Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Conquerer's Saga #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: ARC from the Author for ARCs4ART
Pages: 496

Summary (from Goodreads):


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.

After being used as collateral in a treaty with the Ottoman Empire, Lada and Radu are left in Edirne with the sultan by their father. Should their father ever break the treaty, they will both be as good as dead. They try to fly under the radar of the sultan until they meet Mehmed, the sultan's son, and become fast friends. Mehmed takes them under his wing and taking them to his country home with him to keep them out of the sultan's way.

They each make a different life for themselves in the Ottoman Empire and at the same time, help Mehmed in different ways, becoming irreplaceable to him.

There are three main characters in this book. Their story is told in alternating POV between Lada and her brother Radu. The other main character is Mehmed, the sultan's son, and their mutual love interest.

Lada is an incredibly interesting character. She's definitely fierce. She learns to fight and can beat any man out there easily. She's constantly angry and full of rage. She's kind of mean and nasty. She's cruel. There is literally nothing feminine about her and she likes it that way, hating that being a woman makes her less. She would probably make an awesome villain, but despite her hard exterior, she uses her powers for good. She dedicates herself to protecting Mehmed when he becomes the sultan.

All of this kind of got really old, really fast. She needed another side to her, a gentle side, to kind of round her out a little bit. A little bit of caring/gentleness comes out in her when she is dealing with her brother, but that is also kind of a rare occurrence. I don't really know that I liked Lada that much just because her constant state of fury got annoying. I also found it annoying that she was basically above all the rules. She did some stupid stuff and never faced consequences.

I thought she acted really entitled too. And it bugged me that she acted like she owned people. And they all just TOOK IT!

Radu, Lada's brother who is a year younger than her, is her exact opposite. He is kind, gentle, quiet, kind of invisible. As a child he is kind of an enormous crybaby and it seems like he's constantly crying about something. Can't actually say that I blame him for a lot of it, but still.

As he grows up, he definitely goes through some growth. He goes from being a boy to a man and he toughens up a little bit, isn't always crying about something. He makes friends and he finds something to believe in to keep him going since he doesn't have his sister's rage to push him through.

Radu was easily my favorite character.

Mehmed. I don't really know what I thought about him. He is a big part of Lada and Radu's lives. They're best friends, but he doesn't seem to be present a lot of the time. I thought he mostly seemed concerned with himself. Lada and Radu are there mostly to help him or keep him company or fix his problems. He doesn't seem to equally be there for them. Like, I can see why, but at the same time, some best friend you are.

I'm not 100% sure what I think of the romance in this book. There's a lot going on in the romance department. Mehmed, being the sultan, has his harem. He's got a wife and his concubines for conceiving heirs. But he also has a side fling with Lada. I just don't really see any chemistry between them. If I was going to pair Lada with someone it would definitely be Nicolae. I think they have an awesome relationship and it would make me happy if it became romantic.

At the same time, Radu also has feelings for Mehmed. I don't know if it's unrequited or not because they have such a close relationship, Radu is Mehmed's most trusted friend. Sometimes their interactions came off as more than just friendly to me. I think they have more chemistry than Mehmed and Lada.

This book is pitched as being basically a YA Game of Thrones. I can see some similarities between this and Game of Thrones. Mostly in the fact that the characters always seem to be plotting or scheming something dastardly. But that's about as far as I'm willing to take the comparison because I think that Game of Thrones is infinitely more exciting.

This book is INCREDIBLY slow. I don't even know how long it took before it felt like something finally happened in this book, but it was quite awhile. And nothing that happened felt super exciting. I feel like all the interesting bits, like action and romance, were kind of fade out scenes. They were quick and lacking in detail that could have made this book a lot more exciting. Or when the interesting scenes were happening with one character, the POV was from the other.

This book is really driven by politics and religion seems to play a decently big part in this. Radu's switch from Christianity to Islam is something that drives a stake between him and his sister and one of the many, many things that fills her with red hot rage.

There were a few scenes in this book that I thought were kind of pointless. It would be the exact same book without them.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. Despite the story being almost painfully slow and not loving the characters, I am 100% interested in seeing what happens from here! If you don't mind a slow plot driven by politics and religion with a very different main character driven mostly by her rage, you might like this book.

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