Friday, 16 September 2016

Review: And I Darken

And I Darken
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy! 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

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.

"Souls and thrones are irreconcilable" 

I've been so intrigued by this book because it's set in a period of time that I haven't come across in YA at all, and Lada, our main female Vlad the Impaler! Like the author says in her note at the end of the book, depending on what account you read...Vlad was either a complete psychopath or a hero. I've only ever read the accounts that make him sound like a bloodthirsty serial killer, although I did read an article that laid out the points for him being considered a hero and I was definitely intrigued. I read the authors note at the end of the book, but I'm tempted to tell you all to read it before you read the book, because White lays out what is and isn't fact. She presents two sides of two of the main characters, and White's giving us a middle ground between both sides. I found the authors note to be really interesting actually because as I was reading I was wondering if they'd all encountered each other in real life or if not and it answered that question! 

ANYWAY. And I Darken features Lada...and I LOVED her. She's an anti-princess, she's a badass, and she's totally in to feminism wanting to be given the same opportunities that all the men have. She's determined not to be married off and forgotten about and she doesn't fancy going to a nunnery, and who can blame her? She wants to help her country, she's loyal to it, and she wants to make it better. I loved her determination to learn how to fight, even sparring with the Janissaries. You can sympathise with Lada, she's a woman and all the men think she has no place being educated or can't be, I actually wanted to punch one of the characters in the face for a comment he made! Lada's 'job' is to be married off and she's fighting against that and I don't blame her at all, I was rooting for her and I actually cackled at one point! Lada is a character you can understand, she may be vicious but she's protective of her brother in her own way and you can sympathise with her so much. She's a strong female lead and I loved reading her narrative in the book, and following her journey. She's my complete fave okay. 

"On our wedding night, I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate.."

Not only do we get Lada's narrative, but we get her younger brother Radu's too, and he's my OTHER fave. Like Radu is my precious. In the beginning I didn't really like him, and I was wondering if I was going to have a problem with this book. He's completely opposite to Lada. He's kind of wimpy, which was a shock for me because I was expecting him at one point to be the sly manipulator part of the Radu/Lada team, but he was a total baby for the beginning of the book. He is what Lada isn't, he's beautiful and he's a man but he had none of Lada's fierceness and her desire to fight. He was determined, but in a different way. There was a point as I was reading, when I was seeing what Lada was going through, and I was sympathising with her and on her side, and Radu's reactions where winding me up. Like the whole marriage thing with Lada, how he reacted to that bugged me because it's like, it's alright for you, you're not going to be married off to some creepy guy. Sit down. BUT as the book went on, I got to know Radu more and more, and watched him change and develop as a character, he became less wimpy, used his intelligence more and became his own person. I felt for him and his position and what he was going through, and I was rooting for him. I was also kinda rooting for he and Lada to team up and become the best team EVER. But after some stuff, I knew it wasn't going to happen, and then the end of the book broke my heart. My poor precious! Radu broke my heart a lot actually! 

I have to talk about the third main character, we don't get his POV but we do see him a lot. Mehmed. Ah Mehmed. Mr, 'I love you Lada. So much. But lemme go chill with my concubines...OOPS one's bad. You know you wanna marry me'. Yeah. Sorry, I know it's a historical thing and it was common and Mehmed would have grown up with it and so on. But it still bugged me. Because of how he was with Lada, and how Lada felt about herself and how she thought he was the only person who would ever look at her like he does....and he's off getting jiggy with his harem. I can't even. So I KNOW it was a pretty normal thing back in the day, but it was so ANNOYING. It made me want to smack him one multiple times, especially when he got all jealous! He wasn't what I was expecting to be honest, I actually quite liked him until he started causing pain to my faves. He was trying his best to help his country, but no-one liked him much, bless him. I'm suspecting something about him, and if I'm write and he hurts my fave, I WILL END HIM. 

So. We've definitely got a brilliant cast of characters, and with these three, we get to watch them grow up. We see Radu and Lada from a young age, and we get both their POVs, from when they where children through to the present. I loved this decision by the author, instead of giving you the finished product, she's letting you see what made Radu and Lada in to the people they are. What shaped them. You watch how everything affects them and see how it changes them. I loved it, I really did! You get two different insights in to Mehmed, and you see him do a fair bit of changing too, not to the same extent as you see Radu and Lada, but you still see it. 

"Her spine was steel. Her heart was armour. Her eyes were fire" 

Aside from our main three, there's a tonne of great supporting characters! Nazira the one person who understands Radu, Mara who cracked me up, Bogdan Lada's childhood buddy, Nicolae and his brotherly relationship with Lada and everything he does for her, and Lada's company of men. I loved Lada's little squad, they where the only Janissaries who didn't have a problem being led by a woman, they where so loyal to her and fought for her, and I can't wait to see what they all do next with her. 

There's a surprise little romance in the book, as I'm sure you've guessed. It was secondary to all of the action and the political manoeuvring, but it was there. I wasn't really expecting it but I liked seeing another side to Lada through it, once she let herself roll with it, she was hilariously irritated by the whole thing in the beginning. My heart broke for her, and how she thinks Mehmed is the only chance at romance she'll have, and the end of the book will literally break you. For so many reasons. Mehmed kinda deserved it though but my poor Lada! I loved seeing Lada's perspective on the whole thing because she's not like a regular heroine and so her reactions where quite funny, the romance fit with Lada. 

There's an awesome amount of LGBT representation in this book which was a nice surprise, especially for the time period, and how it was handled was brilliant. I was expecting the worst for the time period, history isn't the kindest to the LGBT community but the author did such a brilliant job in keeping it to the front of the story, not shoving it in a dark corner of the plot and forgetting about it. One of the main characters is gay, there's a lesbian couple who get their happy ending and it was perf, and there may or may not be a bi character. It remains to be seen, but then maybe I was imagining it because of the character, we'll see! 

"The last time she was up here, she had been... staring up at the sky and dreaming of stars. Now, she looked down and plotted flames."
And I Darken is a brilliant read, it's bloodthirsty, atmospheric and has a rich and vivid world that you can get lost in. Castles, and mountains and battlefields rise up around you as you read. The atmosphere pulls you in to the moment with the tension, or suspense or danger being a tangible thing. The plot maintains a steady pace, and travels through passages of time smoothly, while keeping the narrative fresh by switching the POV at the perfect moments. There's a complex web of politics as well as a lot of tactics involved throughout the plot, and all of it is understandable without being over simplified, while pulling you in with the intrigue of it all. All the tactics kind of reminded me a bit of Arslan, not going to lie! There are plot twists all over the place, and you will get way too invested in this book! My heart broke for everyone at the end of the book, and I'm excited for the next book. I got shivers and goosebumps at the final sentence, I'm not going to lie! What I've been waiting to happen is finally upon us but it's like 'lol...until next time bitches'. This is definitely 'Best Books of 2016' material! 

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