This book was one that I heard about while exploring the wonderfulness that is BookTube. (Have you discovered BookTube on Youtube yet? You don’t know what you’re missing out on? Okay, so you’re missing out on a black hole of book-related videos, but trust me, you want to go check this out!)
I can admit that this is probably not a book I would have picked up on my own if I’d walked into a bookstore and seen it sitting on the shelf. The cover is gorgeous and striking, but it doesn’t give a lot away in terms of the story itself and this story is fantastic.
For those who are not familiar with this book, And I Darken is the first book in The Conquerers Saga by Kiertsen White. It is a Young Adult reimagined historical retelling of the Vlad the Impaler story, but there’s a twist: “Vlad” in this retelling is a feisty young girl named Lada Dracul and the story takes place in Transylvania during the reign of the Ottoman Era.
This book packs a punch. Lada is a fierce female character – and quite nasty at points, too – as she fights to survive in a world surrounded by enemies. Right from the get-go, her personality is front and centre and she utterly dominates this book. There is a lot of inner conflict on whether she should or should not deny her femininity, her relationship and view on women and how women wield power.
As a character, she is in contrast to her brother, Radu, who is the opposite of Lada – he’s beautiful and kind and thoughtful and offsets the traits of his older sister. Then there is Mehmed, the son of her enemy, the Sultan, as thus her enemy.
And I Darken traces Lada’s story from birth to young adulthood, through the trials she faces, the betrayals and adventures. We see her grow from a furious young girl into a ferocious young woman. We see her develop relationships with her brother and their friend, Mehmed. We see how she builds connections with the supporting characters in the story, expanding her view of the world.
One of the elements I loved in this book was the sibling relationship between Lada and Radu – two very different personalities, but they’re family. Their bond is solidified when they’re left, abandoned, within the hold of the Ottoman Empire. There’s a strong undercurrent between the both of them that sees them constantly protecting one another in very different ways that’s so fantastic to see in a book.
The notion of power is woven throughout the book. Power over land, people and ideals, and what this looks like and means for the characters involved. There’s war and intrigue that is gripping.
This book is not for the faint of heart. It is a dark book, both in time period and content. It is gritty and fierce and unputdownable.
I can honestly say that I haven’t read anything like this in recent years and I look forward to future books in this series. I can’t wait to see where all the characters end up. I rate this book five stars.
Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2016
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