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, 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.
I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy a historical fiction book as immensely as I did, this being my first in the genre! If you didn’t know, And I Darken is the story of Lada Dragwlya, the female generbent version of Vlad the Impaler. With that in mind, this book explores the times of the Ottoman Empire, Transylvania (fun fact: I had no idea Transylvania was, in fact, a real place! Oops), and Wallachia (yet another part of geography I have zero knowledge on). Don’t worry if you know next to nothing on the history of the time period the book is set in- early to mid 1400s. You don’t need to have any prior knowledge to enjoy the intricacy that is And I Darken. The story follows Lada and Radu as they grow into young adults- in fact, we’re first introduced to our protagonists from the moment of their births and continue to accompany them throughout their journey from their home of Wallachia to the Ottoman Empire.
Lada is definitely an antihero, not unlike Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Marie Lu’s Adelina Amouteru. Her character development and extremely violent personality will definitely have readers rooting for her, although we know she can be, well, quite evil. And the best part is- we can’t help it! Although Lada is portrayed as cruel and sadistic, readers will occasionally catch glimpses into her mind where it’s revealed that she actually does care about her life and Radu’s. The thing was, she had learned throughout her life that emotion was weakness and that being a woman was even weaker. It was clear that she viewed her femininity as a curse.
Another aspect of the book that was refreshingly unique was the complex sibling relationship between Lada and Radu. Radu is nearly Lada’s opposite: sensitive, loving, and logically calculative; while Lada is rambunctious, loud, and quite frankly, psychotic. Mehmed’s- the sultan’s son- presence throughout the story only complicated their already intricate dynamic. My absolute favorite parts of And I Darken were definitely the scenes where our three main characters were together.
I’d also like to point out that I loved the way Kiersten White depicted Islam in And I Darken. It was astonishingly accurate and I would love to thank her for the beautiful- and very real- portrayal of the religion.
And now for my favorite quote:
“On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”
Last review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Next review: Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton
Until next time!