And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1)
by Kiersten White
Summary: 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.
Source: I received a digital copy from NetGalley
What if Vlad the Impaler was a girl? That’s the basic premise of And I Darken. To place this in a fantasy category at this stage in the series would be misleading, as it’s more of a reimagined historical fiction. Vlad the Impaler eventually became the Dracula we all know and love, but And I Darken was not set in that time frame and I’m not sure that it will ever go there, therefore there is nothing paranormal, supernatural, or fantastical about the book. But don’t be discouraged!
And I Darken was very good, well written, and intriguing. I was a bit skeptical because I didn’t expect a strong female heroine to flourish well within the confines of the time period, but it worked well. Lada did have to fight social conventions, but she remained brutal and logical enough to toe the lines and still make alliances and gain respect. I didn’t expect to be so captivated by her struggle and the difficulty of her choices that were even harder because she WAS a woman.
I hated Radu for much of the book, though he eventually grew on me, despite the fact that he’s still not my favorite character. I think he served as a good way to keep Lada balanced and gentle when she had to be because he was so weak. And despite the fact that he was a boy, he served as an example that not all warriors need to be brutal. The backstabbing, politics, and secrets were just as lethal to deal in as daggers and swords, which is typically the feminine role in historical books, so I appreciated the role reversal. I enjoyed Mehmed’s character, too, and felt just as torn as Lada between her heart and her home because he was so likeable.
By the end of the book, I was completely engrossed and totally rooting for Lada and on board with everything this book was trying to do. Seriously, I could have been riding along on horseback waving a Lada Dragwyla banner and coming up with ballads. There were lulls in the book and there were times I wasn’t sure I understood Lada, but I grew to love her character and her homeland through her eyes.
My only issue is that the book ended where I originally thought it would begin. I’m very happy with getting Lada’s childhood and background, as I’m sure her tough decisions are going to serve as lessons for her future decisions as Lada Dracul. I know I needed book 1, but OMG it’s frustrating to NEED book two before book one is even released. #ARCreaderproblems The book reads like a set up, a prequel, and an early history of Lada, but it’s also captivating and has it’s own story arc, so it’s worth the read.
If you’re interested in historical fiction and the battle hungry, territory invading nature of fantasy novels, then And I Darken is a must read. I love getting a fresh take on history and having such brutal and amazing characters to root for. If you’re intrigued by the question What if Vlad the Impaler was a girl? then you won’t be disappointed.
Side note: this book is nothing like the Paranormalcy series, so it’s not necessarily a book that I’d pick up if I was looking for something similar. Because it’s the same author, I feel like that disclaimer should be there in case fans of the author mistake this for a fun urban fantasy. It’s serious and brutal.