**I received a copy of And I Darken courtesy of NetGalley and Delacorte Press.**
And I Darken by Kiersten White. Delacorte Press, 2016. 498 pages. Ebook.
The first thing I would like to get out of the way is that describing this book as "fantasy" seems to be a rather loose, incorrect definition in my personal opinion, so don't dive in expecting to find many magical elements. It is definitely historical fiction - I'm not sure why it has so many fantasy tags.
And I Darken tells the story of siblings Lada and Radu, the daughter and son, respectively, of Vlad Draculesti, the current vaivode of Wallachia. The two are essentially abandoned by their father and their native home of Wallachia to be raised in the Ottoman courts, where they meet and befriend a young boy named Mehmed, the son of the current Sultan. Neither child is welcomed much on their birth: Lada, being a girl - and apparently an 'ugly' one at that - is of no use to Vlad, and Radu is a weak, (not strong) boy. The controversy lies in the fact that the enemy of Wallachia, and thus lada and Radu, is the Ottoman city in which they now live, which thus sets up our basic plot.
Lada is not your average badass; she's heard-headed badass taken to a whole different level. She is brutal, angry, and not about to mess around. Her biggest struggle appears to be the fact that she was born female. Since her birth, she has been dismissed as unwanted and unnecessary, and this is what seems to help fuel Lada's fire to prove her worth and also to prove others wrong. In my opinion, Lada truly fits the definition of a dynamic character, and I applaud White on her character development skills. Lada starts out feeling completely unwanted and lost and thus spends her time fighting and struggling with the world around her. Within the pages of And I Darken, Lada truly seemed to find herself and her place in this world. She becomes a tough woman who knows what she wants and is bold enough to make her feelings heard. She embraces her womanhood by not really embracing it: she technically refuses to acknowledge herself as a woman and desires to be considered equal to all the men around her. Lada isn't the most charismatic or immediately likable character, but she is captivating. She is also apparently based off of Vlad the Impaler, so I am interested to see how "dark" she becomes throughout the rest of this series.
Radu is Lada's foil. He is beautiful, reserved, and soft-hearted. He does not like violence or rudeness, and instead prefers to be friendly with those around him - the complete opposite of Lada's own approach to people. Radu understands the art of befriending one's enemies to gain advantages, whereas Lada follows a more violent and harsh approach. Radu is such an interesting character, and I loved getting to see his own transformation and realizations throughout the story. Radu is also protected or saved by Lada many times throughout the book. In fact, Lada even goes as far to say that no one else will (or can) kill Radu because he must remain only Lada's to kill. Aw, sibling love - though, surprisingly, I understand this: no one gets to hurt my sibling but me.
Mehmed is a character introduced a bit later in the book, and I'm not sure how I feel about him. There are things I like, but also things I don't. I feel like he is a character that you have to decide for yourself how to interpret, so I'm going to skip over my own description and analyses of him for now.
I think my biggest problem with And I Darken is just that I'm still not completely sure what the plot was. It's still a solid, interesting story, but I can't really come up with any particular goal or purpose, other than to tell the story of Lada, Radu, and eventually Mehmed. If you're not a huge fan of books with no major overarching plotline running through it, this may not be your favorite. However, this is a still a solid, entertaining book that I would recommend you pick up and at least give a try. For all the reasons mentioned throughout this review, I am giving And I Darken four stars.
And I Darken will be released next Tuesday, June 28th!
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