I received this free from the publishers via NetGalley
Lada and Radu were abandoned in the Ottoman sultan’s court by their father, and a bargaining chip for the sultan – a way to ensure their father would hold up his end of the treaty. Lada is brutal and ruthless and she believes that it is those traits that are the key to survival. Radu, however, believes a more gentle hand is needed to survive. Lada wishes to return home and take revenge out on the empire that has held her captive, but Radu has finally found his home. However, things change when she and Radu meets the sultan’s son Mehmed. They become friends, and those ties of love and loyalty is tested throughout the years.
I’ve seen And I Darken listed as ‘fantasy’ a few times, but that isn’t what I would call it as there is no magic etc. And I Darken is probably best described as ‘alternative history’, as it is a story where Vlad the Impaler is a girl. I actually really loved this! It is full of political intrigue and strategy, and while there are on occasion strong action scenes it is very much a slow paced book. I did love the historical setting, and I loved the original ‘alternative history’ element. I can see how the pace and the political intrigue may not be for everyone, so if that isn’t your thing then I do suggest you steer clear of this book. I know a lot of people love Kiersten White for her more fun stories. However, And I Darken is the opposite of that.
In terms of characters – I loved some and disliked some.Lada was excellent, she was ferocious, brutal, and blunt. She contrasted fantastically with her brother Radu who was calm, calculated, and charming. I was very intrigued with their complex brother/sister relationship. I thought it was done really well, showing both that love and loyalty but also that bitterness and conflict. This relationship got more complex and more tested with the addition of Mehmed – an interesting character, but not one I would say I personally liked.
I wouldn’t necessarily call And I Darken a ‘feminist’ book necessarily. While feminism was present, there were no other main female characters alongside Lada. There were other female characters who were important to the story, women who worked through the patriarchal system and gained power through manipulation of the system. However, I would have liked to see Lada have more relationships with other women.
Overall, a good and enjoyable historical fiction which I would personally recommend if you are a fan of books which a slower pace with a larger focus on politics and strategy.
RATING: ★★★★☆ (4.5)