And I Darken by Kiersten White (The Conqueror’s Saga #1)
Goodreads rating: 3.90
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance
Date published: June 28th, 2016 (USA)
My rating: ★★★★☆
Goodreads // Buy this book: Paperback & Hardcover
No one expects a princess to be brutal. 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, 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.
I got and started this book when it came out, back in 2016, but eventually put it down and never picked it back up. Since I’ve been trying to finish the books I’ve started, I decided to resume my reading of And I Darken – and I was definitely not disappointed!
I must confess that, when I first started it, it didn’t really capture my attention, the story didn’t grab me – probably why I didn’t keep on reading. But this time, as soon as I picked it up, I really got into the story. I’ve never been a historical fiction fan, and that’s why I barely read the genre, but this is a great fantasy story with a historical setting. As you probably know from all the hype when it first came out, this story takes place in the 15th century, in and during the Ottoman Empire. Oh, and one of the main characters is based on Vlad the Impaler, which is so cool 🙌🏼
Our main characters, Lada and Radu, are siblings, and they’re from Wallachia, a place in Romania which is under the power of the Ottoman sultan. Their father is the prince of Wallachia, and they are Christian, unlike the Ottomans. One day, something goes wrong and their father basically sells them and leaves them to be raised by the Ottomans as a guarantee, a way to ensure that he won’t misbehave (knowing that his children will be killed if he does). Lada does not accept her fate, and she hates everything about the Ottomans, starting with Islam. Radu, however, is way less of a rebel, and is more accepting of his fate and the people around him, although they are very different and, essentially, his enemies.
Poor eunuchs. Though the chief eunuch said being castrated and sold was the only future his parents had been able to offer him, Radu did not think it was very kind. The chief eunuch was powerful, yes, in charge of the entire harem and privy to the inner workings of the empire, but what a sacrifice!
This is a story filled with political intrigue, as you can probably tell from the synopsis. I actually hate politics, so I never expected to like this kind of plot as much as I did, but it’s amazing!! I was at the edge of my seat in so many moments, I loved how the characters were constantly endangered. Well, I don’t like that they’re in danger, but you get what I mean 😄 Another great part of the plot is the rivalry between Christianity and Islam, which is, unfortunately, still a thing six centuries later.
The author focuses quite a bit on the life of the soldiers, the Janissaries, which I really liked. She focuses on the details from the way they trained to how they behaved amongst themselves and with other people, which shows that White did her research – or at least she was able to convince me that she had done her research 😄 Still regarding historical accuracy, although the book is written in English, the author points out the fact that not everyone in Edirne spoke the same language, and she mentions the switching between languages – depending on who is talking and whom they are talking to. Little details that I really appreciate 😋
The characters are all so great and HILARIOUS. I laughed so many times, everyone in this world is hysterical and I am so here for it! Most of them were absolutely brilliant, but they still made mistakes. I like badass characters, but it’s important that they’re realistic, otherwise, I can’t even relate to them. There are many strong women in the story who know what they want – and use the little-to-no power they have to get whatever it is that they want. That is rather inspiring, and I think it’s a great representation of women. Huma and Lada are, probably, some of the strongest females I have ever read about, I fucking love them ❤️🙌🏼
“I think of you like a sister,” he said. “Like a brilliant, violent, ocasionally terrifying sister that I would follow to the ends of the earth, in part because I respected her so much and in part because I feared what she would do to me if I refused.”
She nodded. “I would do awful things.”
Nicolae laughed. “The most awful.”
“And then I would steal your horse lover, to spite you.”
“Your cruelty knows no bounds.”
Speaking of representation, there are a few LGBT characters which, as you might guess, it not the best thing when you’re in Ottoman lands – or any land really, the discrimination is still present today so I can only imagine how bad it was 600 years ago 😬 Fortunately, fantasy series have been including more and more LGBT+ characters with time – which we all appreciate, don’t we? 😊🌈
Another thing I thought was very well done was Lada’s struggle as a woman growing up surrounded by men. She eventually gets her period and goes through puberty, but she doesn’t quite understand it all, as no one explains it to her. There’s also some sexual harassment, which pissed me off. It made mad and also very sorry for her – but she handles it like a boss, to be honest.
Lada did not know how much longer she could get away with stealing bedsheets. Radu had complained that his bed was stripped of everything but a single blanket. She had to sit with her back against the door to guard against discovery as she ripped his sheet into manageable pieces to staunch the flow.
Kiersten White was able to create the most genius love-triangle type of thing I have ever read. The romance in this is so freaking good, but so unusual and original. That’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the story! 😍
In conclusion, I need the second book NOW so that I can find out what happens next 😋 Maybe I’ll wait until the third book comes out in July so I can binge read them both 👌🏼
★★★★☆ 4.5/5 stars
Have you read this book? What about the other books in the series? Let me know in the comments! ♡
I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on And I Darken and if you’d like, check out my other book reviews!
Thank you so much for reading,
I’ll see you in my nextpost♡