Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White


And I Darken by Kiersten White
Book One of The Conquerors Saga
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Rating: 4 stars

Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (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.

What I Liked:

I admit, as excited as I was to read this book, I was also pretty apprehensive. The book is pretty long (the ARC is huge!), and the synopsis definitely makes it sound like there is a love triangle going on. Well, I started the book and found that I could not put it down! It started off a tiny bit slowly, but I love how things picked up. I'll definitely be looking out for the sequel!

Lada is the daughter of Vlad Dragwlya, a fierce, wild, almost crazed young girl who is bloodthirsty and refuses to be tamed. Radu is her brother, younger by a year, gentler, and much more of a softhearted crybaby. Both are forgotten by their parents. Both are deposited to the Ottomans when they are 13 and 12, by their father. But the Ottomans aren't all enemies, as they were taught to believe. Radu finds a friend in Mehmed, a son of the sultan and third heir, and while Lada trusts no one, she comes to be a friend of Mehmed's as well. Years pass, and Lada and Radu grow comfortable in the Ottoman empire. But when Mehmed becomes the heir to the empire, everything changes. There is only war and bloodshed and sacrifices and heartbreak.

About a third (or maybe two-fifths) of this book is spent while Lada and Radu are young. The story starts when Lada is born, and then Radu. And then they are five and four, and their mother leaves them. And then they are eleven and ten, and Radu is just as weak and Lada just as ferocious as ever, And then they are thirteen and twelve, and the story really starts here. When the pair is forced to flee to the Ottomans, and they are left there by the father, their lives change. About five years pass, and the rest of the story goes from there.

Lada is scary! From the beginning of the story, she scared me. She is not afraid to wield a knife or punch a nobleman or sink her teeth into someone (use any weapons necessary, right?). Lada almost seems feral. And as she grows older, her temper and her ferocity do not diminish. But when she is around eighteen (the second half of the story), she becomes more contained in her anger and ferocity, not wild and crazed. It's more of a controlled chaos. So I think I liked Lada a lot more as the story went on - she seems less scary, though she definitely did not lose any intensity. She seemed more human, as the story progressed.

This book is written in third person, alternating between Lada and Radu. Radu is her brother, one year younger, a crybaby and a weak son. Everyone would pick on him and beat him up when he was little, and Lada saved his sorry butt more than once. As he grew up, he still cried way too much, but he also started using his soft nature to win people over. Just as Lada was using harsher, deadlier methods of inspiring fear, Radu began using his kindness to slip into the lives of others. Radu didn't impress me at all, initially, but I think I like him.

Mehmed is one of the sultan's son, and an heir of the Ottoman empire. When his brothers are killed, Mehmed becomes the sole heir, and the politics get hairy. Mehmed is around the same age as Lada, maybe a little older. Mehmed isn't power-hungry like so many rulers of the time, though I could see him becoming so in the future. I think I liked Mehmed, as much as you can like a son of a sultan, who has a harem and the potential to have a million wives and concubines...

The setting is so cool! It's clear to me that White did her research and did it well. She obviously knows her history, as she rewrites it well, but with her own twists. I wonder just how closely she'll stick to the actual history of Mehmed II and Vlad the Impaler (who is Lada, in this case). Anyway, I thought the historical time and place were very detailed!

The romance... okay, the triangle is kind of true. And you can probably tell who the people involved are. It's a triangle but it's not - we have Mehmed who is in love with Lada, and Lada who cares about Mehmed. But Lada is holding back because Mehmed is the son of a sultan - and therefore, Mehmed has a harem. Concubines. The potential for a bazillion wives, concubines, and children with different women. This doesn't sit well with Lada, and so she holds back. I believe Mehmed loves her (he says as much, but I also believe it in general), and I believe that Lada cares deeply for him. I love their romantic scenes together, though the scenes never go far (good for Lada!).

The other "side" to the love triangle is Radu's feelings for Mehmed. Mehmed loves Radu like a friend and brother (that I can tell), but Radu is totally in love with Mehmed. Which is awkward when Lada finds out - she gets jealous and angry. I wonder if Mehmed knows that Radu has feelings for him - probably? But Mehmed clearly only loves Lada, which is why I don't *really* think we're dealing with a love triangle here.

Of course, we could be, later in the series. My personal opinion is that Mehmed doesn't deserve Lada, and Lada should find a nice monogamous man who will satisfy her. 

In any case, the ending got pretty intense, and there was a ton of action in the second half of the book in general. I am kind of in shock at how the book ended - it wasn't too cliffhanger-y, but I'm nervous. I'm hoping that Lada is smart enough to do certain, um, things! I really want the next book ASAP.

What I Did Not Like:

Obviously, the mere mention of a love triangle is going to be a whole star at the least, knocked off. And we clearly have love triangle potential here - what if Mehmed decides he's in love with Radu? I'm 99% sure that won't happen (for several reasons), but you never know these days. But then, I also don't really care to see Lada end up with Mehmed (you'll see why, when you read the book). I actually am really hoping that White introduces a different love interest for Lada. As sizzling as the romantic scenes are between Lada and Mehmed... he's just not good enough for her. But then, I don't think Radu is either (and I'm 99% sure Mehmed is not only NOT gay, but he's totally in love with Lada). Ahhh, love triangles. Even this kind of love triangle makes me mad.

