Reviewed in India on 11 August 2018
There came a time, maybe halfway through the first chapter that I knew, with a deep satisfaction, that this book was going to be good. And it didn’t disappoint.
And I Darken is a retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler, except, Vlad is a girl called Lada. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Vlad the Impaler, he was a Prince of Wallachia (a small country situated in present-day Romania) during the height of the Ottoman Empire. There are varying accounts of his life, but the most common stated that he was a brutal and cruel man. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was based on Vlad. This book is NOT fantasy, like I had thought before. It’s all based on historical fact, though the author may have taken liberties with some minor points for the sake of the story itself.
Ladislav Dragwlya, or Lada for short, is the daughter of the Vadivov of Wallachia. From a very young age, she has been fierce, wild and utterly compelling. Since she was born a girl when her father wanted a boy, she strives to become someone her father will be proud of, to prove herself adept at anything. For Lada, her father’s approval is everything. Until he abandons Lada and her younger brother Radu at the Ottoman courts as political prisoners, for the Sultan to be able to keep Lada’s father in line.
Lada, Lada, Lada. What a perfectly stabby, ferocious and confident heroine! She is an antihero. Not a wishy-washy kind who isn’t really dark. A proper, full-blooded antihero. The kind who you root for, and who convince you that everything they do has a proper reason, the kind you can’t help but love to bits. I just love her so much! She will do anything to get herself what she wants, and she realises early enough that being a girl during those times was cruel and unfair, so she will have none of the prejudice. She is a Daughter of the Dragon. She wants her homeland back, and she will fight for it. Not once did she falter along her goal, or call the Ottoman Empire her home.
Radu, the second POV, on the other hand, is a sweet and soft boy. He has always been terrified of his father, and only wishes to be seen by Lada as she wants her father to see her. He blames Lada for everything that has happened to them, but he admires her. He slowly starts to accept his fate, and begins to live as one of them, converting to their religion, and choosing to call it home.
When they are left at the palace of the Sultan, Lada and Radu realise they have to fend for themselves, as there’s nobody else to take care of them. The son of the Sultan, Mehmed, becomes close friends with Lada and Radu, taking them away from the capital to grow up and study together, in a small town far from all the politics. But their relationship itself is riddled with love, lust, anger, and a mesh of complicated feelings that can’t be described. It’s a toxic relationship as instead of bringing them together, it drives them apart further and further. What starts out as a sweet, innocent friendship warps into something… different.
I’ve realised that I enjoy reading about political intrigue and scheming A LOT! Like seriously, first with State of Sorrow, and now And I Darken, the past two months have been a learning experience. The intricate plots and tangled webs of lies, secrets and power make my toes tingle as I tear through the pages, completely engrossed. The characters are fighting for power, be it in being the monarch or pulling all the strings behind the scenes… And will do almost anything to achieve their ends. The plot builds up slowly, letting you see the brutality of what’s happening, and see the way their young minds are shaped, until they’re just like anyone they are trying to fight against, or something even worse.
There’s nothing that is pure or genuine. Every word and action has something behind it, no person is without an ulterior motive. And it makes for the most enthralling read you will find.
I’ve already started Now I Rise, and I’m telling you, this story can only get better.