The Conquerors Saga #1
by Kiersten White
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press (June 28, 2016)
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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.AND I DARKEN is an alternate history, where Vlad (the Impaler) Dracula, is not a boy, but a girl, named Lada (P.S. There are no vampires in this book). From page one, Kiersten White had me absolutely hooked on this story. Lada is cruel, intelligent, and practically feral, but I totally loved her.
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, 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.
White follows the outline of history, but fills in the details with such an incredibly imaginative story. Lada and her brother Radu are taken by the Ottomans as prisoners, though they live a life of luxury and go mostly unchecked. There they mature and grow in completely different directions, Lada hating the Ottomans, and Radu finding himself drawn to their way of life. But they both find themselves falling for Mehmed, the son of the Sultan. The effect this has on their strange relationship is quite intense and intriguing. I love the way the story is told from both of their viewpoints so that you can really understand what's going on in their heads.
The romance is a slow-burn and filled with some serious issues, but it doesn't take center stage. This book is full of strategy and politics, family and relationships, and a decent amount of violence. The writing is phenomenal and I personally think it's the best book White has ever written. If you like history with a twist, political intrigue and a main character who's as likely to stab you as to kiss you, then I think you'll love AND I DARKEN. I know I did, and I can't wait to see how the next bit of history is twisted into story.