And I Darken is a gender bent retelling of the story of Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler. Lada is the daughter of the voivode of Wallachia, but her father’s ill-fated alliance with the sultan of the Ottoman Empire means that she and her younger brother Radu live at the sultan’s court as political hostages. Lada is strong-minded and can be down-right cruel; a fighter who has no nerve for what women are supposed to be. Her brother is delicate and excels at playing the games of the court, gathering information and influence as time passes. Their lives change drastically when they become the companions of Mehmed, third son and heir of sultan Murad. Only if they play their cards right, Mehmed can ascend to the throne. The ties that bind them together are strong, but there are a lot of dangers waiting for them.
This book is great. I have to admit that I thought Lada would be one of these “She’s not like other girls” female protagonists, but as it turned out I was wrong. Yes, she is not like other girls, and occasionally she looks down on other women, but as the story progresses she also learns that there are different ways for women to command power and create their own destinies, and she even comes to respect them. And I loved that she is not a conventionally attractive heroine, it’s a nice change to read about someone who’s generally regarded as ugly.
It was also interesting to see her relationship with Radu, who is her complete opposite. Actually I think, Radu is my favourite character in this book. I have a huge soft spot for characters that supposedly are underdogs, and he definitely is one at the beginning of the story. But to me that also meant I got to see him use everyone’s expectations against them. I’ve probably mentioned it before but I absolutely love politics in books and Radu is a master at all the little and big intrigues that come with life at any royal court. It was a joy watching him excel at that.
There is a romance subplot, and though there is a love triangle, which I am usually not exactly fond of, I found that I didn’t mind this one. First of all, it’s neither the classic “two guys want the girl” or “two girls want the guy” kind of triangle, considering both Radu and Lada are involved. Second of all, the conflict is less between the two of them and more between each of them and their own feelings.
The only slight criticism I have is that it took me a while to get into it, though I’m not entirely sure if that was really because of the book or because I was having a minor reading slump. But overall I enjoyed this book very much, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. The plot and the characters were engaging and I am just so happy to read a book about characters with very different approaches to their political problems.
Rating: ★★★★1/2☆ (4 1/2 Stars)
Publication Date: 7 July 2016
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Page Count: 484
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.