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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.

475 pages, Hardcover

First published June 28, 2016

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About the author

Kiersten White

59 books12.8k followers
Kiersten White is the #1 New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of many books, including the And I Darken series, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Star Wars: Padawan, the Sinister Summer series, and HIDE. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, where they obsessively care for their deeply ambivalent tortoise. Visit Kiersten online at KierstenWhite.com and follow @KierstenWhite on Twitter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,665 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
June 29, 2016
“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

4 1/2 stars. This book is totally fucked up. In the best possible way.

Well, holy shit. Even with the positive reviews rolling in, that was completely unexpected. How do I begin to explain this vicious little nightmare of a book? All I know is: it's different to anything else I've read.

And I Darken is dark, gritty and compelling. It pulled me into its darkness from the very first chapter and I didn't come up for air until I'd finished all 496 pages of it. It's the kind of book that is everything that hooks you, fuelling your rage and your desperate need to turn the page, whilst also being a well-written, highly-original story.

"Fantasy" is a loose term for this book. You won't find any Throne of Glass-esque heroines or magic here. It's more alternate history, set in Transylvania at the height of the Ottoman Empire (based on history, though not historically accurate), and richer, more political than typical YA fantasy. And much nastier.
As the baby latched on with surprising fierceness, the nurse offered her own prayer.
Let her be strong.
Let her be sly.
And let her be ugly.

Lada is a freaking fantastic, psychotic heroine. She is not one of those faux-antiheroines who proclaim their badassery and never do anything other than defeat the bad guys and fall in love. From the moment she is born, she is fierce, resilient and a little bit nuts. As she grows, she becomes ever more cold, cruel and calculating. She quickly recognizes what it means to be a woman in this world and she is not playing along.
“On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”

In fact, she's furious. And I Darken explores Lada's disdain for women and her own confused feelings over whether she should deny or defend her femininity. But don't worry, this is paired with the revelation that there are many kinds of power and women have their own ways of wielding it, biding their time and eventually getting what they want.

However, though she is fascinating, the book isn't just about Lada. The third person narrative is also about the experiences of her brother - Radu, a beautiful, delicate boy whose weakness both aggravates Lada and draws her protection. They have a complex sibling relationship, once again quite unlike anything we usually see in YA, and it is filled with frustration, jealousy and misunderstanding.

A few other things:
1) I absolutely loved this unconventional setting in Eastern Europe. It's so rare to see novels set here and I thought the author captured it perfectly.
2) I liked how the novel explored different religions and a lack of religion in a way that wasn't preachy - also very refreshing to see a non-judgmental portrayal of Islam.
3) There is no love triangle. There is a complex web of relationships that is guaranteed to get messy, but it is not a love triangle (at least not yet). I thought you might want to know because there are some LT signs early on.

I loved this book. I really did. It's a gory, horrible trek into a place inspired by gory, historical truth. Everything is intricately-woven in perfect detail, from the setting to the characters, and from the relationships to the politics. It is unlike anything Kiersten White has written before. And it is virtually unputdownable.

It's about power, and all the ways it can be gained and used. It's about women, and what it means to be a woman. And it's about fighting, every day, to be what you want.
“The sooner you stop fighting, the easier your life will be. This is what your purpose is.”
Lada stood so abruptly she nearly fell backward. “No.”

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Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
December 9, 2020

Seven of my favorite Bookish Villains in one BookTube Video!
The Written Review
Rivetingly dark and heartbreakingly human.
the nurse offered her own prayer.
Let her be strong.
Let her be sly.
And let her be ugly.
Much like the nurse's prayer, Lada Dragwlya grew up single-minded, cruel and absolutely ruthless. Completely in contrast to her beautiful younger brother, Radu.
“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”
Lada, and Radu, started life almost entirely isolated. They were occasionally visited by their warlord of a father and were raised by their nurse.

Soon, the siblings were taken from her homeland (Wallachia) at a young age to act as leverage against their father.

Lada decides then and there that she will come back to her people and her country and rule them with the strength and brutal efficiency that her father lacked.
Her spine was steel. Her heart was armor. Her eyes were fire.
But until that day comes, Lada and Radu must navigate the intricacies of the Ottoman Empire - one wrong move could very well mean the end of both their lives.

Wow. Seriously, wow. I love a good, dark antihero book and Lada absolutely delivered.

The way she coldly and efficiently denied the common expectations of the times just blew me away - take her response to a marriage proposal (well, more like she was commanded to marry).
“On our wedding night," she said, "I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself.”
And yet, she never became a caricature of a "strong-independent-woman." Lada had moments of weakness, self-pity and childhood doubt which kept character real in my eyes.

Radu was such a precious child - he never could handle the cruel world that Lada reveled in. His purity and love for Lada and Mehmed (the third son of the Ottoman emperor) provided an excellent backdrop that kept this book from feeling too harsh.

I absolutely loved the ending and cannot get my hands on book 2 fast enough.

Audiobook Comments
Well-read by Fiona Hardingham - she had excellent pacing and tone. Thank goodness I listened to this one - there's quite a few words that I would definitely have pronounced wrong if I had only read them. (i.e. Wallachia is Val-heh-ahh).

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Profile Image for sara.
766 reviews166 followers
December 6, 2022
Kiersten White deciding to write this: "Diversity win! The ottoman warlord desecrating your small village is a bottom!" (original post on tumblr by @saltysalmonkid)

(This was initially a way longer review, detailing all the way in which the author shat all over my country's history. Please be aware whatever you think of saying to me about my low rating, I've probably heard it already. People saying "but it is fantasy" do not understand that my issue is not with a poorly written FICTION, but by one which used my HISTORY as a marketing technique, to then stomp over every single thing my ancestors took pride in. She could have just written a fantasy on its own (Grishaverse style), but if she decided to use a feminized version of Vlad the Impaler, then she should be able to swallow the situation in which someone points out the inaccuracies. But no one cares about those from small and poor countries with weird languages and convoluted histories anyway, right? )

This woman just doesn't know how to stop. Now she is going to write a retelling of Dracula... which is in itself a xenophobic depiction of Romanians, haha, lovely!! :) I got annoyed, so here's a breakdown of some of the most obvious, painful atrocities she added to this book:

- Red flag!! From the reason of why she decided to write this book!! Oh, her husband went on a religious conversion mission to my country, and she thought she knows enough about it now to write about it? Wrong, wrong, wrong!!

- The protagonist's name is 1) actually masculine if we follow the rules of the languages she decided to write a book inspired by 2) it means "wooden box" in Romanian. So this should very obviously point to the fact that absolutely no research has gone into this book supposedly retelling the life of one of the most important figures in my country's history

- The narrative constantly calls Romanian peasants and all other ethnicities within the area "pigs" and other such words. You will NEVER find a ruler fighting against Ottoman rule call its subjects something like that, and it is in fact just attempting to hide blatant xenophobia with 'history'

- Speaking of, pretending that Vlad the Impaler is nothing but a great ruler to Romanians... like, was he cruel and firm? Yes. Did he keep invasion at bay, and the torture he's most famous for was inspired from his political imprisonment at the Ottoman court? Also yes, and we love him for it and we are possibly a country thanks to it.

- It's clear no care has been given to the turbulent history of the day. Starting from the very stale brand of white feminism (god forbid a father was happy he got a daughter! when it didn't even matter to the nobles back then!) to the utter lack of critical thinking on colonialism, tribute paying, political imprisonment and forced religion conversion (betting 10 dollars she doesn't know what half of those words mean).

