This review contains major spoilers, continue reading at your own risk.
Kiersten White, based in San Diego, is an American author, best known for her Paranormalcy Trilogy. Her new book And I Darken came out in July 2016 and was one of my most anticipated books coming out in July. It is the first book in The Conquerors Saga and is a retelling of Vlad the Impaler as a girl.
And I Darken follows siblings Radu and Lada, who try to fight for their father’s love and approval. Lada is a fierce and wild girl, who believes that she can be as good as a man and even better. She answers to no one except for herself. Radu is a soft and beautiful boy, who believes that nothing he does can ever grant him his father’s love. Because of treachery of their father, they become toys of the Ottoman sultan’s son, but it doesn’t take long for them to become friends, maybe even something more… But nothing can erase Wallachia from Lada’s heart, nothing else is home for the girl who claims to be the dragon himself.
I have seen a lot of amazing and lovely reviews for this book claiming to love it and being perfect… even comparing it to Game of Thrones. Although this was one of the most anticipated books for me, it was a huge disappointed and I would never ever compare it to GoT. I haven’t read the whole first G.R.R. Martin’s book (I happen to be in the second quarter of it), but I can tell for sure that GoT is already better. I also have to remind that this is my subjective opinion of the book, which means that although I disliked it, you might like it.
The story is about children. I do not like children for most of the part, I especially do not like children who act or try to act like they are smarter than everyone else (I sound like Miss Trunchbull). They might be smarter, but it’s not like these three protagonists are the geniuses of the century and everyone else is an idiot… but in this book, it sometimes seemed so. And although these children have action packed life full of political decisions, usually they were silly and meaningless and boring. I don’t remember when was the last time I was this bored while reading a book.
There weren’t any favourite characters for me, I disliked Mehmed a lot (I guess that’s the first reason for me to not like the book), I didn’t care for Radu and well I had hoped to connect with Lada. I actually liked Nicolae the best, I think.
But let’s get to the juicy stuff – why I disliked the book? When I said that it is one of my most anticipated books of July, I divulged fear that the book might go the wrong way about the strong female protagonist and my worries obviously had a base, because my two biggest problems with the book was aridity and Lada’s character.
I was excited for this book, because of a boyish and strong girl, who wants to do everything a man can and wants to prove the world that she is the best and strongest thing alive. It’s a battle between Lada and Lada, no one else actually participates in this battle of character, strength and mind. I was on board with this because I generally simply like fierce and strong female characters.
At the beginning Lada’s character was a lot more wild than smart, she did weird things that couldn’t really be based in anything that would connect to both physically and mentally strong personality, but I forgave those, feeling that the continuation should be amazing.
In my eyes Lada was proud, she knew her aim was Wallachia and she was ready to work for it hard. Even when she was a prisoner of the sultan, she would still do everything according to herself and answer to no one else. And that was awesome, that was her character. Yet, it changed, when she fell in love. Suddenly she seemed to be weak minded, she didn’t care as much about herself (which also means – for her country Wallachia) as she cared about her love interest. But that was all still fine – boring, but fine by me.
The reason why I started to feel like every single thing about Lada is shit that was created to sell a strong female protagonist on a cover of a cliche book, was her reaction to her love interest having the second child. Lada I knew, would have been furious, she loved the man and the man claimed to love her and it was even mentioned that he ‘ignored’ the harem, yet, here they were, Mehmed had another son. Lada I knew would have shut the door between them, been raging and asking why it was done, not happy with the answer ‘it is my duty’, because he was sultan, he was fucking GOD, he could do anything and it would be legal, he was the law.
He already had one son, he didn’t have to get another one, he already claimed Lada that he lover her and wanted her, yet, he went on to other girls knowing that Lada will hate it, not even to mention that Mehmed never even told anyone that he had another child, which shows his cowardice. Although Lada took in the situation ‘smart’ – without any outrages, I expected them in the future and I expected her to use her treachery in the past to hurt Mehmed just as he had done. I expected her to put her pride higher then affection, because that’s the kind of character the book painted to me, yet it wasn’t so.
The strong protagonist I expected and knew wouldn’t live under someone’s roof like a concubine, being perfectly fine with not being the only girl in her beloved’s life. I might have understood the situation, if Lada would have been fine with this type of system, because of culture and history (which wasn’t really her culture and history, but still…), but she wasn’t fucking happy and content with it since she found out. She was angry and jealous and hated that the sultan went with other girls. Yet, she did nothing but continued serving him.
I have to admit that the ending gave me hope for future, perhaps, if I ever pick up the second book, it won’t be as bad, because Lada will be grown up and she will again be the wild being I hoped her to be, but for now this book was boring, I didn’t care for protagonists and Lada wasn’t a well built character (at least for me), so the book received one star from me and I disliked it so much that I don’t think I have any rights to suggest it to anyone. Hope you liked it better.
And not really related to the topic, but – Lada is supposed to be really ugly, so why then the girl on the cover is pretty?