Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Title: And I DarkenSummer Book Review Logo
Author: Kiersten White
ISBN: 9780553522310
No. of Pages: 496
Genre: Historical Fiction
Origins: Delacorte Press
Release Date: 28 June 2016

Synopsis:

“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, who’s expected to rule a nation, 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.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.”

My Thoughts: In And I Darken, Kiersten White takes the real-life story of Vlad III Dracul, the infamous Romanian leader also known as Vlad the Impaler, and turns it on its head. For, in her story. Vlad is no longer a boy but becomes Lada, a female with the same penchant for violence and fierce patriotism as the real-life person. A strong female character AND a retelling of the real-life history of someone I view as truly fascinating? You know this was a must-read for me.

Thankfully, Ms. White does everything right in her revisionist history. She skillfully imagines what life was like for a female noble trapped by gender and politics. Moreover, she remains faithful to Vlad’s real-life experiences. One can easily switch back and forth between the story and a history book to see that Ms. White omits nothing. This is important in understanding that truth is truly stranger than fiction, for Lada/Vlad had a very strange childhood indeed.

Lada is quite the character, the original tomboy if you will. Her passions rule her actions in all things – she lives freely, loves fiercely, and hates even more fervently. She learns the lessons life places in front of her quickly and thoroughly and meets every challenge with abandon. This proves to be a double-edged sword, and readers will ache for the little girl forced to recognize her beloved father’s disdain and eventual betrayal. Things only get worse as Lada must learn to control her passions once she is a slave within the Ottoman Empire and must weigh her growing love for Mehmed with her ingrained patriotism. Hers is a no-win life.

While portraying Lada and Radu’s experiences in captivity, Ms. White underscores the brutality of the era; she does so while treating that brutality with an eerie nonchalance also seen in the Turks with whom Lada and Radu are bound. Between the daily required observations of torture, the beatings as motivational tools, and the constant preparations for war, there is an undercurrent of violence that runs throughout the story. Not only does this tone help create tension and foreboding, it also plays a role in the molding of each of the Dragwlya children’s personalities. For, Lada embraces the violence, using it to stoke her fury while she bides her time, and Radu uses it as motivation to find a way to belong. For Lada and Radu, they fall into the Nurture camp of the Nature vs. Nurture debate on personality formation.

Given everything Lada experiences, it is easy to wonder just how sane Lada is by the time And I Darken ends. In fact, in light of some of Vlad’s later actions once he leaves captivity, it is a fair question. Being brutally torn from your family and thrust into an unfamiliar world fraught with danger has to be traumatic. The mind can take only so much abuse before it breaks, and one wonders if the torture she witnesses as well as the constant threat of danger was too much for her. Knowing what we know about Vlad, it certainly makes sense. It will be interesting to see how far Ms. White explores this very question.

There is no such thing as an easy life in the 1400s.  In Ms. White’s reinvention of history, Lada Dragwlya knows that better than most, for not only is she born into a family warring with other noble families for power, she is a pawn in the ongoing battle against the Ottoman Empire. She is also female in a man’s world. Throughout And I Darken, she proves how capable she is of overcoming that perceived deficiency, but there are always more challenges to face. Fast-paced, exquisitely detailed enough to bring this familiar era to life, and with the added benefit of revisiting one of history’s most infamous warrior-rulers, there is nothing not to love in And I DarkenWaiting to see how the rest of Lada’s story unfolds is going to be excruciating.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

BOTTOM LINE: Vlad Dracul as a female? Did you think I would miss this?

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Book Review – A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

Title: A Certain Age Author: Beatriz Williams ISBN: 9780062404978 No. of Pages: 336 Genre: Historical Fiction Origins: William Morrow Release Date: 28 June 2016 Synopsis: “As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in…

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 27 June 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Button

Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. To learn more about each book, just click on the book cover! FINISHED SINCE THE LAST UPDATE:   I’m going to put it out there…

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Sunday Reflections – 26 June 2016 – Almost done.

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Hello! Is this thing on? Is anyone still there? It has been forever since I have been able to sit down and write a Sunday post. It feels good to be able to do so again. What a spring! I have been telling my friends that these past four weeks just about did me in,…

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Audiobook Review – The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Title: The Bonfire of the Vanities Author: Tom Wolfe Narrator: Joe Barrett ISBN: 9781455194551 Audiobook Length: 27 hours, 28 minutes Genre: Literary Fiction Origins: Mine. All mine. Release Date: 9 November 1987 Synopsis: “This bitingly hilarious American satire will forever define late-twentieth-century New York style. Tom Wolfe’s bestselling modern classic tells the story of Sherman…

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Fabulous Friday – 24 June 2016

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We should always find ways to celebrate the little things in life. What better day to celebrate these little things than the best day of the week? So, here are the things that make this a Fabulous Friday for me this week. VACATION – My vacation this year is to Holly’s national dance competition. The team chose to go…

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Book Review – The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Title: The Invisible Library Author: Genevieve Cogman ISBN: 9781101988640 No. of Pages: 352 Genre: Fantasy Origins: Roc Release Date: 14 June 2016 Synopsis: “Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai…

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Book Review: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

Title: The Loose Ends List Author: Carrie Firestone ISBN: 9780316382823 No. of Pages: 352 Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary Fiction Origins: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Release Date: 7 June 2016 Synopsis: “Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart…

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Book Review – The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Title: The Girls in the Garden Author: Lisa Jewell ISBN: 9781476792217 No. of Pages: 320 Genre: Contemporary Fiction Origins: Atria Books Release Date: 7 June 2016 Synopsis: “Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve…

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 20 June 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Button

Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. To learn more about each book, just click on the book cover! FINISHED SINCE THE LAST UPDATE: Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nichts. Nothing. So, so sad. …

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