- Do I honestly look like I care when people argue it is a 'fiction'? Again, if thousands of readers learn about my country's existence from this book, then that is an immense damage left to reign free that will never be undone.

I am SO tired of americans being allowed to write the most VILE shit about countries that half of their population doesn't even know exists. And when I know the care can be there, the research can be done, then I am not going to be forgiving for purposeful ignorance.
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,631 reviews34k followers
July 14, 2016
4.5 stars I didn't believe all the high ratings, and now here I am with them.

A good example of why it's good to try authors again, btw. I'd read a couple of the author's earlier books and found them likable if a bit unmemorable, but there was absolutely no indication that one day she'd write a brutal book--or an uncompromising heroine--like this.

Vlad the Impaler re-imagined as an aggressive girl! Fantastic.
May 3, 2016
This was truly an epic book. There is a twist in this book, and trust me when I say that you will not see it coming.

It has a heroine who flaunts herself as the "anti-princess" and in that sense, the book does not disappoint. Lada - our "female Vlad the Impaler" hooked (impaled?) me from the start. Even as a child in the nursery, she was fierce.
Like her brother, Lada had big eyes, but hers were close-set, with arched bows that made her look perpetually cross. Her hair was a tangled mass, so dark that her pale skin appeared sickly. Her nose was long and hooked, her lips thin, her teeth small and...quite sharp.

She was contrary and vicious and the meanest child the nurse had ever cared for...In Lada she saw a spark, a passionate, fierce glimmer that refused to hide or be dimmed.
I love anti-heroes, and Lada is as bad-ass as they come. This book is unusual because so rarely in YA fiction one gets a female character who is absolutely brutal.

Lada is the daughter of Vlad Dracul. Upon her birth, she was dismissed. Warlords have no use for a daughter, girls being only useful if they're pretty enough to be married off. But surprisingly, as Lada grew, Vlad discovered in his daughter the strength and fierceness he himself admired, the qualities in a leader that was completely missing in his son Radu.

Radu is a year younger than Lada, with all the beauty and grace and gentleness Lada lacks. To Vlad, Radu is, frankly, useless.
He embarrased no one. He remained unnoticed and invisible.

It was, apparently, both the least and the most he could do for his father.
This is the tale of two unwanted children, abandoned and left to fight for their survival in an Ottoman court. It's the story of a girl constrained by her gender, in a time where daughters are little more than chattel, and a young man trying to come out from his sister's shadow.

I like Lada. I feel like she's a little bit too much in her fierceness sometimes. This book compares itself to Game of Thrones. I don't see the comparison at all, but I feel like if I had to pick a character, Lada would be most like Brienne of Tarth. Both are bred for battle, both deny and despise their feminity, both are unattractive, and at times, too severe, trying too hard to deny their emotions. Not the worst thing in the world, considering the number of swoony stupid female heroines out there, but at the same time, a little softness never hurts, a little gentleness would make Lada a more well-wounded character.

She scratched and clawed her way into the world. Since she was a child, she literally fights for everything she has. She is aggressive, angry, short-tempered, intensely intelligent. Her fury is palpable, and she is so angry about so many things. She wants so many things. There is such a hunger in her for life and for what is hers.

I really loved the brother-sister relationship between Radu and Lada. Love and hate is such a fine line. She is more or less his protector, in a stereotypical sense, she has the more masculine spirit, she is a warrior, and he is a poet. Their relationship is very complex, with Radu constantly seeking her approval, feeling (and often being told) that he is inferior to his fierce, strong older sister. An older sister who feels like he is her property.
She sat beside his bed for a long while. Finally, she put a hand on his shoulder and whispered, "You are mine."
Like her brother, she seeks affirmation. Whereas Radu wants his sister be proud of him, Lada wants her father's approval.

The setting is interesting and well-built. It's history-based, and honestly, I don't know much about the history of the region, but it feels authentic enough! It explores religions like Christianity and Islam (so rare!) without being preachy, only informative.

The romance was not overwhelming, the relationship between Lada and Mehmed was build upon mutual dependency and trust, and not pure blind love and adoration. People are trying to kill them. They have to depend on each other. Lada is no weakling, and Mehmed respects her for who she is.

One of my favorite moments in the book was when Lada had a moment with a lady of the Ottoman court. She learned that there are more subtle ways to wage battle, that women can wield power through means other than fistfights, that everything has a price.
"You see this...as a prison. But you are wrong. This is my court. This is my throne. This is my kingdom. The cost was my freedom and my body...So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let me taken away so that you, too, can have power?"
Overall, this was an intensely satisfying, well-woven tale.

All quotes were taken from an advanced edition subject to change in the final edition.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,935 followers
June 26, 2017
$1.99 on kindle right now! 6-26-17. As far as I know, it's US pricing

Re-Read 2017 I had to read this book again for the new book next week. I love it so freaking much! This time I listened to it on audio from Overdrive (It's now on my audible wishlist) The narrator, Fiona Hardingham did a wonderful job!

It was so nice to be back in Lada's world. She's just so tough but I did feel sorry for her with the love interest but it's extremely complicated. She lets her guard down a little in that area but she's still a force. Heh! That guy that tried to rape her, that didn't go as planned! I love it =]. Anyway, you can see my old review for excerpts and fun stuff =]

****Older Review****


Vlad Dracul's heavy brow descended like a storm when the doctor informed him that his wife had given birth to a girl.

Oh, little did he know that he would have one of the most brutal, bad@ssed girl known to man!

Lada waved the knife at him in answer to the question she did not understand. Vlad raised an eyebrow. He was wrapped in a fine cloak, an elaborate hat on his head. It had been nearly a year since Lada had seen her father. She did not recognize him.

"Lada!" the nurse whispered. "Come here at once."

Lada stood as tall as her short, stocky legs allowed. "This is my home! I am the Order of the Dragon! I kill infidels!"

I am totally in love with the character of Ladislav Dragwlya (Lada). She is beyond bad. She just doesn't care and she will attack anyone. She wants to be equal with men. She doesn't care to be married off. She doesn't care to do women stuff. She trains to be a soldier, a warrior woman. She bad to the bone from the get go.

Radu had braced for another blow when Aron's shout made him open his eyes. Aron was spinning in a circle, trying desperately to dislodge Lada. She was not supposed to be here, but somehow her presence was unsurprising. She had jumped on the boy's back, clasping her arms around him and pinning his arms to his sides. Radu could not see her face through her tangled drape of hair until Aron twisted to the side, revealing Lada's teeth sunk into his shoulder

I wish I could have been like her with all of the bullies in school :-)

Radu is Lada's younger brother, but she doesn't coddle him or give him comfort like a normal sister. She will take up for him but she will smack him around as well. Although, when they get a little older she's not as bad to him.

I was thinking this was going to be a cool book about the awesome Vlad and his kids but Vlad is like a little sissy compared to his daughter Lada. They sort of switched places.

This book took a lot of time building up to what I'm hoping is going to be an awesome saga. With that ending I do believe so.

Vlad let Halil Pasha take Lada and Radu to the Ottoman Court. He turned them over to an enemy. Although, he wasn't bad to the kids. He gave them schooling and decided to marry Lada off when the time came. Oh and that decision went down well, so she got sent off to another place with one of the sultan's sons to do more schooling with the son, Mehmed and her brother Radu.

Lada spoke with a quiet, clear voice, and the room hushed in surprise. No one expected the girl to speak. She was probably not allowed to. Radu knew Lada would not care either way. "On our wedding night," she said. "I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.

