And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteThe Conquerors Saga #1
Published on June 28, 2016 by Delacorte Press
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
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.
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I won’t bore you with a summary of this book because it’s quite simple: vengeful daughter seeks to destroy her enemies. Now while that alone could hold endless possibilities with plenty of action and intrigue, instead it was just plain boring. For nearly 95% of the book I questioned whether it was worth continuing or not.
This is my first encounter with White’s work so I cannot say whether this holds true with her other novels. And without the historical background I can’t say that any of the portrayals of setting and religion are accurate, but they were beautifully created nonetheless. For despite the overarching lack of action, the writing was indeed beautiful, crafted carefully with lines that alone stand powerful and striking but in context did little to garner my interest. White’s writing displayed the contrast that I felt throughout the story: between the two protagonist siblings, the warring decisions made by Lada, and even the lack of action when one would expect it. So while this writing style remained a strength, it also contended with the remainder of the book which became a struggle to read.
Lada and Radu are two siblings, children of the famed Vlad the Impaler. Where Lada is vicious and violent, striking out without thought, Radu is viewed as weaker and keeps to himself. For the first part of the book, they’re just verging on being teenagers though at times I wondered at their maturity as it seemed at a level much higher than their age. Especially when the timeline break returned them in their mid-teens, having gone through puberty and quite the change in personality.
I enjoyed Lada’s character for a time. She is headstrong and doesn’t care what others think, going about as she wants and ensuring she gets her way. That strong will worked, especially for the daughter of the Impaler. Yet Lada also hated women despite being one herself. For whatever reason she couldn’t find strength in anything but fighting despite several cases where other female characters showed remarkable power without ever touching a weapon. I’m not sure why this quirk of her personality irked me so much but it stuck well after reading.
Her brother, Radu, was much more bearable especially during the second part of the book when he was off on his own. He used other means beside fighting to get what he wanted, armed with a silver tongue and plenty of charm. He was soft where Lada was hard, a perfect contrast.
But for most of the book, I hated them.
I’d call it B.M. (before Mehmed) and A.M. (after Mehmed). The arrival of the foreign prince changed the flow of the story, away from what could’ve been an amazing adventure into a terrible romance complete with love triangle.
Mehmed acted as the force driving the siblings apart. Both fell in love with him, and both sought out that love in competition with each other. Ugh. Really?! If I wanted to read a romance, I would’ve picked up a romance. No, I wanted what was promised from the synopsis, the brutal princess, the daughter of Vlad Tepesh. That brutality and feral nature came through at the beginning but as soon as the Lovely McLove Interest entered the room Lada became a simpering little girl content to be nothing more than a glorified bodyguard lusting after her master.
Considering this covered most of the second half of the book, there was no escaping the angst and heart eyes flying about. It wasn’t even a well-written romance. Don’t take away the story’s potential and replace it with something so mediocre.
Clearly, it didn’t sit well with me.
There is a redeeming point in this book, however, and it’s with the very end (that last 5%). Suddenly the action picked up and all the set-up that took 400+ pages spiraled into a flash of twists and turns before ending on a cliffhanger. And I want to read the next book. Despite everything… I want the next book. With all the build-up and background this story put in place, I have faith book 2 will be more like the end of this one.
It’s hard to say if I would recommend this book because reading it was a huge struggle and involved stopping several times to pursue other titles, but at the end I wanted more. So to add yet another contrast to this story, should you read it? Perhaps wait until we see how the sequel turns out.