No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
In the summer of 2016, a book called And I Darken was released. A retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler, but with a girl instead. I had seen many good ratings and reviews about this book, heard the whole book community rave about it the whole year. I had gotten really curious, and I was happy to receive an ARC from a friend in December.
And I Darken tells the story of Ladislav ‘Lada’ Dracul, a female version of Vlad the Impaler, and her brother Radu. We follow them from the moment they are born all the way through their stay in the Ottoman empire.
I am going to be 100% honest and say I did not love this book. I had expected to love it as much as everyone on Goodreads, but honestly, the first couple chapters just didn’t manage to convince me at all. In fact, at around page 100, I started to wonder whether it was worth it to continue reading. I did, of course, but it didn’t pick up that much at all.
According to Goodreads, this book was a fantasy, but to me, it felt more like historical fiction. In my dictionary, fantasy means magic, dragons, an unknown world (okay not necessarily but often enough). This book definitely had none of those elements. Sure, that does not make it a bad book, but I personally don’t love historical fiction much (unless it’s WWII). There was so much talk about politics and religion throughout this book that I found myself skipping passages every now and then. There was just not enough action going on in my opinion. View Spoiler »Sure, there were three assassination attempts and some other small things going on, but other than that it was rather bland. « Hide Spoiler
Character-wise, I thought the book was strong. Both Lada and Radu were good characters, and they both grew to be even greater people later on in the book. I wasn’t too much of a fan of seeing them as kids, but when they were in their teens I enjoyed reading about them a bit more. I wasn’t sold on the romance, though, I actually didn’t enjoy it that much at all. View Spoiler »The love-triangle was interesting, though, and I knew that Radu was gay for Mehmed long before he probably knew it himself. So I guess that wasn’t really an exciting ‘plot-twist’ for me. « Hide Spoiler
At some points I found myself annoyed by the writing, and the weird time-jumps. They would be listening in on a conversation in one chapter, and then the next they would be woken up in the middle of the night, apparently a couple of days after that eavesdropping. I don’t know, but that just felt annoying at some points, and I really wished that it had been more of a flowing story rather than… well… this. Partly because we follow Lada from the moment she’s born until she’s sixteen, I think I would have enjoyed the story a bit more had she’d been that age from the beginning (then again, we may have missed some crucial information, so there isn’t really a win/win here).
Still, it was an interesting story, though I am not 100% certain I will pick up the second book. I am curious what will happen to Lada next, but I don’t think I will be picking up Now I Rise anytime soon after it’s release.