There is no one like her. To be that brutal and not take no sh*t in those times is just beyond coolness!

Lada eventually started training with the Janissaries. They are a form of soldiers that are paid a good wage. She became friends with them when she didn't take crap from them either. She eventually got her wish of becoming one of them, but oh so much more.

"Not very pretty for a whore." The soldier behind her tugged on a strand of her hair. She ducked under his arm, grabbing his wrist and twisting it behind his back to pin him. It was a trick she learned under the harsh tutelage of Mircea and perfected by practicing on Bogdan and Radu. The soldier shouted angrily and tried to pull away, so she twisted harder, pushing up against the joint. He yelped in pain.

"You are prettier than I." She put more pressure on his arm. "Perhaps you could offer yourself as whore instead."

She's amazing!

Lada, Mehmed and Radu bond, as much as Lada allows herself to bond. I really enjoyed all of that storyline. There are some love interests in the book but they don't really go too far with that because it's more about kicking arse and getting the story set up.

Lada huffed, exasperated. "Very well. What exactly does a friend do?"
"I have never had one. I was hoping you would know."
"Then you are even stupider than you look. Radu is the one who makes friends. I am the one who makes people want to whip me."

"Good. In the spirit of friendship, I must tell you that I am bitterly jealous of the time you spend in the Janisssaries' company. I want you to stop training with them.
"And, in the spirit of friendship, I must tell you that I do not care in the slightest about your petty jealousies. I am late for my training." She hooked her foot behind Mehmed's ankle, then slammed her shoulder into his, tripping him and throwing him to the ground.


At some point Mehmed becomes sultan when his father just decides to retire. There is a whole other story line going on there too, but I don't want to give out spoilers on certain things. Lada does end up saving a bunch of lives and there are more wars and what not.

Either way, I loved this book. I love Lada and I look forward to the rest of the books! Please be good!


"Not Dragwlya," she said. "Lada Dracul. I am not longer the daughter of the dragon." She lifted her chin, sights set on the horizon. "I am the dragon."

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Natalie.
565 reviews3,197 followers
August 11, 2018
Ever since I read this particular quote taken from And I Darken, I've been enchanted:

“On our wedding night," she said, "I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”

And also that beautiful cover didn't hurt.

This review contains *spoilers*.

And I Darken starts out with Lada and Radu's childhood; introducing their vicious father and broken mother.

Can I just say that, for whatever unknown reason, I absolutely loved their mother. I cannot understand why exactly other than that her determination to escape felt so crucial for me.

“I want to go home,” she whispered. “Back to Moldavia. Please let me.”
Vasilissa’s tiny frame trembled. Then she dropped to her knees, lowered her head, and took Vlad’s hand in her own. “Please. Please, I beg of you. Let me go home.”
Vlad put out his other hand and stroked Vasilissa’s lank, greasy hair. Then he grabbed it, wrenching her head to the side. She cried out, but he pulled tighter, forcing her to stand. He placed his lips against her ear. “You are the weakest creature I have ever known. Crawl back to your hole and hide there. Crawl!” He threw her down, and, sobbing, she crawled from the room.”

I truly felt for Vasilissa. And I don't know if this is terrible to admit (because she's their mother), but I was extremely glad when Vasilissa managed to escape his cruelty.

In the meanwhile, we skip a few years to learn the complications set in Radu and Lada's relationship.

“He was so tired and so scared, and she had saved him. “Thank you.” He stumbled toward her with arms outstretched. When he was hurting, his nurse folded him into herself, sealing him away from the world. He wanted—needed—that now.
Lada hit him in the stomach. He doubled over in pain, sinking to his knees. She knelt next to him, grasping him by the ears. “Do not thank me. All I did was teach them to fear me. How does that help you? Next time you hit first, you hit harder, you make certain that your name means fear and pain. I will not be here to save you again.”

We slowly learn that Lada does care deeply for her brother, though, in a very particular way i.e scares him away and mocks him, but deep down couldn’t bear to leave him in harm's way.

“When she thought he was sleeping, she crept into his room. Radu did not sleep much, always awake and worrying over something. But he lay as still as possible, keeping his breathing even, curious as to what she would do.
She sat beside his bed for a long while. Finally, she put a hand on his shoulder and whispered, “You are mine.”
Radu had been thinking about the way Lada sounded when she told him that Costin had escaped the river. The tone of her voice, the lack of an edge. He was almost certain she had lied. He fell asleep, wrapped in the secure warmth of her next to him and nagged by guilt over how happy the day had made him.
Still made him.”

Okay, so this has been on my mind for awhile, but did Costin survive or not? (The answer is crucial for my peace.)

But circling back to the main storyline, complications arise when their father abandons them to be raised in the Ottoman courts for…their education.

“Radu looked to Lada, trying to put together what he was hearing. Lada understood perfectly well what this man was saying. Their lives were valuable only insofar as their father did what he was told. And instead of just taking Radu, Halil Pasha had known what her father valued the most.
All those years working toward her father’s love and approval had led her here.
It had made her a prisoner.”

And before we move on, I just wanted to mention that Lada and Radu are such phenomenally fleshed-out characters, I'm still in awe.

And also, this book mentions periods, which, finally. I think this is only my second fantasy book that mentions this completely natural process that almost everyone goes through but doesn't talk about in books.

“When her nurse had told her she would not have to worry about marriage until her monthly courses started, it had been a comfort. Until the morning Lada awoke covered in blood, in her enemy’s house.”

Yes, this is real, this is me.

I know I keep going off course in my review, but it was important to mention the above.

In Edirne, Lada and Radu encounter the son of the devil himself. Mehmed the Second, son of Murad. 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.

“How do you do that?”
“Do what?”
“Make people talk to you. Is it because you are a boy?”
Radu knew she envied him his ability to persuade people to trust him. She looked sharp, contrary, and sly. Hers was the face of a fox raiding the livestock. Radu’s was the face of an angel. But it hurt Radu that she thought it was a trick. Did anyone ever truly like him, or was she right? Did his face and tongue merely fool them into thinking they did?”

“People respond to kindness, Lada. They trust a smile more than a promise that you will leave them choking on their own blood.”
Lada snorted. “Yes, but my promise is more sincere than your smiles.”
She was right, of course. It had been a lifetime since his smile felt like anything more than a desperate and false ploy. He sniffed, trying to keep the mood light, keep his sister calm. “But no one knows that.”
“Someday they will, Radu. Someday they will.”

But when news arrives that Mehmed's older brothers have died, a twisted turmoil ensues. Mehmed's father gives him the title of sultan under the banner of new peace - with his son being only twelve at the time.

“Mehmed looked up at her with tears in his eyes. “You do not understand. The courts—they will never accept me. I was never supposed to be sultan. They will devour me. I have no allies, no one on my side.”
Lada smiled viciously, put on her most mocking voice. “So now you would prove me correct. I thought you had your faith as your greatest strength.”
Mehmed’s face hardened. “My faith is my strength.”
“Then you have your god on your side. What is a court full of sycophants and rivals against that? Wrap yourself in the armor of your faith. Take your throne.”

He follows Lada's advice and ascends to the throne.

And so we slowly learn that though Mehmed was sultan, he was not in power. But with the help of Lada and her knowledge on various war tactics, he might just make it out alive on the other side.

"She had to keep them safe from Murad’s wrath. She had to turn Mehmed’s rule to their advantage, but she did not know how.”

