Book review: And I Darken

Title: And I Darken (Book one of the Conqueror’s saga) 
Author: Kiersten White 
Publisher: Random House Children’s Publish 
Number of pages: 486  
Genre: YA 


“The sooner you stop fighting, the easier your life will be. This is what your purpose is.”
Lada stood so abruptly she nearly fell backward. “No.”

First of all I have to say the cover caught me right away at the bookstore, this fierce young woman demanding my attention. Just like Lada would. So I could not walk away from it.  
The plot is set in Transylvania at the height of the Ottoman Empire – and for me as a historian I loved that scene. Of course, this is not a book to be read as an actual biography or history book, the author takes her liberties and twists and turns the events to fit the story. But I don’t mind this at all – it is not meant to be a historically correct novel, nor does it claim to be it either.  
And I am darken starts dark straight away, there is no mercy from beginning to end with this book. Lada and Radu are abandoned by their father and are forced to grow up behind enemy lines in the Ottoman empire. While Lada tries to defy the influence of the ottomans, Radu is seeking for a place to call home and feel safe at – when their paths crosses with Mehmed, the heir of the empire the siblings face another challenge. Will this be where Radu finally feels at peace? Or will Lada threaten to ruin everything with her mind set on vengeance and return to her homeland? 
Lada must be one of the most interesting female protagonists I have come across, she is vicious, fierce, vulnerable, loving (in very very small dozes) and an amazing heroine in this series. She demands your attention and to some degree even your sympathy, even when you don’t feel like giving it to her. In other words, I have met a protagonist of another world here, well done Kiersten White! Her brother Radu, is her polar opposite – where she is hard and tough, he is very much soft and loving person. Something that later will be the big divide between the siblings as the story unfolds.  
What I enjoyed about this book is how well the life and politics of the courts of the Ottoman empire is part of the journey the characters go through. Lada, has to learn and play the game and understand how she as a woman will not have the same opportunities as her brother or any man will. Radu, on his side, has to learn to fight his own battles and play the game a different way – using his skills that are different from his sister. I quite enjoyed how two cultures crash together in the characters, with Lada holding on to her true homeland, and Radu finding solace and peace within the culture he is living in.  
The were no moments where I felt like I had to take a break from reading or finding my mind wondering off to something else. This book demanded my attention that I just read it from cover to cover. It is an original and well written story – a pure joy to read! The characters are interesting, fascinating, and so unique that I will have a hard time forgetting about them when I move on to other books. The heroine of this is not a typical heroine, you will hate her, love her, pity her and then hope she burns the entire world down so she can show everyone exactly what kind of dragon she is. Because, make no mistake: Lada Dragwlya is the dragon.  

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