Author: Kiersten White
Series Number: 1
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Genres: historical fiction, YA.
Where I received the book: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Random House!
Summary: No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.
i was so excited to read this book. a gender swapped vlad the impaler book, sign me up! unfortunately, this book didn’t meet my expectations at all. it was very different than i thought it was going to be and rather difficult to get through. i’ve read a little bit of paranormalcy, by kiersten white, and i didn’t like it. (my sister loves that series but it just wasn’t for me). i figured and i darken is the opposite of ya paranormal, seeing as it’s a historical!
i think the biggest problem i had with this book was the amount of politics it had. there was also a lot of info, which i felt should’ve been spread over multiple books rather than shoved into one. this made it slow to get through and somewhat boring (as i couldn’t even figure out where the plot was going seeing as nothing was actually happening). i had to put this book down multiple times so that i could have a break and let all the info sink in.
what i loved most about this book is the genderswapped vlad the impaler “lada”. when we’re first introduced to her, she’s a feral child. this book literally starts from the day she was born. i preferred her as a kid because she was more wild. when she ages, she becomes less so. when she goes through puberty, she seems to soften up and even has a romantic subplot (which i thought was very wtf and didn’t suit lada’s character at all).
i absolutely loved radu. i mean, he was annoying at first, but when he grows out of his childish behaviours, he becomes a great young man. i’m really interested to see where he goes through later books. he’s a really nice character and i connected with him a lot easier than i did with any of the other characters. *mild spoiler, i think?* plus, he’s gay! i wasn’t expecting that at all! it’s great to see in historical fictions that this is included seeing as there is quite a bit of homosexuality throughout, although it’s never really publicised for obvious reasons.
mehmed, like lada, started out cool, then became annoying as the book went on. i’m not sure if it’s him as a character or if it was the way the plot went that made me dislike him :/ not to mention, i have no idea how to pronounce his name.
a huge disappointment to me was how this “feminist game of thrones” consistently had lada saying things such as “i’m not a girl” and “i am no woman” (not direct quotes, i didn’t tab the pages with these phrases being said but i probably should have). lada continuously denies her femininity, and how she’s not one of us. she doesn’t specifically say this, but it’s kinda implied, that women are weak and she doesn’t want to be one. i’m really hoping that throughout the rest of the series this gets addressed as part of the plot of her accepting the fact that yes, women can do these things. plus, there’s the lack of female characters in this book. yes, your protagonist is a woman but that doesn’t mean every other character has to be a man. there’s like one or two other women that pop every so often, but otherwise majority of the characters are men.
finishing this review on a good note, i absolutely love how this book is set in the ottoman empire and the use of islam! how often do you read a book where a character converts from christianity to islam? it was refreshing, to say the least. there was loads of explaining to do in the part due to this, as if it were set in america i don’t think there’d be half as much explaining to do.
i’ve rated this book 3.5 stars, mainly because i was intrigued by the fact that it’s the ottoman empire. in all honesty, i didn’t even know what the ottoman empire was prior to reading this book. i knew of it but not what or where. i loved the fact that radu is gay and lada is a girl (no matter how many times she denies it). basically, if you love politics and history this book if for you.
this bit contains spoilers: i’m adding it after, so people don’t get ruined, but if you’ve read it i’d like to know what you think as it’s something that’s bothered me quite a lot:
when i started reading this book, i decided to do a little research into the characters and the world (one of the cool things about historicals!), and many websites/forums/articles mentioned that mehmed and radu were lovers, although there’s no hard evidence for it. what i want to say here is that if mehmed and radu historically had a fling (even if it’s potentially not true), why was it not included into the book? why was mehmed put into a straight relationship when there could’ve been a main gay one? it would’ve been amazing rep for lgbt+, and actually makes more sense than lada being with him. i’d really like to hear other people’s thoughts on this bit, as it bothers me and i want to discuss it.