We continue to have a few bumps on the road:

• Assassins were after them.
• Lada had killed a man.
• They ran to the harem to hide for the night.
• In the harem, Huma (Mehmed's mother) instructed Radu and Lada to act as if nothing had changed, but to draw no attention to themselves.
• Halil Pasha has his own interpretation of what should and shouldn't happen to Mehmed.
• Lada and Radu betraying Mehmed in order to keep him and his future as sultan safe.

We then have a two-year time jump to Amasya:

Lada, Radu, and Mehmed are a little more grown up and comfortable in their skin.

“Without Radu, she would have gone mad living here. In the two years since they left Edirne, some of the distance between them had closed. They shared blood and secrets enough to know that without each other, they had no one.
It was something.
Mehmed was the third part of their bond. He considered them his truest friends and only allies. The guilt of knowing better made Lada softer, broke down the anger she had kept up for so long.
They were safe here. That was also something.”

And a lot of other intense things happened during their adolescence, I mean I'm still trying to come to terms with all that what went down.

But the one that my heart enjoyed the most was: Mehmed and Lada.

When they met up at their secret place, I was overjoyed.

“Did you miss me?” he teased.
Sincerity betrayed her, tumbling out of her mouth in a whisper before she could rein it in. “I did.”
He put his hands on her waist, as he had done so many times last summer, pulling her under, pushing her, playing. But this time he left his hands there. They were warm through the thin material of her underclothes. His voice was husky, lower than it had been. “I missed you, too.”

Damn you, butterflies.

“He pulled her closer, and Lada warred within herself. Her inclination was to push him away, to cut him with a clever, sharp remark, to find something, anything to do with her hands, her worthless hands that floated uselessly at her sides.
Huma’s words echoed in her head. Set him free. Did she truly hold him that way?
Did she want to?
As though heeding her desperation but heedless of the confusion and fear ringing through her like the clash of blades, her hands lifted and grabbed the back of Mehmed’s head, tangling in his wet hair. And then her lips, from which nothing but poison had ever dropped, found his and were baptized with sweet fire, reborn into something new and wild. His mouth answered hers, lips parting, his teeth catching hers, her tongue meeting his.
It felt like fighting.
It felt like falling.
It felt like dying.
“Mehmed?” Radu called, his voice muffled and indistinct, as if Lada’s head were still underwater. She and Mehmed paused their mouth-to-mouth combat, and Lada realized her legs were wrapped around his waist, his hands around the backs of her thighs, their chests pressed together.”

I was really hesitant at first about their romance, but I would be lying if I said that they didn't make me swoon.


But it did feel really painful when we switched POVs to see Radu find out that the person he valued most in the world didn't feel the same.

"He wanted Mehmed to look at him the way he had looked at Lada.
He wanted Mehmed to kiss him the way he had kissed Lada.
He wanted to be Lada.
No, he did not. He wanted to be himself, and he wanted Mehmed to love him for being himself. His question, the question of Mehmed, was finally answered, piercing him and leaving him shaking, silent, on the floor.
He did not want this answer.”

Lada and Radu break off after this incident, and many others that occurred over the years... betrayal, defeat, bitterness. And it was damn hard to read.
They have saved each other so many times when no one else would, and it was heartbreaking to see them fall apart from one another.

And then also Lada and Mehmed's honeymoon stage turns a little sour.

“You are staying here!”
Lada peeled off his hand and took a step back. “Why?”
He was suddenly fascinated by the bruised flowers in his hand. “I need to leave someone I trust in charge of the city.”
“Anyone can do that! Nothing of value will be left here!”
Mehmed’s gaze was heavy when it finally found her. “Nothing of value?”
Understanding hit Lada. She ripped the flowers from his hand and threw them to the ground. “I will not stay behind to watch your brat! I am no nursemaid!”
Mehmed blinked rapidly, then shook his head. “Lada, I was not talking about my son. Do you think he is the only thing here I value?”
“Then what?”
“You! I will not take you into battle! You have no idea what the conditions are like, no idea how many ways there are to die.”
“I can handle myself.”
“But what about me? What would I do if something happened to you? I have to keep you safe!”
She pushed his chest, sending him stumbling, vase shards crunching beneath his boots. “I am not something to be kept!”

I loved this scene because it reminded me of:
That last line is so damn empowering.

Mehmed leaves Lada for the following months, keeping her furious and, though she won't admit it, in despair. So when she receives a letter with Radu's signature saying that Mehmed has fallen ill, she is ready to leave everyone behind.


“And where is the devil to take me?”
Lada whirled around, heart racing. Mehmed leaned in the doorway, mirth twisting the new form the siege had carved his weary face into. He looked haggard, his cheeks stubbled, dark circles beneath his eyes showing weeks of poor sleep. He crossed the room to her, arms open.
“You died!” She pushed him away, staring at his face. He was changed, but it was him. Alive. Healthy.
“Did I? That is disappointing. I was very much looking forward to being alive for our reunion. Though I feared you would kill me.”

Damn, was I reliefed when he showed up.

And I knew without a doubt that Lazar had sent that dreaded letter - for reasons I did not yet understand.

Until I did... and damn, I did not see that ending coming. Everything that happened with Lada, Mehmed, and Radu left me feeling both conflicted and proud. How they had all grown.

“Well, are you ready, Lada Dragwlya, daughter of the dragon?”
Fire burned in her heart, and her wounded soul spread out, casting a shadow like wings across her country. This was hers. Not because of her father. Not because of Mehmed. Because the land itself had claimed her as its own.
“Not Dragwlya,” she said. “Lada Dracul. I am no longer the daughter of the dragon.” She lifted her chin, sights set on the horizon. “I am the dragon.”

I need to know what will happen to this trio because Kiersten White sure knows how to keep me on edge.

I'm only certain of two things for the next book:

It would hurt, and I would need to be strong.

4.5 stars

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,253 followers
July 5, 2016
Ever heard of Vlad the Impaler? He had a reputation for cruelty throughout Europe. He took pleasure in torturing and killing his enemies with his most preferred method being impalement. He was also the inspiration for Dracula. Imagine an alternate history with Vlad the Impaler as a girl. This is our story.

And I Darken follows Lada’s life from the very beginning. We start in 1435 Transylvania with Vlad Dracul taking in the fact that his wife has given birth to a girl. Such a disgrace because she cannot be an heir. A girl is of no worth unless you marry her off. A year later her brother Radu is born. We follow Lada through other’s eyes in the first few chapters until the book jumps to 1446. From here on forward..the book is set in the dual perspectives of Lada and Radu. It’s pretty straight forward.

Lada wants so badly to impress her father Vlad. She wants to prove that even though she is a female, she can be as badass and brutal as the rest of them. In fact, she can be more fierce, dangerous, cruel, strong, etc. than any boy. She’s constantly trying to prove her worth to her father. Even after he uses his children as pawns in a treaty sending them off to be raised in the Ottoman Empire bargaining with their lives.

Radu is pretty much the opposite of his sister - not what Vlad would want out of a son. He’s sensitive, emotional, delicate, but so so beautiful. He is constantly seeking Lada’s love and approval. Lada views him as weak, while she is the strong one. She has this hate for her brother, but also an undeniable love. Lada is torn with her feelings on Radu because she constantly needs to protect him yet can’t stand that he can’t do it himself. She envies him for being born with a penis, thus naturally having more power than she could ever possibly have. Lada and Radu's sibling relationship is incredibly complex. It is one of my favorite aspects of the novel. I am very curious to see how it plays out in the future.

