Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga (Book 1)
Genre: Young adult; historical
“The question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”
Lada and her brother Radu are the neglected children of the incompetent ruler of Wallachia. At a young age, they are sold to the sultan as guarantors of their father’s loyalty. While Lada rages against their fate, fighting the destiny alloted to her with every breath, Radu finds himself drawn to the beauty and mystery of the Ottoman court. He learns to walk among the court, befriending those Lada would happily kill and securing his place. A chance encounter with Mehmed, the sultan’s son, changes the directions of both Lada and Radu’s lives.
Lada. She was vicious and vengeful and unashamedly brilliant. She never backed down, never faltered, never questioned her purpose. Until she did. And those scenes were all the more poignant and touching because we were given another side to her, a hidden depth, which served to reinforce her motives and her character rather than undermining them.
The worldbuilding. White’s Ottoman Empire was a rich tapestry of cultures, motives, politics and personal journeys. It shifts the focus of the traditional tales of Vlad Dracul from Transylvania to the centre of the Ottoman Empire, setting the tale within a context which is so often ignored in the western tellings.
The relationships. Lada, Radu and Mehmed form a tight-knit trilogy – unbreakable. I loved how White explored these relationships and how they developed as the trio’s characters developed. The romance aspect was also sweet and heartbreaking. Yes, it’s a love triangle but no, it’s not cliché.
Pacing. While the story was paced well, not a whole lot happened. Much of it, I feel, could have been skipped over. It seems that as this is the first in the series, the author felt they had room to explore the characters in a lot more depth that if it had been a stand alone. Hopefully, this means that the following books in the series will be more plot driven.
Lada. Dear Lada suffers from a serious case of not-like-other-girls syndrome. Which, given the way she sees society treat women on a daily basis, is understandable. It is critiqued, and Lada begins to understand that there are as many ways of being a woman as there are grains of sand on a beach. But it’s something to be aware of.
I really enjoyed And I Darken. It’s nice to see historical fiction aimed for the YA audience. White handles religion and homosexuality with care and respect. However, the book does deal with some pretty brutal stuff so I wouldn’t recommend it to the younger YA bracket.
Would I read the sequel? Maybe, although the story wraps up nicely here and I’ve got a bit of an aversion to series at the moment. I’ve lost count of the number of series where I’ve read one book and never even glanced at the rest.
Should you read it? Yes. I really struggled to come up with not-so-positives for this one, which is unusual for me. 😛