Monday, October 24, 2016
And I Darken by Kiersten White
The infamous Son of the Dragon is reimagined in this historical remix as the Daughter of the Dragon and Vlad the Impaler becomes Lada the Impaler. Already this is an interesting idea but throw in war, rebellion, betrayal, and one of the most complicated love triangles I've ever seen and you have a quite the interesting tale on your hands.
As I stated before, the story is that of Ladislav Dragwlya and her younger brother Radu. When their home country of Wallachia is taken over by the Ottoman Empire, the siblings are sent to live in the Ottoman courts where they are held hostage in order to secure their father's loyalty. While Lada despises the Ottomans and constantly plots her revenge against them, soft-hearted Radu finds peace among them and longs to join the Muslim religion. Then the two meet Mehmed, the son of the sultan, who befriends them and seeks their help in securing the empire for himself.
While this book delves deeply into politics and strategy of war, it never gets overly complicated. It keeps the focus where it should be: on Lada and Radu. Lada is the kind character that everybody wants in a strong, independent female. She's strong, confident, capable, and smart. The downside? She's got to be one of the most brutal, heartless characters I've ever read (that made her that way on purpose). While this is definitely a good thing, it does kinda make her hard to read. She's always yelling and attacking, scornful and cruel. She does have something of a heart, as she is very protective of Radu and genuinely cares for Mehmed and her country of Wallachia, but because she's so harsh and mean the rest of the time you find it kind of hard to believe that she's genuine in these scenes, even though the book tells you she is.
Radu is very much his sister's polar opposite. He's gentle, caring, kind, easily accepted in social circles and, as you can probably guess in three seconds of knowing the guy, gay. This is something that this world seems oddly accepting of. Almost unrealistically so. True, he never comes forward with this. People just kind of know and don't say anything about further about it. It seems like everyone is a little too accepting, given the era this story is supposed to take place. It also takes up the vast majority of Radu's scenes. Where Lada is fighting and actually making a difference in the plot involving the war, Radu's storyline mostly consists of dealing with his feelings for Mehmed. This is kind of disappointing when we're shown early in the story that Radu is just as capable of scheming as his sister, and much more subtle about it. As in getting someone else blamed for something they didn't do. Sadly, he never really shows that cunning again. He just kind of chats with officials, deals with converting to a different faith, and mopes about how the man he loves not only loves his sister but has a whole harem of women to himself. An interesting character, but he doesn't really live up to his potential.
Aside from them....I honestly don't remember anything about the rest of the characters in this book. Lada's personal soldiers are an interesting lot and her second in command is cool but if you asked me to put the names and personalities together, I probably wouldn't be able to. With the exception of the second in command, Nicholae (I had to look that up), all the rest are kind of background noise. Even Mehmed, the third point in this complicated triangle, kinda falls flat when going up against these two massive characters. He seems nice and all, but a lot of times he comes off as being kind of an idiot, not believing people about threats against his life, not mentioning important things to his friends, and he seems barely in control of his own life. The motivations of those going against the trio are very standard. They want to rule the empire instead of Mehmed, they want to get rid of him and take over, yadda yadda. We've heard it before.
While the structure is basic, there is intrigue and action that keeps the plot moving and the story interesting. There are mysteries to solve, things that both Lada and Radu have the ability to accomplish, and dangers to face. Despite all the things that threaten to tear the siblings apart, from loving the same man to having conflicting feelings about the Empire they grew up in, you want them to come through together and you want them to continue to care about each other. This is hindered by knowing how history has gone in real life and you know the path that Lada is to go down. Creative license can only go so far when you're retelling history, but it's up to the author to see how far it goes.
This one is an interesting bit of work for me. There were parts I enjoyed, and others I didn't. Some of it seems like my personal feelings just getting in the way, other times it felt genuinely flawed. Ultimately I couldn't decide if I wanted to say it was worth your money at the local bookstore or worth checking out at your local library. So, I've added a new rating between these two. If this book sounds like something just up your alley, definitely go buy it but wait for it on paperback!
Did you read the book? What did you think? Any other good historical retellings out there? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next time: Bibliosuckophobia. The fear that the book you're about to read is going to suck.