One of the best things about And I Darken is how the themes of politics, religion, and sexuality are all weaved in throughout the plot. I enjoyed how these played such a large part in not only our story, but the characters. There was such a great deal of character development. Politics do play a much larger role in the story than I was originally expecting, but I think I should re-evaluate those expectations. I mean..this is a story telling an alternate history to a man who lived this sort of life..he and his brother were used as political bargaining chips and held in “captivity.” The traumatic experiences built up eventually leading to his ruling of Wallachia as a sadistic leader. How can you tell this story without all the intricate details that led to such an outcome? I am oh so excited to see how Lada continues to become a Vlad the Impaler that we recognize.

The story is completely original and unlike anything I’ve ever read. The writing is dark and brutal. The setting is beautifully written and historically accurate. I fell in love with the characters and their individual stories. For the first in a series, this was set up so well. My main fault is the story got slow for a good portion of the book. It started off fantastic and picked up at the end. There is a time when Lada and Radu are caught up in the whole Mehmed thing. I understand why it all went the way it did. I just wish it wasn’t slow for such a large portion of the story. Though I realize this allowed time for character and story development.

I am very excited to see how things play out for Lada, Radu, Mehmed, and Wallachia in the sequel. I’m curious how close to history Kiersten White plans on keeping The Conquerors Saga. If you like YA books that tell an alternate history and prefer your books on the darker side, I highly recommend you read this!
June 23, 2018
Why, oh why, oh why, OH FUCKING WHY do English-speaking authors insist on using Slavic names, which they obviously keep fucking misusing????? Can anyoone please explain to me in a layman's terms what so chic or risque can there be about using names you don't know how to use? Have the editors gone extinct? Is there some grand conspiracy to keep me properly irritated? Why the blazing fads can they not get into their obviously thicker than average heads that a boy would be called Vladislav, Alexander, Valentin, Svyatoslav, Miloslav, Radmil (if you want to get really fancy with names) ..., while a girl would be called Vladislava, Alexandra, Valentina, Svyatoslava, Miloslava, Radmila ... Do you not understand that it is maddening to read a book, where a girl gets called 'Ladislav', time and again????????

Another thing, if a girl was called in honor of Vladislav, she should have been called for short Vlada not Lada. And the long version would have been much more likely Vladislava than Ladislava.
A girl could have been called Ladislava or Lada had she been named to the honor of an ancient pre-Christian Slavic pagan goddess of female beauty and love, Lada! I repeat, the name Lada is not derived from Vlada, it was an extremely old pagan name... Even the root words are different: Lada is from 'lad' and Vlad is from 'vlad'. We are not being graced by the presence of Professor Snape, we do not need to chop word roots!

In Slavic languages it's rare to chop a single consonant on the beginning of a name to get it shorter. It's not English, for Cristsakes! In most cases Slavic (as well as many used in Slavic countries names of Greek, Aramaic or Roman origins) names get shortened from the end not from the beginning: Olga becomes Olya, Mariya - Masha, Valentina - Valya, Alevtina - Alya, Glafira - Glafa, Natalya - Nata or Natasha, Lyudmila - Lyuda or (rarer) Mila, Lyubov - Lyuba, Sofiya - Sofa or Sofochka or Sofiushka or even Sophie (with Francais-like accent), Zinaida - Zina (not In(n)a or Ida, those would be different names!), even Serafima would become either Sera or Fima, just like Margarita would become either Rita or Margo (not Garita!). Basically, all 1-letter beginning choppings that I can think of involve: Elizaveta - Liza, Elena - Lena, Anastasiya - Nastya, - and it's always a vowel dropped off, not a consonant. You don't make a Ristina out of Kristina! Klavdiya becomes a Klava not Lavdiya! And Svyatoslava never would become a Vyatoslava!

If this feels too difficult why even bother using the oh-so-impossible-to-use-correctly names of Slavic origins? Or why not call by them only male characters?

The history? It's taking a walk or maybe a flying leap (from the nearest bridge, it seems) in a bid to get rid of writers in paroxisms of flying fantasy. What's important is it's absent from this book. It has taken a giant vacation from this plot. Farewell. No point in getting offended or not offended or researching Vlad Țepeș or the Ottoman empire or whatever... The names are mostly placeholders. The plot could have happened almost anywhere where women had social issues. Which is almost everywhere.

The characters? I don't know why they were supposed to have bothered to live. I don't know how many dymentional they were but most of them definitely were missing personality pieces. For one thing, it's cool to see a girl character strong enough to chew steel (not literally but then... no one gave her this chance...), ramrod straight (both in body and in her wonderfully social skills), calculating, greedy (my Wallachia!!!), supposedly people-loving (even though this never brought any of them any good, from what I read). For another, she was bullying bullies not to bully her brother, simultaneously bullying the said 'weak' brother into outbullying the bullies. It's a mess... An entertaining one. But nevertheless messy. I like strong characters. This is beyond a strong character. This a Terminator in the throes of android rage on parade. (How do you go about attacking 2 soldiers with 1 knife and 1 sidekick?)

Why Dracula? Bram Stoker might have bit someone.

The book had some cool quotes and the character of our transvestitenamed heroine was sort of unusual but I was too irritated to bother. I will add some of those quotes soon, I think.
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
546 reviews34.7k followers
February 6, 2021
She sat beside his bed for a long while. Finally, she put a hand on his shoulder and whispered, “You are mine.”

If you’re looking for a fast paced book with lots of action and historical accuracy you better turn around and leave this review, because I can guarantee that you won’t get either of those two things if you start to read “And I Darken”. If you’re looking for a slow paced and very character driven story that has quite a unique setting and lives and breathes intrigues and machinations... Well, you’re welcome to stay! ;-)

I really enjoyed this story because it was something different and even though there were some things you could argue about - for instance Lada’s full name being Ladislav which is definitely a male name that could have easily been changed into a female one – Kiersten White never claimed historical accuracy or well, I suppose just accuracy in that particular case. *lol* This book is placed in the genre of historical fiction after all and even though it borrows a few names and facts every now and then the story and the characters in it are clearly fictional. Just to put it out there as information for the people that might take offence when they read this. XD

And speaking of historical facts: Yes, Vlad II had two sons named Vlad (equivalent of Lada) and Radu who served as bargaining chips and were captives of Sultan Murad II. Funnily enough Mircea was actually Vlad’s elder brother and Radu (who was indeed called “Radu the handsome” or “Radu the fair”) was his half-brother. According to historical facts Vlad and his half-brother weren’t able to stand each other. Also Mehmed II (named Mohammed before he became the sultan) was actually Murad’s and Huma’s son. So there you go with the historical facts. History geek that I am, I probably could go into even more detail, but I’ll just leave it at that and talk about the fictional book instead. ;-P The history lesson is officially over now! You can breathe again. *lol*

The characters:

So this is the moment when I welcome you to Edirne where machinations and plots are brewing as thickly as a Mercimek Çorbası. If you don’t want to be spoiled you better leave now! If not: Be my guest and eat soup with me. ;-)


”Lada had a sense for power – the fine threads that connected everyone around her, the way those threads could be pulled, tightened, wrapped around someone until they cut off the blood supply. Or snapped entirely.”

