Now I Rise by Kiersten White
Book Two of the Conqueror's Saga
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.
What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?
As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.
What I Liked:
I feel similarly to the way I felt about And I Darken, which is good and bad. I gave And I Darken 3.5 stars, and ended up rounding up to 4 stars. I'm rounding down this time because I don't necessarily feel more positively about Now I Rise compared to how I felt about And I Darken. While I like these books, I don't really love them, and there are some things about them that I personally didn't enjoy. Factor in my mood - I have been putting off this book for months. Overall though, it's a decent sequel and it has me looking forward to reading the third book in the series.
As with And I Darken, this book is written in third-person alternating POVs, switching from Radu to Lada for each chapter. Lada has left Mehmed - and Radu - and is determined to get back Wallachia, even if she is on her own. She has a company of loyal men who follow her, but she needs more support. She refuses to go crawling back to Mehmed. Meanwhile, Radu still serves Mehmed with stars in his eyes. He still holds onto the hope that Mehmed will love him as deeply as Radu loves Mehmed. But Mehmed's ambition comes between Mehmed and everything/everyone. His desire for Constantinople is more important, and he sends Radu to Constantinople to spy. The Ottomans are stronger and more numerous, and Radu is sure that the city will fall. But after months in the city, does he want the city to fall? Is he still unflinchingly loyal to Mehmed? He always wanted to be the Dracul sibling that Mehmed chose, but Mehmed has his own agenda, and it doesn't seem to involve Radu. Lada, on the other hand, is only looking to regain Wallachia, and does not care to involve herself in Mehmed's war. But even Wallachia is not safe, and not just from Mehmed.
This book is quite long and dense and it feels like nothing is happening at times, but then it feels like everything is happening all at once. I much preferred Lada's plot, because it was more interesting and action-packed. Every chapter from Radu's POV was a little more boring and mopey. (I'll get to that in the next section.)
I liked Lada more in this book. I liked her in the previous book but I feel like I connected with her more in this sequel. She is no less ferocious and brutal, but I liked seeing small bits of vulnerability - her loneliness, her missing Radu, her sexual desires, her desperation for Wallachia. Somehow, Lada seems more human in this book, even if she is more murder-happy in the book. If that makes sense?
Radu seems more mature and battle-hardened in this book, and less of a whining crybaby. Don't get me wrong, he still mopes about how Mehmed doesn't love him - he mopes a lot - but it seems more internalized and he doesn't seem as much a crybaby to me. I still don't like him very much but I appreciated his character development. Radu makes a lot of decisions in this book, and not all support Mehmed. He has a lot to think about, in terms of his feelings for Mehmed, and how far he'll go to support Mehmed.
The overall plot of this book is focused on Mehmed's campaign for Constantinople. Even Lada is somewhat caught in the battle, indirectly. She is fighting for Wallachia, and without Mehmed's proposed help. Meanwhile, Radu is torn between helping defeat Constantinople (helping Mehmed) or helping defend Constantinople (something he feels is right). To me, Radu's plot drags, but Lada's is exciting. And sometimes terrifying - Lada does not joke around when it comes to her quest to regain Wallachia.
It is very clear that the author has done her research for this series. She is sticking fairly close to the actual history of Vlad the Impaler and the Ottoman Empire, which is cool. Of course, some things are clearly fictional, but the author has recreated the story impressively.
In general, this sequel was pretty good. Maybe it's my mood but I just didn't love it. See some of my reasons in the next section!
What I Did Not Like:
Probably the biggest thing that took away from my enjoyment of the book was the fact that I was so bored at times. Sometimes I'd be totally caught up in the story. Other times I'd be incredibly bored and inclined to start skimming. Especially during the chapters of Radu's POV. His plot was must slower, more contemplative.
Radu... I didn't really care for him, even if I didn't dislike him as much as I did in the first book. 99% of his thoughts involve Mehmed, and most of those thoughts are about his love for and devotion to Mehmed, and how he would do anything for him. He sort of knows that this isn't reciprocated, but he holds onto hope. He thinks there is a chance that Mehmed doesn't know that he (Radu) is in love with him (Mehmed) - poor boy. Radu is so lovesick and blind in this book. I wasn't a huge fan of all of this melodrama. While I understand why the author is writing in Radu's POV every other chapter, I don't love it and I think the story could stand well without it.
In general, I didn't really like the romance. It's still triangular in a sense. Lada cares deeply for Mehmed, and I believe it is returned. Radu is obsessed with Mehmed and loves him. Mehmed has a harem full of women, at least one wife, and children. I personally think Mehmed loves no one and uses everyone. I don't like Mehmed but I think that's the point. Still, I dislike how everything seems to revolve around Mehmed. He is such a snake.
White is sticking pretty close to the actual history of Vlad the Impaler and the Ottoman Empire and Constantinople. This is a great thing - but also, it makes me wary, because things don't end well for everyone, in the original history. That's all I'm going to say on that.
Like I said, the biggest thing was the occasional bouts of boredom - and the length of the book didn't help matters. The beginning of the book really dragged (in terms of both POVs, not just Radu's).
Would I Recommend It:
I do recommend this sequel, if you read And I Darken. It's a good sequel! Some of my complaints could be because of my current mood - I've been avoiding this book for a while though. Give this book a chance if you read book one, whether you liked book one or not. I will say though, if you haven't started the series, hold off until the final book is published (I think this is a trilogy?), and then check it out. I'm a little scared for the ending of this series! This series is perfect for fans of historical fiction and strong, kickbutt heroines.
3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. I am hoping that the next book will be the best of the series. I like the books but I don't love them. I can't wait to read book three though - and to see its cover!
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