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. (Goodreads)
*I received this ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
5/5 stars, not what I expected
And I Darken by Kiersten White was a surprising read about the inner-workings of war, court life, religion and rivalry. Though the book often read as a history text book—what is actual history and what is fiction was appropriately lost on my unlearned eyes—it still managed to hold my interest with the appropriate amount of fighting, flirting, and mystery. The two main characters, Lada and Radu, are siblings who fiercely love and loathe each other and, while not much happens in the form of plot, this was a great book that built characters—specifically the main characters—into fully-formed people.
The characters were very fleshed out and interesting. Each character came with their own bunch of insecurities, strengths, and secrets.
I also enjoyed how the story was constantly informing me of things while I read without boring me or making me feel as though they were being shoved in my face. Things happened naturally; no "tell, don't show" problems here.
The main characters showed a level of maturity that I couldn't relate to at the ages they were. I understand that they were facing vastly different situations than I ever did at those ages, but I felt they were too mature at times. Lada's knowledge of combat and war strategy certainly seemed to have spawned from nowhere, which was my other issue with the story...
Lada barely seemed to have weaknesses when it came to physical fighting. While it's not necessarily a bad thing that she always maintained an upper-hand, it just would have been nice to see her "earn" her badass reputation and personality in training or battle, or something. The most unbelievable thing about the book was that she was born as fierce as she seemed to be.
I really liked Lada because she's not what you'd expect when you hear she's a princess. All her edges are rough and prickly. She didn't let her guard down and she almost always assumed the worst in people. It was refreshing to read about someone like that. She always seemed to know what she wanted and figured out a way to get it.
Radu, particularly in his younger years/early chapters, really captured my heart. He was a sweet, compassionate, lonely boy who didn't understand himself, the world he was born into, or the feelings he had. I found him to be a point of sympathy while reading. While Lada was sharp, Radu was soft. They complimented each other nicely.
Another character I liked was Nicolae. He so easily fell in step with Lada and accepted her despite being a younger girl (though, some frustration towards him came from his unwavering decision to follow Lada anywhere despite her not "earning her badass reputation and personality," as I said before.)
Even though And I Darken is a story I can't easily explain, I would recommend it for the characters. I'm sure the second book in the series will be even more introspective and fun than the first, and I look forward to reading it.
And I Darken by Kiersten White will be published June 28, 2016.