, double-coated, and bubble-wrapped in unrequited angst.
Which is probably what drove me nuts over this so-called “toxic love triangle” I keep reading about. Yeah, I would say it’s toxic. I’m not sure it’s much of a love triangle, though, considering Lada wasn’t really sure about her feelings (but she did like being snogged), Radu has way too many feelings (which he will continually bombard the readers with in his POV), and Mehmed is pretty singular in his feelings (which are clearly not for Radu). Nobody really emerges the winner here in the first book, so I mostly just shrugged it off in the end and continued to follow Lada without any other care in the world.
That being said, I do want to pick up the next book after this, if only to see how things turn out. I am seriously curious over how Lada will interact with the Hunyadis and whether her dealings with the Ottomans remain as is. I totally want to see more of Nicolae because he’s awesome. And while Huma did get a bit annoying later on in the book, I’d love to see more of the harem females find their own bearings in the political atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire. I also would love to read about Lada’s continual growth as she begins to gain the notoriety of being Ladislav Dracul. I do hope she gets the moniker of Lada the Impaler. I mean, she is an anti-hero, right? So she has to at least show some brutality.
3 out of 5 cookies! Worth the read. Though be warned: the historical aspects of this is pretty damn warped and utterly speculative.
On a different note, Lada is a prime example of gender-bending characters in history and changing the story as is. Do you have a particular historical figure you’d be interested to see a gender-bent story of?
Personally, I’d like to see what happens if Genghis Khan was female. But that’s just me and the fact that my head went straight to Mulan, lmao.