And I Darken
June 28, 2016
Review- 4.75/5 stars
I received an arc of this book at BookCon 2016.
And I Darken is the story of Lada, a female version of Vlad the Impaler. Lada is unwanted by her father, because she is a girl. She desperately wants him to accept her, until he abandons her in the Ottoman courts. There she must learn to be brutal, because that is the only way to survive.
Lada is a fierce female, but she is certainly not a fake anti hero. She doesn’t use words to express her brutality, because her action and comments show it. And strangely I sympathized with her. I wanted to see her succeed.
“She had a soul. At least she was fairly certain she did. But she had learned that first day with the head gardener to see people as the sultan did. They were objects” (p 77)
And I Darken also follows Radu. Radu is Lada’s little brother, and everything she is not. He is delicate, emotional, sweet, and sensitive. He is also unwanted by his father, and is cast aside for most of his life. Radu is abandoned to be raised in the Ottoman courts with Lada.
Radu was a wonderful character. I liked him better when he was younger, but he was still delightful to read about when he was older. It was nice to have his chapters, because they offered a whole different view of the conflict. Where Lada was determined to get her father’s approval, Radu tried to go unnoticed. While Lada resented the life in the Ottoman courts, Radu embraced it.
The relationship Radu and Lada was very strange. Lada tried to hate Radu, but she still protected him.
“He will be angry. And Mircea will kill me. I am scared to die”
“Everyone dies sometime. And I will not let Mircea kill you. If anyone is going to kill you, it will be me. Understand?”
Radu nodded, snuggling into her shoulder.”Will you protect me?”
“Until the day I kill you” (p. 59)
Radu on the other hand was constantly trying to earn Lada’s approval. He wanted her to be his friend. Radu would do anything for her appreciation.
“He hated Bogdan. If that stupid oaf were not here, it would be Radu going down the hill with Lada, Radu who shared her secrets”
While at the Ottoman court, Lada and Radu are introduced to a different culture. Lada is shoved into the world of wifehood and the harem, which she resents. She wants to train with the soldiers, the Janissaries. Lada quickly becomes an outsider in this new world. Radu on the other hand is thriving in the Ottoman courts. He quickly becomes fond of the religion and the customs. Eventually people begin to accept him.
The setting in this story is one of the most important aspects. It drove the book. Everything about Ottoman Empire was flushed out beautifully. The food, the Janissaries, the sultan, the palace, the religion, the harem, and the names were all explained. Not only did And I Darken have a beautiful world, it also had good world building.
After spending some time in the courts, Lada and Radu soon meet Mehmed. Mehmed is the unnoticed son of the sultan. Like Radu and Lada he is cast aside by his father. Radu and Lada quickly become his only friend
Mehmed was an interesting character. He was very complex, and he was likable. However, I definitely did not love him as much as I loved Radu and Lada.
The romance in And I Darken was well done, but could get a little angsty. Especially with Radu. One of the reasons I didn’t like his later chapters as much was because of the angst. Lada and Mehmed had a nice relationship however I was not a fan of Mehmed’s harem situation. He had two kids while he was “dating” Lada. I don’t think Lada should have tolerated that, especially after his lame excuses.
One of the major themes in this book is acceptance. All three of the main characters wanted to be appreciated by another character. Lada wanted her father’s and the Janissaries respect. Radu wanted Lada and Mehmed’s acceptance. Mehmed wanted his country and soldiers to respect him.
For the most part, And I Darken had good pacing. However, sometimes it could drag and be a little wordy. The entire book could have probably been shorter. This did not affect my enjoyment of the book though. I was never bored and always engaged.
Overall, I really enjoyed Kiersten White’s alternate historical fiction novel. The world was huge, the characters were developed, and the plot was intriguing. I definitely recommend it. If you have read And I Darken,I would love to know your thoughts!