Series: The Conqueror’s Saga (book #1)
Rating: 4.5 stars
“I am no longer the daughter of the dragon.” She lifted her chin, sights set on the horizon. “I am the dragon.”
And I Darken is the first book in The Conqueror’s Saga triology, a gender bender historical retelling of Vlad The Impaler. Here, Vlad became Lada Dracul, a fierce and ruthless girl who will stop at nothing to remove those who oppose her. The book also follows her younger brother, Radu, who contrary to Lada, is a sweet and sensitive boy that has much better people skills.
Now this book was a whole saga by itself for me. I tried picking it up last November, and I was enjoying it, but reading it then was a bad idea since that’s when my finals started. I had to put it down. Then I fell into a reading slump due to the stress, therefore this huge ass book was not an option. I only got around to picking it up again in April as part of a buddy read, but by then I was falling into another reading slump (damn you, college!), so I only read half of it, even though I was enjoying the book. Then two months later (yeah I know), I decided to finally commit and take advantage of my vacation to read the second half, and you know what, it was pretty great.
Despite the time it took me to read it, I really enjoyed this book. I loved Lada and Radu, and I really cared for what would happen to them. Now truth be told, this YA book is not for everyone. It’s a historical retelling and it reads like so. It’s complex, intense, detailed, heavy on politics and it takes its time with things. You get to follow the main characters since childhood and you really get to know them, but that takes quite some time, so not everyone will be able to appreciate it. I normally wouldn’t too, but I felt Kiersten really managed to bring these characters to life. They were so nuanced and complex that I fell in love, therefore didn’t mind following them around as they were growing.
Lada is a savage and I love her. She’s brutal, even cruel, but she also loves intensely. She is a true badass, one that will not bow down to society’s expectations, but that is capable of intense feelings even if she doesn’t like to show them. I love that she can fight and (contrary to many so called “badasses” out there) you can actually believe her abilities because you’ve seen her constantly train to improve them. She will also go to any lengths to protect who and what she loves. I say ‘what’ because she has very strong feelings for her birth country, Wallachia. As much as Lada is capable of hating, she loves even deeper.
Radu is precious and he must be protected at all costs. He is kind, gentle, and he puts those he cares about first, even if it causes him pain. He might not be a fighter, but he grows to be sooo smart and resourceful that it makes you feel proud like he’s your own child. This boy has a lot of internal struggles and as he suffers because of them, you just want to punch the world in the face and scream “YOU LET PRECIOUS RADU BE HAPPY DAMN IT!” He’s just too good for this world. Oh but you better not mess with the people he loves. Radu might not literally stab you through the heart like his sister would, but he’ll end you without you even realising where the killing blow came from.
Now about Mehmed I’ll just say this. They deserve better. Much better. SO. MUCH. BETTER.
And I Draken switches between Lada and Radu‘s povs, so you get a real insight to what goes on in their minds. They’re very different characters, so there’s no confusion about who that chapter is following. Said chapters are also short, which makes it easier to read since this book is so big. I believe some people complain about not much happening here, and I get where they’re coming from, but I think this book is just different from the usual YA format. It’s feels more like an adult book in the way the events are narrated, but through the vision of YA characters. It’s complicated to explain. This was not my usual type of book either, but I ended up really enjoying my time with it. Oh and there’s lgbtq+ representation here.
I definitely intend to read more from Kirsten White. She really knows how to write complex characters that feel like real people and I love that. I can’t wait to read the sequel And I Rise. Now that we know these people well, I can only imagine that we’ll get down to business right away in that one. Oh and reading And I Darken made me really excited for Kiersten‘s new 2019 release Slayer, that will be part of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe. She’s proven to me already that she can handle strong kickass protagonists, so I’m eager to find out what she does with a Slayer. Well, another slayer, since Lada also fits the title quite well.
So what about you? Have you read this book too?