And boy, am I glad that I didn't miss out on this book. Once in a blue moon, a book actually lives up to its hype. I guess it's a blue moon, because And I Darken absolutely lived up to, if not surpassed its hype.
While the beginning of the book started out a bit slow and weird (there's no way someone could remember things & events down to the exact word at the age of three), soon enough the book just took off and I was completely enthralled in the plot and its characters.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, (or are just aware of the main going ons in the book community) And I Darken is a historical fiction novel following Vlad the Impaler... If he had been a girl. Yeah, sounds kind of stupid, I'll admit. That was one of the reasons I was reluctant to pick up this novel, along with the fact that it was super hyped up and I am almost always disappointed by overhyped first books in a series.
Interesting fact about me: I absolutely love history. I find it fascinating, and like its own book with characters and storylines. Therefore, I do quite enjoy the historical fiction genre (A particularly good one aside from this that I read recently is Here Be Dragons). While I know a lot of historical figures and facts, Vlad the Impaler is one of the (many) holes in my historical knowledge. I'd heard his name before going into the book, but other than knowing he was associated with the Ottoman Empire, I knew absolutely nothing about him, or why he's famous. Well, I could guess he was violent from his name, but other than that I had no idea. I still don't, though, I plan on doing a little bit of research on him while I wait for the next book to be released.
From what I've seen, most people who read this book were pretty unfamiliar with Vlad as well. Therefore for all of you who love Vlad's story or already know it, I'm not exactly sure how you'll react or like this book. I don't know how accurate it is to Vlad's life. Of course, it can't be that accurate, because the author changed Vlad's gender, and as I'm sure most of us know, women had a very different position in society than men in that time.
A spectacular element in this book is the imagery. You can really see the Ottoman Empire's buildings and lands in your mind's eye while reading the descriptive writing. It doesn't take you out of the reading, but flows perfectly well with the story, and, if anything, pulls you deeper into this brutal world.
Not only is the imagery great, a lot of it gives off information about the Ottoman Empire. So while you're enjoying this book, you're also unconsciously learning new little historical facts. I'm not talking about the events, but about the places and the way the people lived.
Most people (including me) expected a lot of darkness and violence in this book. Not so much, well, it might be for some people, but as for me, an avid Game of Thrones fan, this book barely had any violence at all. I'm assuming that part comes later, because And I Darken is the first book in a trilogy, and is basically the origin story of Lada (Vlad the female).
Lada, the main character, is a fantastic protagonist. She's no sappy push over for love, or damsel in distress. Lada is a force of her own, constantly battling against the expectations of her as a women and pushing to do what she wants. One of my favorite things about Lada had to be her constant drive to get things she wanted done. Lada is willing to make hard sacrifices for the benefit of herself or someone else, a characteristic that makes her even more likable. She is physically a very strong protagonist, able to stand up to most people in her time with her fierce nature and even fiercer fighting style. Though, to balance that out, her character can also be very naive and is unable to actually get anything done through people, because she's not able to make herself very likable to anyone. Making it extremely hard for her to get out of tough situations that can't be fixed with a dagger or sword. This quality made her both more endearing and annoying at times.
The other protagonist whose perspective we see from is Radu, Lada's little brother. At first, I was just as annoyed by him as Lada. A protagonist who cries all the time is not exactly the most endearing for me. But, like Lada, I started to warm up to Radu and eventually loved him. I especially loved how his and Lada's relationship grew and evolved. I liked watching them get closer. Radu is Lada's foil, as in he's her exact opposite. Radu is beautiful, and learns to become an expert manipulator. But he's peaceful, violence is not in his nature. It's something that Lada cannot totally bring herself to understand.
Radu also had to be the character that irritated me the most in this book. I still love him greatly, but some choices he made and overall thoughts and emotions he felt just irritated me. For those of you who have read the book, you'll probably know exactly what I mean. Though, he did redeem himself in my eyes near the end.
The third "main" character is Mehmed. He is not given a perspective in the book, but he's around an awful lot. I am conflicted about how I feel about Mehmed. He's fun when he's a boy, cute and jesting. But when he gets older almost everything Mehmed does annoys me. First off, he holds a double standard for women. While it's a normal thing for the time, it doesn't mean it doesn't annoy me greatly for one of the main characters to feel that way. He also just does things that he claims is "his duty." And while that is also normal for the time, I just can't get myself past it. Therefore, I can't say I really liked Mehmed that much by the end of the book. He seems to act selfishly often, which aggravated me greatly-- especially when he got jealous.
My favorite character of the books (aside from maybe Lada) had to be Nicolae. He's hilarious, often being light-hearted to try and make dark situations better. Just thinking about him makes me smile.
Other than the weird beginning, my other (slight) issue with the book was that it could feel kind of jumpy at times. Like sometimes I just felt like a smoother transition was needed, or some extra details were necessary. For example, at one point in the book a fake letter is received and you never actually find out if the receivers told the "sender" about it. That was just a little bit of information I would like to know.
Each character has a bit of a different motivation. They might be similar, but there's always something that's different. And I loved how cruel they could get to achieve their goals. You get to watch these characters grow up, and learn to use their skills to their advantage. For Lada, that's her brutality, and for Radu it's his smiles and looks. I really hope that in future books we get to see Lada and Radu working together more, for combined? These two would be almost unstoppable. (though, in real life Radu and Vlad didn't really get along well) Their main issue separating the two of them (aside from *cough* people) is their inability to understand how the other shows their love. They're so different that each shows it in a different way, which leads to a lot of separation between the two. :(
I'm giving And I Darken 8/10 stars. I really enjoyed it, and highly recommend the book to all you historical fiction//fantasy lovers out there. It's been a while since I read a book like this, and I look forward to reading the next books in the series.
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.
Thanks for reading :)