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And I Darken Hardcover – June 28, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—The first in a trilogy from best-selling author White, this historical adventure set in the mid-15th century tells the story of Lada and Radu, the children of Vlad Dracul, prince of Wallachia (modern-day Romania). Shouldered with the inescapable curse of being female and the unrelenting burden of her beautiful, sensitive, and physically inept brother, Radu, Lada is perpetually spoiling for a fight. When her father tries to secure his throne by giving the children as hostages to the Ottoman Empire, Lada and Radu must find a way to survive and thrive in a world where no one cares if they live or die. They befriend the young Ottoman heir Mehmet, and the three form a bond of friendship that saves their lives and ultimately shapes their adult destinies. Full of sword fights, assassination plots, and palace intrigues, this novel is ambitious in scope and concept and reveals a fascinating, important, and somewhat obscure slice of history. Compared to White's painstaking development of her characters and the fantastic world they inhabit early in the novel, the ending sequence that sets up the next book in the series seems rather abrupt and haphazard. However, as a whole, the novel is breathtakingly good. The brutality and carnality of this time and place in history are faithfully rendered here, making the volume more appropriate for older teen readers. VERDICT Highly recommended for all high school collections.—Kelly Kingrey-Edwards, Blinn Junior College, Brenham, TXYA Graphic Novels
“A dark jewel of a story, one that gleams with fierce, cunning characters—absolutely riveting.” —Alexandra Bracken, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Passenger
“Kiersten White at her absolute best. The epic story will thrill you, the Transylvanian setting will transport you, and the characters (especially the fierce, take-no-prisoners Lada) will capture your heart. Don’t miss it.” —Cynthia Hand, New York Times bestselling author of the Unearthly series
“Sweeping and epic, AND I DARKEN is a gender-bent take on history that gives us a fierce and brutal heroine, a fascinating time period, and a beautifully intelligent look at love, family, and power. I loved every twisty, bloody moment of it!” —Rachel Hawkins, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
“As richly complex and glittering as the Ottoman Empire itself, AND I DARKEN is daring in its scope and brilliantly executed. The fiercely dark Lada is a razor-edged sword tempered in the blood of family betrayals and the fire of her own passions. I was instantly and utterly smitten. She haunted me long after I turned the final page and left me craving more.” —Robin LaFevers, New York Times bestselling author of the His Fair Assassin series
“A jewel of a book—a jewel embedded in the hilt of a blood-soaked sword. A brilliantly envisioned alternate history that is meticulously detailed but compulsively readable, this is a story I could not put down. I demand the sequel like Lada demands Wallachia!” —Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series
"An intense, risky, passionate novel that dragged me through love and danger with the force of its heroine’s heart and the power of its hero’s faith.” —Tessa Gratton, author of the Gods of New Asgard series
“Girls with teeth and priorities. I want to read this book forever.” —E. K. Johnston, author of A Thousand Nights
★ "Full of sword fights, assassination plots, and palace intrigues, this novel is ambitious in scope and concept and reveals a fascinating, important, and somewhat obscure slice of history…the novel is breathtakingly good.” —School Library Journal starred review
★ "White deftly weaves historical fact into this complex concoction of love, war, politics, homosexuality, religion, loyalty, and friendship." —Booklist starred review
"White excels at presenting an anti-hero who contrasts conventional female heroines. Readers expecting a typical love triangle tale will be surprised, for Lada’s characterization is executed in a far-from-stereotypical manner as White challenges femininity and explores the types of power women can wield. White also succeeds in crafting an accessible setting that brings complex historical figures to life."--VOYA
Praise for Kiersten White’s novels:
“A fast, flirty roller coaster of a ride. I’m in love!” —Becca Fitzpatrick, New York Times bestselling author of Hush, Hush
“The perfect blend of light and dark. I can’t wait for more!” —Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of Daughter of Deep Silence
★ “A tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred
★ “Brilliant.” —The Bulletin, Starred
“An exciting gem.” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black
“Sharp, heart-wrenching, and fabulously fun.”— Laini Taylor, bestselling author of the National Book Award Finalist Lips Touch: Three Times and Daughter of Smoke and Bone
The Chaos of Stars:
“Eloquent in its mixing of Egyptology with the experience of being a teenager . . . the character development, action-packed climax, intriguing family dynamics, and heartfelt romance will draw in fans.” —VOYA
Illusions of Fate:
“An absolute delight—a magical, sparkling, dangerous world with witty repartee and a romance that will light your heart on fire. Kiersten White’s best yet.” —Stephanie Perkins, internationally bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss
“This well-written historical fantasy has romance, suspense, a fairy-tale feel, and a great ending that will leave readers cheering.” —SLJ
“Deliciously original in its intriguing plot and irresistible characters. ILLUSIONS OF FATE may be filled with spells, but it’s Kiersten White who is truly magic.” —Andrea Cremer, New York Times bestselling author of the Nightshade series
In the Shadows:
★ “An enthralling, page-turning gothic mystery infused with hair-raising horror.”—Booklist, Starred
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Lada and her younger brother, Radu, form a fascinating gender-reversal pair. Lada has all the characteristics that would be admired in a man: physical strength and skill, fascination with military matters, leadership ability, and a singlemindedness that shades into ruthlessness. Radu, conversely, is physically weak but very attractive in an effeminate sort of way, peace-loving, and adept at skills that have often helped traditional women: getting people to like and trust him, and using the fact that people pay him no attention to allow himself to eavesdrop on key conversations.
