(The Conquerors Saga #1)
Published: June 28, 2016 by Delacorte Press
Source: I received a eARC for review from the publisher via NetGalley. However, all opinions in this review are my own.
Summary from Goodreads:
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya 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 they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, 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 provided a delightfully unique reading experience. This novel takes place over the course of several years, and it is most like the kind of story you will not be able to read in one sitting because this book just has so much substance. It's a slow, delicious read that you just need to savor.
This is a historical reimagining of Vlad the Impaler--if he were a girl. Don't let the historical aspect stop you! I am the exact opposite of a history buff. I do not enjoy history and it is my worst subject (forever tainting my GPA). However, I was able to, for the most part, keep up with the politics and whatnot. I actually really enjoyed the historical details and attitudes.
My feelings for these characters are strange. It's told from two perspectives--Lada and Radu, who are sister and brother, but VASTLY different people. Lada is fierce and vicious while Radu is more tender and kind. I'm honestly not sure that I liked either of them? They are such complex, complicated characters. They both have major flaws and they both have traits I adore. I can't tell you whether or not I like them as people, but I know for a fact I understood them, and I enjoyed reading about them. Immensely. These are the types of characters I adore reading about. They're so painfully, disgustingly real, and I have mad respect for Kiersten White for painting such an accurate portrayal of humanity. I also love that Lada is not the typical beautiful, badass, charming YA woman that is constantly shoved in our faces. Lada is ugly, and she doesn't like people very much, and it's refreshing.
The romance in this novel is also so different and beautiful. I don't want to give too much away, but it's like Kiersten White took every complaint that book lovers have ever had about romance tropes and twisted them to create a romance that is enticing, complicated, and heart breaking. One thing I think is very important is the presence of homosexuality in this historical context. I have studied the role of sexuality in older literature a lot, but to see it in YA lit was a lot of fun.
If you can't tell, I thought this book was exceedingly excellent. The ending broke my heart, but also made me BEYOND excited for the sequel. Like, this is only the beginning, guys. I just know that the next books in this series are going to be mind-blowing. Too bad I'm going to have to wait a trillion years before getting my hands on the sequel.
Basically, the moral of this review is that if you don't read this book, I'll sic Lada the Impaler on you. And trust me, you don't want that.