Title: Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Trilogy)
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Disclaimer: I received a copy free from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Lada Dracul is desperate for the throne and the crown she believes is hers. After already failing to seize it in the past, she’s angry. She storms the countryside with the few men who follow her and terrorises anyone she comes across. She has no allies, no strategic positioning, and she is no good with politics, which is a stark reminder of her separation from her brother, Radu. Lada is desperate for her brother’s skills, but Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople, to be his inside man when he decides to take the city.
Last year when I read And I Darken, I absolutely adored it. I love Lada’s ferocity and brutality and Radu’s patience and intelligence. The book itself was full of political intrigue and strategy, action and thrilling fight and battle scenes. I can say that Now I Rise was also pretty damn great in the same way, but there were some aspects and comments that I really disliked.
I often see this trilogy and Lada being described as ‘feminist’, which really bugs me. It is definitely not a book I’d recommend for people looking for a feminist read. Yes, Lada is a warrior. She is strong, determined, powerful, and well developed. But she consistently puts down other women for their choices or lack of agency or their femininity. She doesn’t lift or support other women, and she never really learns from it. She always assumes other women are incapable of fighting etc, and she is different from other women.
‘But she would absolutely begrudge her mother the failure to empower herself. Running and abandoning those who needed her was the weakest, lowest thing possible’.
Trigger warning for rape and sexual assault, but Lada even victim blames. She get’s called out, but I still feel like she never really learned from it. After Lada realises that a group of women had been raped, she states:
‘”These lands are a waste of your time.”
Lada felt anger rising within. “Why?”
“I told you, we have no men.”
‘”No. Why did you let this happen? Why did all you let this happen?”
The girls face purpled with rage. “Let it happen? What choice did we have? We give ourselves or our families starve. What choice is there in that?”
These quotes, along with others, just made me believe that Lada has such disdain for women whose agency and power have been stripped from them, or who don’t outright fight with violence etc. It was also something I noticed in And I Darken as well. There were also no other main female characters, just supporting ones, which was also disappointing. I also disliked how she viewed her romantic/sexual partners, at one point she stated she ‘owned’ Bogdan, her childhood friend who has stayed loyal all these years, and she took advantage of his affection, and when she decided she wanted to sleep with him, she stated:
“You would do anything for me.” It was not a question. He looked at her as though she had taken the time to inform him the sky was blue. “Yes.” “Come with me.” She stood and walked into her tent. Bogdan followed. It was much more efficient than Daciana’s methods. And if she did not feel the same with Bogdan as with Mehmed, if the spark and the fire and the need were not overwhelming,Bogdan was as he had always been: loyal and serviceable’…’Bogdan felt more for her than she did for him. She had always accepted it as natural, good even. He belonged to her, but she did not belong to him.’
I did enjoy elements though as well. I enjoyed Radu, he saved this book for me at times. He is kind, calm, patient, calculated and charming. He does also contrast well with Lada’s brutality and anger. I enjoyed Radu and the conflict he had with loyalties and faith. It was interesting. He was put in a very uncomfortable predicament, wishing to serve the Ottoman empire, Mehmed, and stay loyal to his Muslim brothers, but he had trouble betraying the trust of his new friend and letting innocent people die.
So, ultimately, I am very conflicted about this book, because I did enjoy it. I did enjoy Lada’s ambitions and ruthlessness, I enjoyed the plot, politics and strategy that took place. But there were some unhealthy and problematic actions that I couldn’t overlook.
Megan (pronounced MEE-GAN bc her Irish grandfather refused to use the English pronunciation) is a 21 year old british blogger, history graduate, lover of books and expert procrastinator. She is anxious and introverted and is currently attempting adulthood. She loves potatoes which is often blamed on her irish heritage and can often eat her weight in food. She predominantly reads and reviews YA which includes historical fiction, science fiction, contemporary, and f/f romance. She loves reading about unlikeable female characters, positive female friendships & relationships, and is a sucker for a pretty cover.