This girl is fierce, relentless, unapologetic and tenacious. And she’s driven! Driven by her love for Wallachia, her brother and yes, even Mehmed. I think I rarely met a bookish character that was so self-assured and knew exactly what it wanted. Lada wants to go back to her homeland and her deep love for Wallachia trumps everything else. I think she’s kind of similar to Aelin when it comes to this, only that Aelin’s Terrasen is more like a vague idea of something that used to be and Lada’s Wallachia is everything that’s out of her reach. She’s longing for her country and her people and she’s ready to do whatever is needed in order to get back there. But she’s also conflicted. So very conflicted. She refuses to give up on her religion, she doesn’t want to adapt to Ottoman customs and she fights against her tutor, yet there is one thing or rather one person she can’t seem to be able to refuse and his name is Mehmed. Throughout the entire book it felt like she was torn inside and I suppose she was. Between what she wanted and what she needed or craved for. I’m not sure the ending solved that problem but she made a choice and she’ll have to live with it. For better or for worse. >_<

”On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself.”

”Why was she still here? What had become of the girl who was the daughter of a dragon? Was this it, then? Had she reached the pinnacle of her potential? A command of fifty men in service of a man she loved, who ruled an empire she loathed?”


”And then, seeing the relief shining in Mehmed’s black eyes, Radu knew what he hoped for: He hoped for the best for his friend. Regardless of what that meant for himself.”

To say Radu is a precious cinnamon roll would be kind of insulting because even though he is, the Slytherin in him is still strong! *lol* I really loved that about his character because it made him so much more intriguing. There is this beautiful and sweet boy that knows exactly how to use his good looks and charisma to his advantage and he never even hesitates to do just that. As long as it helps him to protect Lada and Mehmed he won’t have any qualms about his actions. If I’d have to describe Radu in a brief sentence I’d say that he is: Beauty with a sting. XD But despite all his good cheer and easy nature he’s also a very lonely and insecure character which is easy to see whenever he’s around Mehmed. At first he doesn’t even realize that what he feels for Mehmed is love and once he figures it out he’s trying to suppress it. Because of his good looks and friendly nature he was always teased and I think the fact that he harboured feelings for his best friend only made it even harder to come to terms with himself. His father basically thought he was soft and worthless so it’s no wonder he’s super insecure about his feelings. Especially at a time like that and in a country where the Sultan has an entire harem of women. It’s no wonder poor Radu is lost and I’m kind of afraid of what will happen to him in book two. =S

”What had Lazar seen? What did he suspect? Could he tell simply by watching Radu that something was very wrong with him, when even Radu did not understand what it was? All he knew was that there was some light, some pull, some fire that Mehmed carried, and Radu only felt truly alive when he was nearby.”

”You have both been so busy learning tactics and studying battles, you have failed to see the truth of where thrones are won and lost. It is in the gossip, the words and letters passed in dark corners, the shadow alliances and the secret payments. You think I am worthless? I can do things you could never dream of.”


Mehmed’s smile dropped off, his eyes becoming as hard as his tone. “No one can offer you what I can, and if anyone tried, it would be treason.”

Dare I say it? Yes, yes I do. Don’t kill me but I think in comparison to the complexity of Lada and Radu’s characters, Mehmed was actually pretty... bland? *lol* Ahh it feels good to get that off my chest. XD I really don’t know why both of them fell for him because aside of his occasional kindness there is actually not a lot that speaks for him. He’s as spoiled as you’d expect the son of a sultan to be and even though there was an obvious effort to show that he was never loved by his father he still had it so much better than anyone else. Mehmed might not have been happy about his role but he still played it and used his harem to father children. I guess in some way he was as torn about this as Lada and Radu were about their allegiances, but this certainly didn’t stop him from seeking out his harem and for using his power as he saw fit. So yes, underneath it all he’s still spoiled and carries some sort of entitled arrogance with him. Which ultimately didn’t make him all too likeable in my opinion. I DID appreciate his efforts to protect his infant brother though and I was as heartbroken as he was when Huma arranged for him to be killed. T_T

”He knew then that his posterity, his wandering, homeless people, would rule the world. Is how far we have come not a testament to the truth of his vision? I have inherited that, Lada. It is a calling and a dream I cannot deny. The tree is mine to spread, and I must.”

The relationships & ships:

Radu & Lada:

Radu nodded, snuggling into her shoulder. “Will you protect me?”
“Until the day I kill you.”

In some way this is such a typical sibling relationship and then again it isn’t. I think everyone who has a brother or a sister can relate to the rivalry between those two and sometimes even to the animosity they feel at the beginning of the book. Lada realizing that she loves and cares about her brother deeply is something very typical for siblings. When you’re little they are always there and steal the attention from you, so you try to get some of your parents attention too, but the older you get the more you realize that the person you took for granted is very dear to you and that you wouldn’t want to miss them for the world. So regarding their early years this felt very relatable. Their relationship as they grow older is something entirely different though. Where normal siblings would have gotten along by then, Lada and Radu are still struggling. It’s obvious they love each other but at the same time they also kind of hate what they’ve become. Lada can’t forgive Radu for embracing their new home and Islam and Radu doesn’t understand why Lada is holding on to their old ways. This by itself is a pretty interesting dynamic and if you add Mehmed into the mix it gets even more complicated. At first it was their father that sowed the seed of discord and later on it’s Mehmed. Lada knows about Radu’s feelings yet she also knows that Mehmed has only eyes for her, and Radu is painfully aware that Mehmed only wants his sister and not him. Despite all that their bond is strong and when push comes to shove it’s Lada, Radu rescues. XD I really wish those two siblings would have talked more and that Lada would have explained why she let their teacher hurt Radu. *sighs* What being apart will do to their already strained relationship I dunno, but you bet I’m ready to find out. ;-)

”You – It does not seem like you. I never thought you could do something like this.”
Radu stiffened. “You may have been the one who stopped the dagger last time, but I am the one who will know before the dagger ever comes close to Mehmed.”

”You saved me,” she said.
“Of course I did.”
She shook her head. “Not when I was falling. When Ilyas had us both on the floor. You chose me over Mehmed.”
“You are my family,” he whispered. Lazar had been right, after all.

Lada & Mehmed:

Mehmed blinked rapidly, then shook his head. “Lada, I was not talking about my son. Do you think he is the only thing here I value?”
“Then what?”
“You! I will not take you into battle! You have no idea what the conditions are like, no idea how many ways there are to die.”

I think this relationship was doomed from the beginning because neither Lada nor Mehmed are able to change the way they are. Lada’s first and only true love is Wallachia and Mehmed is the sultan of the Ottoman Empire and has responsibilities he’ll never be able to escape. If Lada would have given in they might have had a chance but she’s too independent and stubborn to give up her dreams. Also I probably would have disliked her if she would have chosen Mehmed over everything she loves. If you break it down to the basics all Mehmed can give her is being one of many women to bear him children, always standing on the sidelines, designated to be nothing more than the shadow of the sultan. Lada has to go her own way and even though she had to rip out her heart in order to do so, she made the sacrifice willingly because she knew it was necessary. She’ll never be a docile wife and Mehmed should have realized this way earlier than he did. Their cultures and stances just clash too much. So I think this ship has sunk even though I doubt that we’ll have seen the last of them together. *lol* There’s still book 2 and 3 after all so I’m sure they’ll meet again eventually.

”Say you are mine.” He trailed his lips down her neck. She arched into him, digging her fingers into his back.
“I am yours,” she whispered. The words cut like knives, barely out of her mouth before he stole them, sealing them with his own lips.

Radu & Mehmed:

”He wanted Mehmed to look at him the way he had looked at Lada.
He wanted Mehmed to kiss him the way he had kissed Lada.
He wanted to be Lada.
No, he did not. He wanted to be himself, and he wanted Mehmed to love him for being himself.

