This is Ava’s review posted in 2019. There is another version written by Joanne back in 2017: to check it out, click HERE.
I’ve already talked a little bit about Kiersten White’s And I Darken, but this book introduced me to her writing, and so I definitely owe it a full review. I owe all of those books a full review, actually.
Name: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 28, 2016
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.
Book Cover Comments
This cover is so pretty! I’m obsessed with the knife, and the petals of this flower. It goes along perfectly with the first sentence of the synopsis: Nobody expects a princess to be brutal. Well, nobody expects a flower to be freaking blown to pieces by a badass knife but here we are and it works perfectly. Only critique: MAKE KIERSTEN’S NAME BIGGER SHE DESERVES IT.
The Actual Review
When I picked up And I Darken for the first time, I didn’t really understand what I was going to be reading. I mistakenly assumed it was a YA Fantasy, which it most definitely is not (read the blurb kids, don’t make my mistakes). At the point that I bought this novel, I wasn’t reading much beyond YA Fantasy, so when I discovered it’s historical fiction, I was surprised, but not really turned off. I was definitely cautious, though, because it had been a while since I’d read historical fiction with enough of a twist to keep me interested.
And I Darken is a gender-bent tale of the life of Vlad the Impaler. If his title “The Impaler” doesn’t give you enough of a clue about the kind of guy ol’ Vlad was, let me leave you with this piece of information: he’s the dude who inspired the blood-sucking myths of Count Dracula.
And Kiersten White makes him a girl.
I was enchanted by this book. It starts off a little bit slow, but you learn to appreciate how much information we’re given in the beginning of And I Darken because there is a lot of history to get through, and given the fact that some of the names of places are different from what we call them today, it sometimes gets a little wonky, trying to remember all of that. Which is why you must pay attention to what’s going on in the beginning. Fortunately, the antics between Lada and Radu are enjoyable enough (and their dad is creepy enough) to offer a really nice buffer for the heaviness of the information.
Later in the book, we met Mehmed, who is the son of the sultan; he’s lonely, moody, and kind of Edgy, but something about him intrigues both Lada and Radu, so they all become friends. What’s really fascinating is that Kiersten is able to create a world that was so heavily drenched in side-windy politics and court functions, and bring it to us through kids’ eyes–but, like, the eyes of smart kids. Radu has a knack for picking up on all these courtly proceedings, Lada despises all of them, and Mehmed is the great mediator between them, so we’re given a really strong balance between the three characters.
When things start to pick up and Choices Must Be Made, I felt as though I was on the edge of my seat. I could’ve literally googled what generally went on during this time in history, but Kiersten keeps And I Darken so fresh (despite it being centuries old content), that you have to recognize this story will not be told anywhere else.
The book ends with something that I don’t consider a cliffhanger, but it definitely leaves you wanting to know more about what’s going on with these characters, and where they’ll end up. That’s Kiersten’s greatest gift with this book: you can’t help but fall in love with all of the characters, even though they’re polar opposites (I’m looking at you, Radu and Lada). Even Mehmed possesses a certain charm that makes me want to hug him and also punch him in the face (but not in an “I hate you” way, just in a “You’re fascinating and you exasperate me” way).
And I Darken quickly became one of my favorite reads of 2018, and the only thing that was negative about my reading experience was that it ended, and that it had taken me so long to find this book! I highly recommend snapping it up if you love political intrigue, girls with knives, lovable boys, and an absolutely incredible, high-stakes plot!