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Review: And I Darken - Kiersten White


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And I Darken by Kiersten White

Young Adult / Historical Fiction / Retelling

Published June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press

Rating : {★★★☆☆}

From Goodreads:
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, who’s expected to rule a nation, 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. From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

Take yourself back to the Ottomans just before the rise of the Ottoman Empire - before they conquered Constantinople and this is where our story begins.

Imagine if Vlad the Impaler had been a female - not allowed to inherit, not considered important or worthy other than to be used as a political pawn; a gamepiece to marry off or hold hostage to your best advantage - image how difficult it must have been for her to fight and sacrifice for Romania. There you have our anti-heroine.

Imagine ruthless ambition, impossible love, heartbreak, betrayal and political intrigue.

It sounds next to perfect, right?

I don't even know what happened. I opened this book full expecting to LOVE it. In fact, the first couple of chapters were so gritty and compelling that I was already raving about it! And then... I'm not sure. Somewhere along the line I fell off the 'And I Darken' wagon.

I do hate it when books compare themselves/are compared to other books - this one says it reads like Game of Thrones and I just can't see it. Yes, both are brutal in their own way, but I truly could not reconcile the two.

There are so many wonderful parts to this book - so many things to love.

I enjoyed all of the characters a lot - they were all well developed and you got a real sense of who they were and what they were made of. There was a lot of information that could be gleaned off minuscule observations. The political stratagems were also brilliantly written.

I connected with Lada on all the right levels. I truly had no idea how deep I was willing to follow her character down the rabbit hole before wondering where along the way I lost my innocence. This book is vicious in all the right ways.

This book is also complex, with so many strands interwoven it can be difficult to keep track of. This is a good thing though! The setting and retelling of our history feels authentic and well researched. There's a wonderful use and description of religions and this is not done in a preachy way. It's all non-judgemental on the part of the author. There's also a fantastic integration of different sexual orientations.

Now for the cons: There are some pacing issues - the book for me was great at the beginning and really picked back up at the end, but there were a lot of slow patches, particularly all of the middle. This was probably around the time our three main characters hit puberty and there was a lot of brooding and angst.

I really couldn't understand the fascination with Mehmed but perhaps we are supposed to feel this way? The romance in this very strange love triangle felt genuine and was well written on all accounts, but I just couldn't get behind it. Was it because I know a little of this history and I know of The Night Attack? I'm not sure. But I am interested to see what White does with this and how things are portrayed.

One thing I can say for sure that I did not like about this book was Lada's complete and unwavering disdain for women, even though she is one. She never really came to terms with this fact. Powerful women and the power of being a woman is presented to her over and over again and she still fails to accept that she is one of us. If you're going to rewrite history and make Vlad the Impaler a woman, make her a total kickass one that can celebrate that fact sometimes! Maybe this is a setup for character growth in the future books in the series, who knows, but personally I like to see a little growth in each instalment.

There were just so many elements that I enjoyed but I'm conflicted about how things came together. Yes, I will continue the series and I'm looking forward to reading more.

"Souls and thrones are irreconcilable."