First of all I’ve to say: DAMN IT!!! How could Mehmed not realize that Radu didn’t come along with them?!!?? Like seriously!! He’s his best friend and he didn’t realize his absence until about an hour or so has passed?! WTH?? Poor Radu! T_T It broke my heart! As did Radu being in love with Mehmed. I was constantly wondering if Mehmed is even aware of it but considering that he didn’t even notice Radu was missing he obviously only has eyes for Lada. It’s like Radu is some sort of afterthought and I hurt for Radu because he deserves so much better than that. I still don’t know how I feel about Radu’s marriage with Nazira but I suppose in some way it will be good for them both. I mean Nazira can be with her maid Fatima and be happy and maybe she’ll be a good companion for Radu. Someone he can confide in when he feels lonely and lost. That he had to kill Lazar because he betrayed Mehmed made me very sad but I understand why he did it. >_< Still, Lazar was an old and trusted friend that only tried to protect Radu so that he died at his own hands was a cruel twist. =(( I wish I would have gotten Mehmed’s POV because I think some part of him is aware that Radu loves him and even uses it to bind him to his side... His POV certainly would have been helpful in that regard. *lol* And I don’t even know who that guard from Constantinople was that held Radu’s gaze for such a long time but I’m pretty sure he would have been way more healthy for Radu than Mehmed. XD I’m kinda disappointed nothing happened between those two. *lol* But I’m pretty sure sooner or later Radu will meet a guy that will reciprocate his feelings and hopefully he’ll be ready to take the leap. =) He deserves to be loved and I hope it will happen in book two. XD

After she was gone, Radu held Mehmed as he wept, Radu’s joy at cradling Mehmed was like a kick to the stomach, overpowering and destined to linger with bruises long after it was over.
“Never leave me.” Mehmed’s grief-choked voice still rang with command.
Radu closed his eyes. “I will never leave you.” Mehmed was in his arms, but he knew Lada was the only thing in Mehmed’s heart.


Kiersten White took historical names and spun her own story around them and what a marvellous tale it turned out to be! If you like historical fiction and books with a slow plot and multifaceted, independent characters this one certainly will be for you. Add a little bit of love, jealousy, an LGBTQ rep and lots of intrigues and you’re all set for a while. ;-P
757 reviews2,348 followers
August 1, 2018
its been about three months since I've read this this and despite hating it, I'm still going to read the next book because I want the pain everyone feels reading this series!!! I still hope the next book will be better!!!! the only problem is that I literally remember nothing from this book. it's so forgetful, oops. 🤷🏻‍♀️

I want pain ;) and death ;) and feels ;) and all the good things everyone promises ;) otherwise you might find me attending my own funeral ;) because i'll be dead from the disappointment ;) and i can't handle this being a disappointment ;)

anyways,,,, i'm excited.

BR with my favorite type of lube
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,093 reviews17.7k followers
August 21, 2020
Listen. Listen. I adore this series. I love it in my soul. Buuuuuut this is a great example of a series where book one is a great setup but book two is where the payoff is. Even though I had some issues here, it should be noted that book two, Now I Rise, is one of my all-time favorite books, improving on every one of my issues with this book.. Top five-single-books-ever level. Feel free to drop on over to my review.

I admit that I loved this slightly more while reading it - I think time and meditation has somewhat dulled my opinion.


♔ The worldbuilding is just beautiful. And I Darken is historical fiction, but it's not like historical fiction that you've read before. Honestly, it reads like excellent fantasy. It's cool that history classes about the Ottoman Empire can spoil you about a book. There's some awesome political intrigue in this one, which I REALLY loved.
"You see this...as a prison. But you are wrong. This is my court. This is my throne. This is my kingdom. The cost was my freedom and my body...So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?"

♚ The tension was so palpable. I genuinely felt that these characters could die at any moment. Dramatic tension never faded, and the book is incredibly suspenseful. Yes, there are moments where the plot is slow and the book got boring, but for a 500-page book, this was incredibly engaging. And I Darken truly is very dark, as promised. There is nothing light and fluffy about this book.

♔ I liked that White managed to have a misogynistic, borderline-Islamophobic main character, yet not portray either of those messages as positive. Neither of these traits are romanticized by the narrative. In fact, some of the major characters practice Islam, including Radu and later Nazira, and for them it is a consistent positive. I HAVE seen a few ownvoices reviewers mention they felt otherwise about the rep, so I'd check out some other reviews.

♚ The writing style of this blew me away. It's so engaging, and gorgeous in a very understated way. So kudos for achieving that balance!


Now, here's my real complaint. Lada, Radu, and Mehmed are... sort of well developed... but none of them are all that sympathetic, and they fall into archetypes more than I'd like.

♔ Lada is definitely a morally ambiguous and badass character. She's purposefully written as both hatable and sympathetic. She believes she's not like other girls and there's a religious taint to her dislike for the Ottoman Empire. Her dislikability is honestly one of the reasons I am so impressed with her character. Because I should hate her, but somehow, she's my favorite; she's just got a sympathetic edge to her. I did have a few issues, though. First of all, she's not in touch with her emotions unless that emotion is anger, which is fine, but I almost wanted her to have a true breakdown and show the cracks in her armor. That's just my preference in characters coming through, I think.

The real issue is that she gets too distracted by Mehmed. Badass female character... until Hot Dude Appears. You know, creativity. To be fair, she keeps her badassery and characterization, even when the book gets too romantic for my taste; it's just frustrating.

♚ Radu is an interesting character in the abstract, but his storyline really annoyed me. His main job in this book is to be in love with Mehmed. Unrequited gay love. You know, creativity. This narrative does definitely improve in book two (one of the many things I loved about book two #IworshipNowIRise2k17) but for this book, I'll just say that it really didn't deserve the representation praise.

♔ While Mehmed is extremely likeable in the first half, in the second half I kind of hated him. He comes off as a misogynistic ass in some sections. Granted, this was purposeful, but I really just feel like he needs to get off Lada's case.

Complex sibling relationships (or rivalries) are the absolute greatest. Radu and Lada's sibling rivalry and contradicting close bond is an absolute triumph. Unfortunately, I wasn't a fan of their dynamic's relationship to that stupid love triangle. In general, there's too much romance; Lada and Mehmed's chemistry was completely nonexistent. Frankly, Mehmed had more chemistry with Radu, but was also portrayed entirely as heterosexual. Again, that unrequited love thing got old FAST. This love triangle is a super creative idea, and I really love it in the abstract, but it got old fast when I realized White had no intentions of portraying Mehmed as anything but straight.

All in all, the character work here wasn't bad by any means, but it wasn't quite as engaging for me as so many others have said it was.

So, do I recommend this book? Yes, with every bit of my heart. This book was solid already, and then I read an arc of the sequel and it's maybe one of my favorite books of all time. This series owns my ass.

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Profile Image for Yusra  ✨.
249 reviews510 followers
August 20, 2018
here's a message to this book:


1st Read:

Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
November 25, 2018
in the interest of full transparency, this was not what i was expecting. not in the least. and i think its due to the fact this book is labelled as fantasy, which is misleading because there was no fantasy element to this story at all. its straight up historical fiction. this was about two siblings who befriend mehmed (the conquerer) and experience his early years as the sultan of the ottoman empire.

but the more i think about it, the more i actually enjoyed this? which surprises me because world history was my worst subject in school! hehe.

this was very heavy when it came to court politics and war strategising, which did not interest me at all. where the story really shined for me was the dynamic between the main characters. i really felt for lada and radus relationship as siblings. as someone who isnt close to their brother, i could really empathise with what they were going through. and seeing how mehmeds friendship with each of them grew and changed things was just so hard to watch, but also really touching. i thought the character depth and development was simply phenomenal.

im pretty sure i will continue this series for the characters alone. if i wanted to know more about the expansion of the ottoman empire, i would pick up a text book. but these characters made the story completely worth while. <3

4 stars
Profile Image for Ben Alderson.
Author 21 books13.5k followers
February 6, 2017
First book of 2017 complete.
Really unique story and i did really enjoy it. Some parts were confusing but the majority was brilliant!

