Series: The Conqueror's Trilogy #1
Published by Penguin Random House on June 28th 2016
Source: Author Review Copy
Genres: Historical, Young Adult, War & Military, Romance
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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.
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.
I’m finally glad to be getting this review out of the way. Not only have I been stuck at 78% of this book since getting an advanced copy months ago, but I can’t bring myself to finish it. The original luster of the plot that so attracted me in the beginning has really lost its shine, and I can’t seem to find it. While the blurb of And I Darken made me think of swords! Fighting! Guts being unleashed to feminine eyes! And other violent things that I think of when anything mentions Vlad the Impaler, the book stays more true to its course in history. At a point, too true… enough to make it boring.
‘So 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?’
I think the shining star in the book was definitely Lada. I craved all the scenes she was in, as she definitely doesn’t fit the mold of a normal heroine. She’s vicious and angry and violent and not afraid to get what she wants. On the other hand, her brother Radu provides a nice foil by being charming and cute and fragile – pretty much the opposite of Lada. At first I was like “Cool! A fun sister/brother relationship!” But it wasn’t that fun as it progressed. Lada cared for Radu and protected him, but also felt that he was her property. Uh, yeah, not how I would want someone to think of me as. And for a book that’s supposedly character-driven, Mehmed was a very vague and ambiguous character from where I left off. He was overall pretty mundane and was a dimming light next to the bright shine that Lada and Radu glowed with, in terms of character development. I guess overall I was a bit annoyed and uncomfortable with the characters’ behaviors. Yes, I know we’re looking at anti-heroines and all that, but I really, really really reallyreallyreally really could not connect to the characters. I would like to write it off as the fact that I’m not as cruel as Lada or as delicate as Radu, but usually I can still find something to relate to. While reading from their point of views (the book switches between these two characters’ perspectives), I felt nothing. Maybe a bit uncomfortable because of the sometimes sociopathic way those characters acted.
‘If anyone is going to kill you, it will be me. Understand?’
Radu nodded, snuggling into her shoulder. ‘Will you protect me?’
‘Until the day I kill you.’ She jabbed a finger into his side, where he was most ticklish, and he squealed with pained laughter.’
And what really left me behind to not finish the book was just the plot being weighed down by history. SO. MUCH. HISTORY. Before this book, I seriously thought I was a fan of historical fiction. And I am! But the plot and action and momentum of the story is constantly bogged down by mentions of politics and who’s fighting whom. I think there’s a way to have a good balance of action and politics, but in this book politics takes center stage. Like I said before, I was expecting a lot of action and stabbing. And yet I am met with the occasional rage-tantrum from Lada and lots of talking. It was boring. It was mindless. Overall I felt as if it was unnecessary and although I do praise White for the amount of research she put into this and the way she incorporated all of it in the story, I was very bored as a reader. And in the end, that’s what affects how invested I am in the story.
I didn’t DNF this book because it was bad – not at all! The amount of research and time the author put into this book is commendable indeed. But as a reader who favors fighting and was led to the book because of the expectation of more action, I was sorely disappointed and wasn’t invested enough to stay for the history tidbits. I am a lover of history, but not the parts when we go on and on about political factions and stratagem. It made me weary and exhausted to keep reading. At first I was enamored of Lada’s character and her vicious attitude, but as the book progressed I became less so. Her actions were just loopy and I felt bad for her brother Ladu. Mehmed, the person who completed their love triangle, kind of reminded me of a cardboard box. The copious details and descriptions that weighed down the plot ultimately prevented me from finishing the book, no matter how interesting the time period or character that Lada was based on. Save it for someone else who has the patience.
Thank you Penguin Random House for the review copy in exchange for an honest review!