Thank you NetGalley and Delacorte Press for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Synopsis: NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.
And Lada Dragwyla 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 Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, 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.
And I Darken has been a much-hyped book since last year, and has been compared to George R.R.Martin’s Game of Thrones. While I didn’t find much in the way of similarities between the two books, I wound up really enjoying this. The story is told in the third person and alternates between Lada and Radu who are both fascinating and memorable characters. Lada gives new meaning to the term anti hero. The first part of the story focuses on her and Radu as young children. Even at the young age of five, it’s obvious that Lada is very different from most girls. To be perfectly honest she’s scary as hell. She’s basically a feral child who is violent even toward her year-younger brother Radu who isn’t as adept at defending himself. Growing up, their personalities pretty much stay the same, with Lada maintaining her ferocity and Radu being weak. When they’re thirteen and twelve they’re traded by their power hungry father to the Ottoman Empire and this is when things really start getting interesting. Held as political prisoners and completely on their own, Lada and Radu’s relationship becomes closer, although Lada can still be fairly brutal in her treatment of him. She believes he’ll be better off toughening up, in a certain way she’s right. As they both reach their late teens, Lada’s temper and violent nature become a little more controlled, and Radu becomes quite adept at traversing the political undercurrents of the Sultan’s court. They’ve also become close friends with Mehmed, the Sultan’s youngest son and an interesting love triangle develops. Lada does everything she can to deny her feelings for Mehmed, who represents everything she hates about her predicament, while Radu struggles with his embracing of Islam, and his growing feelings for Mehmed. He’s torn between his love and loyalty for his sister, and his yearning for what may be an unattainable relationship. I actually found Radu to be the most interesting and sympathetic character out of the three. I don’t know very much about the time period and the Ottoman Empire, but it seems as though the author definitely has done her research. And the idea to have the historical figure the world has come to know as Vlad Tepes, or Dracula, be female is sheer genius! I do think there’s some parts of the story that are a bit slow and at almost 500 pages, it could have been edited a bit more. But I still finished this in three days, mainly because I became so emotionally invested in Lada, Radu and Mehmed. While the ending isn’t a cliffhanger per se, it’s obvious that a second book is in the works, and I’m definitely looking forward to it. And I Darken has made me want to do more research on both the time period and the characters, and for me, right there, makes the book a success. I highly recommend this to older teens and adults who like historical fiction with a bit of a twist.