June 16, 2016

Souls and Thrones • And I Darken

And I Darken book cover
And I Darken is the story of two siblings – Lada and Radu – who are the children of Vlad the Impaler. They are left to fend for themselves in the Ottoman Empire, insurance against their father’s bargain with the sultan, and grow up in the midst of a court rife with power struggles, internal and external conflicts and a culture unlike their childhood one. As time goes on, both siblings find themselves getting ever more involved in the situation in the Ottoman courts, particularly after they start getting to know the sultan’s son Mehmed. In the end, their loyalties – to one another, to their country, to their friends – are truly tested, and both siblings find themselves forced to make a choice.

I had high expectations when I started And I Darken, because the original pitch I had read made it sound like a dark, lush fantasy read. Fortunately, it proved to be exactly the case! The novel is a strong, well-crafted start to a brand new fantasy series. I loved the way White drew inspiration from history, particularly because it was from an era that I knew close to nothing about (specifically the time of the Ottoman Empire and Vlad the Impaler). She wrote about it with just enough details to paint a clear picture of the world, and it was really fascinating to read. Apart from setting her stage impeccably, White also managed to concoct an excellent set of plot points – complex relationships, twisty court intrigues, and a few fight scenes here and there. I was eager to discover what would happen next, and that’s definitely something I can attribute to White’s deft hand with the storytelling.

But, to be honest, the two extremely different siblings were the most riveting part of the tale. There’s Lada, who is strong and ferocious, a fighter through and through who doesn’t hesitate to resort to violence. On the other hand, we have Radu, who is quiet and reserved, but also very crafty and clever in his own right – particularly when navigating court politics. White alternates between their points of view while telling her story, and it was a brilliant narrative decision. Readers will get varying perspectives on the Ottoman courts based on which character’s POV they happen to be reading from; they will also get the chance to intimately know both Lada and Radu. It was a fascinating contrast of personalities, and I enjoyed seeing how their situation also helped shape their characters.

Clearly, I really liked And I Darken. I went into it expecting something great, and great is exactly what I got! (In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I got some very Game of Thrones feels while I was in the middle of reading this one. Which was unexpected, but also really cool.) I definitely applaud Kiersten White for writing such a compelling, unexpected fantasy read, and I’m definitely dying to find out what happens next for both Lada and Radu. (Can I get book two now please?)

And I Darken by Kiersten White | Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press | Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source: ARC picked up at ALA (Thanks!)

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.


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