And I Darken- Book Review
Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Going into this book, I had no idea what it was about. I definitely thought it was fantasy- the cover and title really pushed that, as did the fact that Goodreads has it listed under Fantasy. IT’S NOT FANTASY. It’s historical fiction. Mostly. I think people are getting confused because it doesn’t read like historical fiction- It’s a retelling of Vlad the Impaler’s history, which is what Dracula (very fiction) is based off of. This book is so good, that as soon as I finished, I messaged all of my friends and told them to read it so I could talk to someone about it.
The concept of this book is basically this: What if Vlad the Impaler was a girl? It is brilliant. I knew a bit about Vlad the Impaler through the Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast, and found the story to be generally accurate (besides the obvious gender swap).
I’m not going to lie- some of this story was pretty slow. There were some points where I was just waiting for something to happen. It was very plot driven, but I thought that it worked for the story. There was war, deception, trickery, stabbing, some impaling (not vividly described, though, so if you don’t know what it is, PLEASE don’t look it up. You can’t unlearn that).
This is the story of how Lada (aka Vlad the Impaler) and her brother, Radu, are sent to the ottoman empire as insurance that their father (Also named Vlad) wouldn’t do something stupid like betray the ottoman empire. They become friends with Mehmed, who is the Sultan’s son, but not really in line for the throne unless something happens to his older, more legitimate brothers.
This book was clearly building up for the rest of the series. It was giving us the world, and the players in it. It was a lot of information packed in, but it was necessary, so that we could understand what was happening in this hugely complicated war that was going on at the time.
The characters in this story were absolutely amazing.
Let’s start with Lada, shall we? She is so vicious, it’s incredible. She is a badass, warrior princess with absolutely no sympathy. She is cruel- when she was younger, she was described as ‘feral’. She almost reminds me of Katsa from Graceling, except without Katsa’s empathy or sense of justice. Lada is completely wild, and all she wants is to go home and rule her land. She and her brother, Radu, have this crazy relationship. They love each other more than anything else, but have totally different ways of showing it that the other doesn’t understand.
Lada believes she must stay distant from her brother, protect him by not protecting him. She thinks that if others knew she loved him, they would hurt him to get to her. She doesn’t tell her brother any of this, though- he just thinks that she is letting him get beat up because she doesn’t care. It made me want to shake Radu, honestly.
Now Radu. Another character I absolutely loved. He was so precious. He was always seen as weak, especially compared to the fierceness of Lada. But what he lacked in strength, he made up for in looks and charm. He was described as ‘Radu the Handsome’, which was legit what he was called in real history. Amazing.
Radu kept surprising me. He was a lot stronger than Lada gave him credit for, and it shows, especially in the second half of the book. He was clever, even more clever than his sister at times. Their relationship was so heartbreaking.
They are both in love with Mehmed- Lada reluctantly and Radu fully. Mehmed loves Lada, but it’s a bit of a possessive love, the kind of love she hates. She is not a thing to be owned, as she makes clear.
There are so many more things I want to say, but I will refrain because of spoilers. Just know there were a few scenes that I almost shouted because I was so excited or mad.
I highly recommend this book, to anyone and everyone, because it is amazingly written, has strong interesting characters, and has some plot twists (even though it is historical fiction).