Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga, #1
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Release Date: July 7th 2016
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.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Thoughts On…
Born in a time when women have no power and are only used to further a man’s reach Lada wants more than she will ever get from life. She grew up brutal, trying in vain to impress her father and gain his approval, make him see that is worthy as his daughter and worthy of ruling over and protecting Wallachia. Lada takes to heart all the lessons her father teaches her; she becomes ruthless and doesn’t stand for weakness, not even in her younger brother Radu, though she protects him in any way she can she despises his snivelling.
Lada has always looked up to her father but as she watches he starts to lose his hold over his people and his kingdom, and before long there’s a rebellion which forces Lada, Radu and their father to flee to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. In order to gain the forces he needs to take back Wallachia Vlad leaves Lada and Radu in the care of the sultan as war hostages; as long as peace reigns they will be safe but their lives will be forfeit if Vlad ever sides against the sultan in battle.
From that moment Lada’s and Radu’s lives are no longer their own. While her brother slowly embraces their new life, learning all he can about the custom and religion, Lada never forgets that Wallachia is their home, and even though she is far from its lands it is always close to her heart.
And I Darken follows the lives of Lada and Radu from their births. We see the two of them grow up together; watch Lada become everything he father would desire in a son, and watch Radu shrink into the background until he learns to find his voice. We see Mehmed as he becomes a larger part of both Lada and Radu’s stories, watch as he struggles with his desire to be the hand of God on Earth while keeping his people content and his friends close.
Lada is ruthless, she has paid attention to everything her father taught her and has used it to shape who she is. She is good at reading people’s intentions when it comes to cruelty and she can see the threads of power that connect people but when it comes to espionage she is helpless. Lada will always go in quick and hard, ending life with brutal efficiency, she doesn’t see the point in making people trust her before ripping that trust away.
Watching Lada grow up is interesting because I don’t think she really understood how little power she had until she was under the care of the sultan. Everything she gained was because of Mehmed and all her strings of power connected back to him. The other women in this book like Lada have no power which does not connect back to a man but they have carved their own control, own world, from what scraps they have received. When it comes down to it they have all sacrificed something dear for their power, and that’s something Lada doesn’t understand yet.
Radu I thought was the most interesting character to watch grow up. He was always too weak to be strong like Lada so instead he learnt to make his weakness his strength. He knows how to make people trust him and then he twists that trust against them. Unlike Lada he understands how to make people believe in him and in his own way he is just as brutal as she is but in a different way. It took Radu a long time to stand on his own. He clung to Lada a lot while they were children but is eventually forced to stand on his own two feet, and that’s when he starts becoming his own character.
Mehmed is a character I only really connected to through both Lada and Radu. Both of them love him and that love causes them to do everything in their power to protect him; even when it means hurting him in the long run they act in a way that’s best for their friend. Mehmed trusts the two of them beyond anything else and he would do anything for them but at the same time he is dedicated to becoming a powerful leader. It blinds him sometimes to the rumblings of dissent from his people and then it’s up to Lada and Radu to protect him.
The relationship between Lada and Radu is my favourite one from the whole book. She doesn’t coddle him but instead tries to force him to fight back, against their older brother, against the boys who tormented him. Radu could never be as tough as Lada but she never stopped trying, and even despite her disgust at his weakness she protects him. She worries about him and even when Radu doesn’t realise it she does what she needs to to keep him safe. As they grow up there seems to be a deeper bond forged between them by the secrets they keep but there later becomes a distance between them which is caused by Radu’s feelings for Mehmed which aren’t returned. The dynamic between the two siblings was my favourite thing to read.
Despite the fact that this book is set more in the Ottoman Empire and Mehmed’s home rather than Lada’s we saw a lot more of Wallachia’s influence. When we see the story through Lada’s eyes her home is never far from her thoughts. The lessons from her father she took to heart the most were those he taught her about her homeland; how it is their heart, their mother. Deep down, no matter how much time she spends in Mehmed’s home, no matter how much the prince and the sultan influence her and her heart, she belongs to Wallachia and it belongs to her. On the other hand Radu embraces their new culture. He converts to the Muslin religion and it’s through his eyes we see all the Ottoman Empire has to offer. We see his love for their customs and their lessons, his search for peace and his discovery of it in the Muslim religion through prayer and fasting. The setting is such a huge part of this book; be it the scenes we see from Lada’s point of view and Wallachia or through Radu’s or Mehmed’s point of view and the Ottoman Empire it was all richly written and described.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from And I Darken, and I’m not sure if this book exceeded my expectations or not. It’s hard to define but I can say that I really enjoyed this book; while the plot is more of a steady stream of actions and events rather than a build-up to an explosive finale it was the character development that really set this book apart for me.
What did you think of And I Darken? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.