And I Darken (2016, Delacorte/Random House, Young Adult Historical Fiction)
From the publisher:
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.
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.
In And I Darken, Kiersten White weaves a dark and detailed tale of a reimagined history featuring Lada, a female Vlad the Impaler. The detail the author put into the writing is incredible and lends great authenticity to the text, but it does slow things down quite a bit too. Shelved with teen fantasy at the bookstore, some readers will be disappointed that this is not a fantasy. This is firmly in the realm of historical fiction and features no fantastical elements.
Lada is imposing and often vicious and makes for an interesting main character. The character dynamics are complex and well done, though adult readers may find there is a surprising and sometimes overwhelming amount of teenage angst. Lada feels out of character at times as she nearly fawns over her love interest.
Overall, this is an enjoyable read and interesting new take on a historical figure. The subject matter was clearly thoroughly researched and the writing style will appeal to many. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this while some may find the pace a bit slow and the amount of names and locations confusing.
Best for ages 14 and up do to violence and adult themes.
The sequel to And I Darken comes out this summer. Check out And I Rise when it hits shelves!