Lada and Radu grow up, not in Wallachia, but in the Ottoman Sultan’s court, where their father is forced to leave them there as hostages for his continued loyalty to the empire. There they meet Mehmed, the youngest and least favored of Sultan Murad’s sons, and the three become close—very close—friends. The story centers on the conflicting tides of emotion that surge among the three as they go through adolescence together, complicated by the equally complex political machinations in which Mehmed, and to a lesser extent Lada and Radu as well, becomes increasingly embedded.
The book is a fascinating three-way character study—and a study of the different forms love can take and the damage that can occur when those loves conflict with one another. I greatly look forward to reading the sequel.
Now, let me preface this review by saying And I Darken is a long book (nearly 500 pages) and it starts off slowly. It’s also not a plot-driven story, but a character-driven story. The first 60 or so pages are just of Lada and Radu growing up in Wallachia. By page 69, they have arrived at Edirne in the Ottoman Empire, where they are pawns in their father’s trade for protection of his throne in Wallachia. If their father is to break the treaty, Lada and Radu will be killed. I mean, how awful would you feel if your father cared so little about you but realized you were valuable only by securing his throne?
In Edirne, Lada and Radu meet Mehmed, the third and least favorite son of the Sultan to the Ottoman Empire. They become friends as they grow up in the Ottoman Empire together. Lada is forever longing to go back home to Wallachia. Radu loves Islam and the Ottoman Empire and believes he is home. And as they grow, feelings also began to develop. Radu and Lada both fall for Mehmed.
Yes, this means Radu is gay or potentially bisexual as his sexual identity is never mentioned on the page. He only seems to have feelings for Mehmed though.
Siblings falling for the same person is like my favorite trope, guise.
However, Mehmed doesn’t share the same feelings toward Radu – at least not in And I Darken. Mehmed instead has feelings toward Lada and an intense relationship blooms between them. I loved their passionate scenes.
The characters in And I Darken come to life on the page; Lada becomes friends with Nicolae, a Janissary who is “a member of an elite force of military professionals, taken as boys from other countries, converted to Islam, educated, and trained to be loyal to the sultan.” (White, 480-481.) Radu becomes friend with Lazar, another Janissary, but Radu met Lazar in his father’s palace in Wallachia. Nicolae is also from Wallachia. The tight friendships make this story come to life because, again, it’s character-driven, not plot-driven. I’ve seen some reviews of people saying there’s too many characters, and that may be the case for them, but it wasn’t for me. There is a whole cast of characters, but I found it easy to keep them apart in my head because each character had an influence on Lada and Radu’s story. They weren’t throwaway characters. The characters all have a role, especially those in the Ottoman Empire, including the concubines in the Sultan’s harem. There is also a glossary of characters at the end on page 476.
And I Darken is told between Lada and Radu. I think this helps with appealing to a bigger audience because Lada is extremely violent and selfish. She could be seen as an unlikable narrator. Radu is sweet and innocent, and his chapters brought light to what could have been an extremely dark book. It’s still a dark book – the title says it all.
It’s also good to note that because of the period (1450s ish) and because of the extreme violence, this book isn’t for everybody. There is physical violence (and right away – Lada bites a cousin because he and his brother are beating up Radu) and sexual abuse including: grabbing a breast and a near rape scene.
I would recommend And I Darken to readers of White’s previous books (especially those who loved Mind Games), fans of dark, gritty, and complex stories, and fans of historical fiction a la His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers. I am extremely happy that And I Darken is the first book of a trilogy, and I am eager for the sequels.
I started reading this book and put it down for something else, then picked it back up and remembered why I put it down in the first place. I found the two main characters Lada and her brother Radu - totally unlikable. Lada is a volatile, violent, miserable character and her brother is no braver than a dish towel. They are brought to a foreign land by their father due to some usurper ordeal at their home land. The two meet Mehmed who is a future sultan and their story goes on from there. Mehmed has eyes for Lada, Radu has eyes for Mehmed. So not my cup of tea & not interested in reading book 2.
In this truly wonderful novel, Kiersten White poses the question: What if Vlad the Impaler were a woman?
Then she takes us through the childhood and into the adulthood of her version of Vlad - a fierce, angry, patriotic girl named Lada out to get power no matter the cost - and her brother Radu, a sweet boy with a secret that shapes every part of his life.
It's historical fiction, but the book reads like a fantasy novel. I couldn't put it down. Highly, highly recommended.