Would I Recommend It:

Hold off, if you're a love-triangle-hater (like myself - so I probably should have held off). I think the story is REALLY cool and enjoyable, and the setting and retelling are really well written. It's probably a book/series worth reading in general, but maybe when all of the books are published. This pesky non-linear romance is holding the story back, in my opinion.

Rating:

3.5 stars. I'm rounding up to 4 stars, but my true rating is 3.5 stars. I liked the book a lot, but I wish I felt more certain and less conflicted about the romance. I don't even really think this love interest is a good one, for Lada! But besides the romance, I think the book was good. Definitely worth pursuing the sequel!




Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

23 comments:

  1. Definitely one I have to think about now. I'm no fan of complicated romance. Great review!

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    1. It surprised me! I was kind of irritated about it, but the ending makes me think it won't continue? But who knows. Thank you, Lekeisha!

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  2. Once again, I'm really happy that I had self-control when it comes to requesting arcs these days. The romance doesn't sound like it would be for me at all. Ugh Mehmed and his harem though. I don't know if I can stomach that one. Though I'm disappointed because the rest of the story sounds fantastic!
    You're a life-saver, Alyssa!
    Fab review as always!

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    1. That's good! This one was amazing besides the romance. I'm annoyed that there is a love triangle, but I want to believe that it's done? But I can't say for sure, obviously.

      You're very welcome! Thank you. =)

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  3. Oh I love when you can tell an author really did the research. Now I want to read this one even more. Fabulous review. :D :D

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    1. It was so great - the setting and story! Just not quite the romance. Thank you, Erin!

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  4. OOoh nice!! I was curious about this one but felt hesitant. Not because of the love triangle...which I don't think is something I gathered from the cover description, but I worried it might not be the right pacing for me to be interested in. It does sound fascinating, but if Lada isn't grown up until halfway through the book, I don't know if I can wait that long. How would you describe the pacing?

    Still, all in all a great review! Maybe I'll rethink this once the whole series is out and binge it! Nice review!

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    1. The love triangle was the most annoying thing, and right behind it was the harem. The pacing was fine, for me! The beginning of the book (from birth to age 13) was slow, but once we get to the second half of the book, with Lada being 17-18, things picked up. Not that they were draggy slow before, but everything got more interesting once the kids got older.

      Thank you, Jessica! I highly recommend binge-reading the books when all publish, it might take out some of the sting of the ending of this one!

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  5. Normally I'd be willing to give a historical fantasy like this a try, but...that quasi-love triangle. I'm with you on the harem issue (just say NO Lada!), and really? The crybaby brother and savage sister both having feelings for a guy? ... Can no one just be friends anymore? Bluh. Yeah, for the sake of my blood pressure, I think I better skip this one. Thanks for the heads up, Alyssa! And here's hoping they kill 2/3 of the triangle and start fresh in Book 2? ;)

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    1. Lada is actually really good and DOES say no (at least in terms of sex - he tells her he loves her, which I believe, and he wants to have sex with her but...). There are things that I omitted that would drive you crazy about Mehmed, Kel. But we have to think about what we know about Ottomans...

      In any case, I'm hoping the love triangle is done. There is a line at the end of this book that makes me believe that it is. But we'll see. :D

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  6. Ahh I am already loving the sound of Lada she sounds like a fierce warrior. I really want check out this book when it comes out, because I am dying too read a book by Kiersten White. I heard nothing but great things about her books and this one looks and sounds absolutely amazing. But I am scare because it is a huge book and I am not a fan of big books. But alas I know that I will eventually check it out from the library when it comes out. haha lol Thank you for your awesome review and post Alyssa!

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    1. Lada is amazing! In a scary way. This book is incredibly long, and it goes through so much time. The love triangle and romance weren't so appealing to me, but the book in general is great. If you read this one, I hope you enjoy it, Katiria!

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  7. I loved this review! Lada sounds like my kinda gal. I will be holding off though- hater of love triangles here.

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    1. She's intense! But I think this might be a series to binge, if you happen to read the series. I hate them too!

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  8. WOW! Your great review just make me want to read this book faster Alyssa. Sounds epic and as you know I adore Kiersten White so I have high hopes. Can't wait to meet Lada ;)

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    1. Yay! I'm glad you have it and can start it soon! Hopefully you love it. <3

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  9. I agree, Lada should find a monogamous man who doesn't have a harem at his beck and call. That would not sit well with me. Glad to hear you enjoyed the story overall, Alyssa! :)

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    1. It only seems fair! It's bothering me, but I'm hoping maybe Lada will forget Mehmed (even though I like him). It's a good one, I can see why PRH is pushing this one so hard!

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  10. Gah. Awesome review Alyssa :D So glad you liked this one. <3 It was a four star for me too. I liked it lots. But I'm a bit upset about the romance, lol. I do not think there will be a love triangle. I don't see them happening, lol :) But.. Well. I ship Lada and Mehmed a lot. Though I am angry at Mehmed a lot too, hah. And so upset about him having children. Ugh. But I still want them together.. Sigh. Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3

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    1. I wasn't expecting the triangle either, to be honest! I'm kind of hoping Lada doesn't end up with Mehmed. And you'll expecting that kind of thing from an emperor... with a harem. Right? Right. It's too bad! I like him but don't.

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  11. This book sounds AWESOME!! This is the kind of main character I like. I had no idea it was this good! So happy to know!

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    1. I think you would love this book, Lis! I hope you enjoy it when you read it. ^_^

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