Saturday, May 14, 2016

And I Darken

The year is 1435. In Transylvania, Lada and Radu are the children of fierce Vlad Draculesti. Both are in awe and fear of him as children, struggling to find their place in court as their predispositions make them undesirable for their respective roles. They discover their father is not so fearsome and more concerned about the illusion of power than his own children when they are sent to the Ottoman courts to keep Vlad under control. Lada barely contains her rage and figures out how to live there without accepting it as her home. Radu, on the other hand, finds his home and his faith with the Ottomans. They befriend Mehmed, the third in line to the throne and enjoy even greater freedom than before. Everything changes when his brothers mysteriously die and leave Mehmed the throne as a child still. What follows is a story filled with love, betrayal, power, and intrigue.

If someone had told me about a book about 15th century Eastern European and Western Asian war and politics, I would probably not even hear the whole synopsis because I would have fallen asleep in the middle of it. I was never a huge history buff unless there's something specific that intrigues me. Kiersten White has taken a wholly uninteresting subject and made it exciting and addictive to read. I picked it up because I thought it would be about Vlad the Impaler, which it is, but his gender has been changed so instead of Vlad, she is Lada. I wasn't familiar with his historical story, so I'm even more excited about the rest of the story knowing more about how everything turns out. I'm especially interested in see how true Kiersten White will be to history.

Lada and Radu couldn't be more different. Lada is a spitfire, striving to be the strongest and smartest. She's prickly, rude, unladylike, and uninterested in what others think of her. At the time, women were to be obedient and waiting to be sold to whatever husband would be politically convenient at the time. Lada wants the power of men of the time, able to command armies and conquer her home back. Her character development is complex as she goes from an angry, disobedient child to a powerful woman willing to challenge convention to get what she wants. Over time, she learns that brute strength won't always get the desired results and adjusts accordingly. The whole novel is Lada finding herself, finding out what she would be willing to do for power, and what she would be willing to do for love. I especially enjoyed seeing her usually callous actions and then getting insight to the not always callous reasons and thoughts behind them. Love catches her off guard and it's one of the only things that makes her unsure of herself. It makes her act in uncharacteristic ways like accepting less than she wants or deserves, but it's also the most pleasurable and happy part of her life. She has to decide which one she values more: her love or her drive to free and return to her homeland, Wallachia.

Radu is the opposite of Lada in almost every way. While she seems to hate everyone, Radu wears his heart on his sleeve. As a child, he was bullied for not being as a boy should be at his age. He was too soft and emotional, but most people outside of his bullies liked him. As an adult, he uses his social grace to his advantage and shows a different type of political power. The description of the book compares it to Games of Thrones, which usually makes me roll my eyes, but this one shows all the inner workings of politics and how the person with the crown doesn't always hold the majority of the power. Radu's view of Lada is much different than the readers' because he doesn't see her inner workings (nor she want to share them). He finds his faith in Islam and also finds his love in a socially inappropriate person that pits his love against everything he has, including his devout faith. I appreciated the way different faiths were handled in the novel with Lada having nothing but scorn for Radu's religion and Radu endures in peace. Kiersten White even capitalizes "god" only in people's speech and thoughts that believe in that particular religion and not only the Christian god as other others tend to. It was a small touch, but an impressive and unbiased one.

And I Darken is an amazing novel that made a time period that was wholly uninteresting to me action packed and addicting to read. I didn't want to put it down, but things like sleeping and work got in the way. I am so excited for the next book, I'm regretting reading it before it even came out. If you give it a chance, you won't be disappointed if you like political intrigue, power struggles, and drama.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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