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!
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This review is so well written Aila! It definitely sounds like all the political and historical facts bogged the book down, which is a shame because I love the premise and the sound of the characters. Thanks for sharing lovely!
thanks Jeann! And yeah it's really disappointing because I was so ready for stabbing and action when I started the book. It seems like most people either really enjoyed it or really disliked it, haha!
Yikes. I've heard heaps of people raving about this but I've always been a bit hesitant. It sounds incredibly slow-paced and even though I enjoy historical fiction, I don't think this is for me, with or without action. Great review, Aila! I'm glad you gave up on it rather than persisting.
Yup Jenna, good idea to skip this one. I'm really glad I didn't finish this either. Ain't nobody got time for this kinda book! I adore historical fiction usually but this was just too much, too dense, and too slow. Save it for someone else who's more interested in who wants to kill whom.
Aww that's too bad! It's frustrating when a book puts you to sleep instead of engaging you like it should! (I also heard the romance was bad!). Better luck on your next read! Thanks for the review, Aila!
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OMG CYN LEMME TELL YOU ABOUT THE ROMANCE?? Like I'm all for that LGBTQ stuff (Go Radu! His character is so precious. Unfortunately passive yet still so precious) but Mehmed was such a dick character. I honestly can't believe both siblings were interested in him at some point, especially as he was making good use of his concubines throughout the book (and even had children with them, too!) I know it accurately reflects the society and culture of the time, but still – I'm just not into that stuff.
Thanks for sharing your review of this book. I haven't read it yet but I had heard of it before stumbling across your blog. I love the way you were honest about why the book didn't work for you and I'm still inclined to want to read it.
Thanks Kizzi! And yeah, you should definitely try it out if you think it would be interesting. I know many people who still enjoyed it and had no problems, despite the numerous ones I had. 😛
I'm about 70%ish through this book right now. I practically inhaled the first chunk, but I'm starting to hit a point of being like "Oh dear GOD I just want something to HAPPEN." It's a good story, and I'm actually enjoying all of the history stuff. And I really love switching between Lada's and Radu's POVs. But yeah, I agree that the description is somewhat misleading.
THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS THINKING. That's why I couldn't go on! I sped through the first half and still nothing was happening and I really didnt have the stomach to go on. :\ But I hope you did though!
This would hurt if I wasn't already dead inside. I love this book so much. Sigh. lol
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Aw I'm sorry haha! To each their own 😉 I'm glad you got to enjoy it more than me.
Hahahha Aila no worries! This is what I was having problems with too! I definitely was expecting more action and more violence (Lol) but ended up getting a bunch of politics. Which is…okay. It was just really slow and dense. I really only stayed for Lada, I'm not sure if I'll continue on though…
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Yeah Valeria, this is one series I'm definitely not continuing with. 😛 Not the romance, plot, nor characters. Sure, Lada is pretty cool but the pace is just not for me. Haha I'm half glad you had the same problems because YAY I'M NOT ALONE but half sad because BOO the book didn't work out for us. :')
YES. Thank goodness I'm not the only one who felt this way. I loved how vicious Lada's character was, but the pacing was just so slow and it didn't seem like anything really happened. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3 Sorry this was such a disappointment for you too. 🙁
Omggg Zoe we have the same minds! I know a lot of other people who share our thoughts as well. It's kind of sad because I was really excited to start it and quite disappointed to see how it was actually executed.
this one is getting a lot of mixed and interesting reviews. My blog partner disliked it for its religious slant, she even got under attack because of her opinion on the matter. Some loved it and you DNF'd it. Such interesting feedback overall!
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Definitely Braine! And OMG, I'm so sorry for that attack on your coblogger! I feel like she can dislike it for its religious slant if she wants, and other readers can just leave it at that. It didn't bother me too much though.
Sorry this didn't work for you. I love the idea of a true anti-heroine but I think you're right, there's got to be a delicate balance between the "historical" aspects of the story and a compelling plot. It's a shame that this didn't come down on the right side of that balance for you
Yes Andria, that's basically my problem with this one. While I am all about historical fiction, there is a way to keep the plot rolling that I believe this book didn't enforce. Instead, it felt stilted and discombobulated – never a good combination for readers like me who enjoy smooth, fast-paced plots.
I've read mixed reviews for this one. But I'm interested try it 🙂 I like history and I don't really mind that the book is overflowing with them and the politics! I actually like that. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you though.
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It's cool – I really hope you enjoy it more than I did! If you like huge amounts of history and politics, then this should definitely be on your radar. 😀
Ooooh too bad it didn't work out for you. I napped to though, more than three times, I think, and that's because the plot is super slow! I'm impatient and I love fast paced books so it was hard for me to connect with it. I also couldn't relate to the characters, they're extreme and I was angry at Lada for whining so much because she was a girl instead of a boy! But, I do think they're really interesting and I was curious of what they would do. I also admire the diversity element portrayed in this book, from Islamic culture, LGBT, to diverse setting, I think Kiersten White did a fabulous job 😀 Great review!
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I agree that the diversity was great! I hope to read more books with Islamic culture in the future (I've only read a couple here and there), and the LBTQ was an interesting add to the storyline. (Too bad Mehmed was such a tool.) While I appreciate these things, the simple fact that the plot didn't lure me in just made me not finish it. There's only so much I can handle… while other books out there I just waiting to be read. 😛
Oh, that's unfortunate. I know how so much history could bog down a story. I can appreciate the research the author has done for the novel but I suppose it requires quite a bit of investment from the readers.
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Definitely. I really like how far White went to write these things down on her book and add it in, but it was just too much for me in a fictional story where I expected more action.
Thanks for pointing out why you didn't like this. I love history as well, but from the other reviews I've read, I was thinking that this would be action with lots of blood and death. I can deal with all the things you didn't have patience for, but it's good to know that it's not what I thought. I'll go into it knowing that the historical takes over the plot. Great review!
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That's what I thought when I was going into this book as well! The blurb highly advertised how Lada was the female Vlad the Impaler, and so I was like "YASS ACTION AND FIGHTING!" Unfortunately, that was not the case with the first 3 quarters that I've read.
Sounds like this was either a love it or hate it book, but there are more hates from people I trust. I usually like anti heroes as long as they don't do too horrible of things, but the history lesson and general boringness of this one doesn't sound good. Good job making it to 78℅!
Oh ahah, I definitely agree with you on the ratings! It sure is on either side, and I'm a bit sad that I was on the side that leaned towards apathy. It was just weighed down but too much unnecessary and boring information.
Sorry this didn't work for you!! The details and what not that weighed down the plot would probably give me issues too. I do like the sound of Lada being a different kind of heroine. Great review!
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Thank you! yeah, I know it bored most people to tears. Fortunately, many other people seem to have liked it so that's a plus!