Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Me on And I Darken

Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House imprint)

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.

And I Darken is an epic tale of survival, of plots and plans, of secrets and deceit. Of a yearning for home that battles against a yearning for a person,

Lada. Lada is a strong girl, a fragile girl, a fractured and broken and hard as iron girl. She has her plans, her ideas, her priorities. She knows what she wants in terms of returning to her homeland, to her Wallachia. She knows what she wants in terms of strength and power, in leading troops and proving that she can be just as cunning and ruthless as all the men around her. She knows what she wants in terms of freedom, to never marry, to be her own person. Her own ruler. But she doesn't necessarily know what she wants when it comes to her heart, when it comes to emotions. When it comes to love. She's lived her life, seen her and her brother Radu used as pawns, as bargaining chips, as things to be tossed aside. She's seen what happens to the weak and she knows what she has to do. Even if it means breaking hearts, including her own.

The world-building here is so expansive and expressive. From the cold and the snow and the rough stone of Wallachia, from the smell of fire and pine trees and fear and sorrow, to the bright sun of the Ottoman Empire, to the luxury and the heat and the deceit of Edirne. From the high ranks of the sultan and his advisors to the slave-like Janissary soldiers. This story stretches far and wide, follows the actions of rulers and princes, follows the impacts of those actions on their children and the sacrifices they must make in order to stay alive. And the depth and variety of the characters. So many of them had plans, careful and cunning plans, and they all thought they would work. They all thought they were right, that they would see it to the end. But with so many plans, so many webs being woven, some were bound to be caught up. And some were bound to slip and fall.

It's somewhat hard for me to describe this book, to review it in any way that isn't a mad rush of words and sensations. This is an epic tale of a girl, a boy, and the boy they come to love. A tale of a girl rough and harsh, carved from stone and ice. Of a boy sweet and gentle, quiet, unassuming, always watching and waiting. Of the boy they love, one who strives to follow a dream and rule his people. There are so many things I loved. How strong and determined Lada was, how she saw certain acts, acts where characters started to find themselves and define themselves, as slights against her plans. How sweet and kind and intelligent Radu was, how after years of hardship and pain and fear as a child he found something to call his. He found a faith to embrace. This is far more historical than fantasy, but I do wonder about some things, about certain events. It'll probably be all in my head, but I can't help but wonder. I can't wait for the next book, to find out what happens next and what peril they will all find themselves in.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Random House through NetGalley.)

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