Riveting Read: And I Darken
A vicious narrative that hooks you in from the first page.
Perfect for fans of Laura Sebastian and George R. R. Martin.
Her current read is 'And I Darken' by Kiersten White.
This instalment of Riveting Reads comes to you from Assistant Youth Librarian Linda Robertson.
"So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so you, too, can have power?"
From the moment Ladislav Dragwyla "clawed" her way out into the world from her mothers womb, she was instantly cursed for being a girl. Brutal and angry, Lada and her younger brother, the gentle Radu, are abandoned by their father to the Sultan. But Lada thrives for power in an empire ruled by men. As if fate aswers her prayers, she meets the Sultan's youngest son, Mehmed - and befriends the forgotton prince in the hopes that he will help her and her brother return to their home in Wallachia. But in a whirlwind of conspiracy and unraveling of politcal plots, Lada finds herself betrayed by her body and the men in her life. Held like a prisoner in an unknown land, the daughter of the dragon prepares her wings to fly, patiently watching as the threads that control the empire snap one by one.
The first novel in the Conqueror's Saga, And I Darken is classed as a young adult historical-fantasy fiction, that is an original, addictive, and shocking tale, which pulls you into its darkness from the first page. White admits to taking liberties when writing the Conqueror's Saga, as being a writer allowed her to shift time lines and events, and most particularly, taking a prominant figure in history - Vlad the Impaler - and changing him into the lead female character, Ladislav "Lada" Dragwyla. White uses the historical experiences of Vlad III as the structure of the plot. Like Vlad III, Lada and her younger brother Radu spend their formative years in the Ottoman Empire's court as ransom to guarentee the loyalty of their father, Vlad Dracul, the ruler of Wallachia. There, Lada and Radu befriend the Sultan's son, Mehmed. The relationship between the children as they grow up into adolescence creates a complex web of relationships - no "love triangles" in this story, but rather a complicated mix of jealousy, posession and desire.
And I Darken takes place in Eastern Europe, during the 14th Century, when the Ottoman Empire was at its peak in territoral conquest and expansion. White takes us back in time with her beautifully detailed world building, which depicts a stark contrast between Romania and the Turkish Empire. Lada's home in Wallachia, Transylvania, is often described as a dark, gritty and cold castle surrounded by woods and nature, while Mehmed's palace in Edirne is colourful and warm - summer fruits, gardens, and harems. It also explores religion, giving an insight into Islamic belief which was non-judgemental and interesting.
While there is no magic system, or mythical creature for characters to battle, and improve character arch, White uses real life historical events and social beliefs to allow her characters to challenge social systems within the Ottoman Empire court. From the first page of the novel, the reader is shown the patriarchal view of females, which sets up the world that Lada is born into, as a girl who must prove herself in a world ruled by men. From the moment she was born, her Warlord father calls her a "curse" for being a girl, while growing up she is described as a "feral" child and "ugly". But we soon discover that Lada is no typical princess. Lada gladly accepts her "flawed" features, and is aware that life is easier if you are born a boy. She is thankful she is not "beautiful" as that would have made her a pawn in marriage bargains and politcal agreements. She meets the beautiful wives of the Sultan and detests the idea of having to give up her body in order to protect her country. She knows the rules of her birth right as a princess, and uses her psychotic and cruel tendencies to fuel her will to survive. However, in order for her character to develop, Lada still has a weakness, and that is the fear of never being acknowledged by her father as the ruler she earns to become.
A compelling tale of vengence, courage and perseverance.
You can find this book in the Young Adult Fiction section under WHI