And I Darken was a very viciously stabby book and for that? I AM A FAN.
Excuse me, I think my psycho is showing. Ahem. Let’s move forward to my thoughts, shall we? Because I have MANY THOUGHTS on this book. Unfortunately some of them clash — for instance: I loved the angry stabby characters but the plot felt as dry as burnt toast. See my problem here?
Basically, I am like so:
Me: This was deadly boring.
Brain: But the characters were precious violent cinnamon rolls.
Me: But I napped.
Brain: But gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler.
Me: OK SO TRUE. SO COOL.
(Myself and I have very stimulating conversations by the way.)
So despite my dubiousness, I am still SOLD into liking it.
“But what is the book actually about, Cait?” you ask, because it is an oddly unique tome. And LUCKY FOR YOU today I’m writing a list of things this book is about. So you can (A) know what to expect when you read it, and (B) know if it’s for you. It ain’t your average YA, so this list will help you know whether you should devour it at dawn.
- IT IS NOT FANTASY.
Whoever is bopping around the internet saying “Ooh epic fantasy!” is WRONG and needs to sit down. This is historical fiction. Granted it is gender-swapped, but I don’t call that fantasy! I call that a retelling. So it’s a sort of historical fiction retelling. But there is zero magic okay? OKAY. Just clearing this up.
- HELLO MONSTROUS AMOUNT OF POLITICS.
It almost reminded me of Game of Thrones in that respect. Because And I Darken it is 90% about who is at war with who and who wants to stab and impale who and it’s about alliances and broken alliances and who gets the throne and etc etc.
- HERE LET ME DROWN YOU IN ALL THE HISTORY OF EVER.
This is definitely not a negative if you like historical facts! Except (A) not all the facts are historical (the author mentions this in her note at the end) so I unfortunately cannot wax poetic about Vlad the Impaler to my family because I’m not sure what was real or not. And (B) there was too much. The sheer amount of history actually drowned the story occasionally. We were so busy being told all these DETAILS about all these PEOPLE who hated each other that sometimes I just wanted them to sit down so we could actually get back to the characters. Here, let me calmly summarise: EVERYONE DISTRUSTS EVERYONE AND THERE’S STABBING.
- WELCOME PRECIOUS MURDEROUS CHARACTERS.
Peoples, the dark and viciousness in this book is THE REAL DEAL. Often I read books where it crows “I am so dark and scary!” and the character, like, sneezes on a puppy and doesn’t apologise or whatever. So scary. Please no. YOU GET NONE OF THAT HERE. Lada is downright CRUEL. She stabs and bites and she’s 100% feral and wild and she’s basically amazing. I loved her. She is the most violent thing I’ve read in a long time. (Although, that saying, the book isn’t actually written very graphically.) Also Other Things To Know:
- It’s actually narrated 50% Lada and 50% Radu.
- Radu is the younger brother and basically my favourite thing ever. He’s the “weak” one. He spent his childhood being abused and neglected. And despite Lada tormenting him 89% of the time, they have this awesome SIBLING BOND WHICH I ADORED.
- They are the only ones they can depend on.
- Seriously, these killer pumpkins are my favourite.
- I cry over them.
- I would never ever ever ever ever like to meet them in real life.
- Just putting it out there.
- I LOVE THEM FROM A DISTANCE.
- ROMANCE? WE GOTCHA ROMANCE.
It is a love triangle. But I’m going to call it an Unrequited Oblivious Triangle Wherein No One Expresses Feelings And Everyone Is Somewhat Awful. <— Much more accurate and you’re welcome.
- See, there is this young Sultan named MEHMED who is actually a little beast but also very charming.
- He loves Lada.
- Lada takes a loooooooooooooooooong time to love him back.
- Radu? RADU IS SO FREAKING IN LOVE WITH MEHMED THAT RADU BASICALLY SENTENCES HIMSELF TO HIS ROOMS SO HE CAN NEVER SEE MEHMED AGAIN. #logic
- Mehmed has 0% of an idea that Radu loves him so much.
- Do you see what I mean??? It ain’t your average triangle. Particularly considering most of the parties don’t even realise the other parties have feelings.
- They are all for Oppressing Feelings.
- And honestly, everyone’s so stabby and Mehmed has a harem and Radu manipulates people and Lada scares the living liver out of me that I don’t even know who I ship.
- (Although Radu is only 16% stabby and too precious for this world and very clever and also a spy and will probably end up ruler of all, to be honest. #TeamRadu)
- IT’S 500 PAGES.
That, in itself, tells you a lot. AKA = it’s tooooo loooooooong. But there is, obviously, impaling. And my favourite scenes were the conversations between Mehmed and Lada and Radu. They were such an awesome and complex and dynamic trio. I will squish them. But I honestly wish the book had been half as long and involved MORE ACTION instead of all the monologues about politics. (Far too much telling vs showing.) Also I got completely befuddled by the dozens and dozens of minor characters. There’s a grand betrayal at the end, but I was sitting there like “Now how did what say now?” because remembering characters and names = HELP ME.
- IT’S VIOLENT AND DARK.
But I wouldn’t say overly graphic? There is death! But I felt like it mostly told the murder and mayhem instead of describing it in deep detail, which kept it well in the YA category. PEOPLE DO GET IMPALED THOUGH. Blood is shed and Lada is violently vicious. Just sayin’.
I have fond feelings for this vicious book.
It wasn’t an easy read. It was gritty and brutal and cruel and it was intense and actually kind of emotional?! I FREAKING LOVED THE CHARACTERS SO VERY MUCH. I will definitely read on with the series!! I NEED MORE RADU.
Definitely try this one if you like (A) gender-bent historical fiction retellings, (B) actually brutal characters, (C) impaling, (D) tragic precious darlings who turn out to be wickedly intelligent, and (E) detailed historical universes.
Although, confession, I’m horribly disappointed it’s not Vladette the Impaler. I mean, MISSED OPPORTUNITY THERE. Apparently Ladislav is the female version of Vlad. Which is probably more logical than Vladette, but, ya know. #disappointed
THANK YOU TO PENGUIN RANDOM AUSTRALIA FOR THE REVIEW-COPY! And I Darken by Kiersten White was published June, 2016.
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.
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