This week I read a dark, twisty, alternate history book that took intrigue and deception to another level. Think, Game of Thrones for young adults that takes place in the Ottoman Empire. Oh yea.
And I Darken by Kiersten White is the story of the Dragwlya children: Lada and Radu. As children, Lada and Radu are ripped from their homeland, Wallachia and are taken to the Ottoman Empire as hostages to keep their father and their homeland loyal to the empire. But Lada and Radu are no ordinary children.
Lada’s nurse prayed: “Let her be strong. Let her be sly. And let her be ugly.” Lada is all of these things and more. Her heart beats for Wallachia and she cannot be controlled. Radu, on the other hand, is beautiful, charismatic, smart and adored by all. He is drawn to Islam and feels more at home with the Ottoman court then in the dense woods of Wallachia. Although, they share blood the siblings are not close–separated by strength and temperament, they rarely lean on each other. But they do share one thing: Mehmed a son of the Empire.
Mehmed, Lada and Radu forge a bond and when Mehmed must fight for his thrown, the Dragwlya siblings are with him every step of the way. The three form a triangle of love, friendship and loyalty. But all of these bonds will be tested as Mehmed fights to become sultan, as Lada fights to be true to herself, and as Radu longs to belong.
First off, this book was beautifully written. I mean there were so many quotes I wanted to grab right off the page. The book was intense in all the right places and I could almost feel the tension as I read. The book feels like a fantasy even though it is supposed to be an alternate history, which will appeal to a young adult audience.
There were so many great characters and some stellar supporting characters too. But Lada, oh Lada, she is just so twisted and fabulous. Talk about a strong female character. Lada will not be “owned” and she will not be “controlled” and yet she does care, even if it is rarely seen. This quote–Lada is being pushed into an arranged marriage–sums her up perfectly:
“On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”
The dynamic between the Lada, Radu and Mehmed was complex in a good way. Don’t worry, no real love triangle thus far, but I do worry about future books. If I didn’t know this book was the first in a trilogy, I would have been completely satisfied with the ending. I actually wonder what the other two will be about.
And I Darken was dark, compelling and full of surprises. It was an entertaining read. A little brutal at times but all in all darkly delicious.
That’s all for now!