I thought there would be magic involved but it was not, still really good!
Profile Image for Candace.
1,176 reviews4,329 followers
February 27, 2017
'And I Darken' was the first book that I've ever read by Ms. Kiersten White, but it certainly won't be the last. The first book in 'The Conquerers' series, it managed to completely captivate me. I am both intrigued, enamored, and at times appalled, by these characters and the turbulent world that they occupy.

Lada Dragwlya is an unlikely heroine. She's unattractive, uncouth and at times, downright mean. She's everything her father had hoped for in a son, but got in his daughter. Her only redeeming qualities are her love for her homeland, Wallachia, and her love for her younger brother, Radu.

By comparison, Radu is everything that Lada is not. He is soft-spoken and gentle, an utter disappointment to their father, the Prince of Wallachia. Immediately, Radu claimed a piece of my heart.

When their father trades Lada and Radu to the Sultan of Ottoman as pawns to guarantee his loyalty, they are left to fend for themselves in a hostile new world. Lada is determined to be strong and to plan for her eventual revenge on the Sultan and his countrymen. She refuses to show any weakness that might be used against her and Radu.

Unlike his sister, Radu soon takes to the ways of this new world. He never felt that he fit in in Wallachia and finds comfort in this new country. He is not resistant to the new teachings or the new religion, as Lada is.

After months living in the Ottoman Empire, Radu and Lada make an unlikely friend. Mehmed is the illegitimate son of the sultan. Before long, the three are inseparable. The line between friend and enemy blurs and loyalties are called into question.

From start to finish, I was completely captivated by this story. It has a little of everything. There's plenty of action and battle scenes. There's romance and angst. Kingdoms rise and are overthrown. The incredible highs are off-set by bitter betrayals.

I am completely and totally hooked on this story. It is the first book, in what I'm sue will prove to be an epic saga. The characters were certainly flawed, but that only made me love them more. As soon as the next book is released, I'll be diving in again. I was left with a lot of questions and I'll have to wait for the next book to get my answers.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and I thought that the narration was well done. I could easily distinguish between the characters and I thought the narrator did a great job of conveying the emotions and intensity. It was a fantastic audiobook choice for me.

Check out more of my reviews at www.bookaddicthaven.com
Profile Image for Katerina.
422 reviews16.9k followers
July 22, 2017
“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

A gem of a book.
It was savage and brilliant, a bloody tale of politics laced with tainted relationships, betrayals and desire. For freedom, for power, for human touch. For greatness.

In And I Darken, Kiersten White travels through time to medieval Wallachia, a vassal state of the blooming Ottoman Empire. To the court of Vlad Dracul, the cruel father that terrified his son, and mesmerized his daughter. Until he gave them away to the Sultan in order to secure his reign, and left them among foes ready to devour them. Lada was always ferocious. Refusing to forget her country, despite her traitorous father, determined to set it free from Ottoman rule, from any oppressor. Radu was always tame. Afraid but socially skilled, he could entrance anyone to do his bidding. Their relationship was not an easy one, but it got more complicated when they met and befriended Mehmed, the Sultan's third son. For them he was an ally. Their only ally. For him they were his honest friends, whom he trusted unconditionally. What happens though when love collides with duty? With ambition? With loyalty? And what is the cost of ultimate power?
“I love Wallachia. It belongs to me, and I belong to it. It is my country, and it should always be mine, and I hate any king or sultan or god or prophet that proclaims anyone else has any right to it.”

If there is one lesson to be learned from And I Darken, is that History is a matter of perspective. The hero of a nation is the bane of another. The greatest victory of one army, painted with the most glorious colours, is the most somber memory of the defeated. We are aware of great events that took place centuries before our time, but we fail to wonder about the men behind them, the person behind the leader. Which were his motivations? How passionate was he about his goals? What was the source of them? It was with a heavy heart that I realized halfway through the book that Mehmed was not just a Mehmed. He was the Mehmed. Mehmed II the Conqueror. The man that conquered my country and sentenced it to nearly 400 years of slavery. You can understand why I was at least prejudiced against him. But what astonished me was that throughout the story, even though his character had many weaknesses and I wasn't exactly fond of him, I came to begrudgingly admire his dedication, his cunning and sharp mind and that was the result of Kiersten White's writing. She was objective. She painted with deadly accuracy the good and the bad, without taking sides. She didn't favour Wallachia or Ottoman Empire. She took events and people who actually existed and walked this earth and infused the dry stories left by historians with life, passion, with tragedies and cruelty that made your body feel like a live wire, humming with energy and tension, desperate to unleash them. Through lush descriptions, luxury to the extent of extravagance, religious quests, customs that may disorientate your moral compass and constant plots, she crafted a world gritty yet foreign. She did not romanticise war and court intrigue. She was an experienced guide to the barracks of the Janisaries, the harems and the mosques, the schemes, the rise and fall of empires, and to the paths Lada, Radu and Mehmed followed. Paths where, as you crossed them, the light was slowly diminishing until you were left alone in the dark.
“Her spine was steel. Her heart was armor. Her eyes were fire.”

Lada. Radu. Mehmed.
A toxic triangle, a poisonous threesome bound by love, lust and yearning. In a way, they broke and reshaped each other. Lada was an extraordinary character. By changing Vlad the Impaler to Lada the Impaler, the author created a mean, ruthless and passionate figure, fixed on finding a place in the wolrd meant only for her, without depending on the graces of a man, whoever that man might be. She was the Daugher of the Dragon. The Daughter of Wallachia. A living and breathing menace, torn between her burning desire to return to her Mother, to liberate her Mother, and her complicated feelings for Radu and Mehmed. While Lada was sharp as steel, Radu was soft and pleasant. He held his sister accountable for many of his misfortunes, he was jealous of her and intimidated at the same time, but he found a way to rise. To use his talents. For Mehmed. The bright star that blinded both siblings. Guided by the belief that he was chosen to do the unthinkable, to conquer Constantinople, he had little regard for the lives that would be lost. The three of them committed terrible crimes. They betrayed each other, and kept facing the same questions, without being able to answer; Is one life worth less than a thousand? Is heartbreak sanctioned in order to protect the ones you love? What is the ultimate sacrifice they would make for the accomplishment of everything they'd ever wanted?
“Souls and thrones are irreconcilable.”

And I Darken's main pillars are politics and power. Having that in mind, you will bear witness to devastating choices, to a plethora of plots and bloodshed of those getting in the way. Kiersten White won't encourage you to pick a side, though. That is your choice and your choice alone. You will wobble, curse, cry out of frustration and then wobble some more. In the end, it doesn't matter what (or whom) you choose. All that matters is that you will feel an odd kinship with these damaged characters. You will experience the clash of religions, of dreams and calls and ambitions. And you will feel yourself darken in the process.
“And so she cut out her heart and offered it as a sacrifice. She would pay whatever price her mother Wallachia demanded.”

You can find this review and more over at BookNest.eu!
Profile Image for Helen 2.0.
404 reviews912 followers
September 5, 2016
"It is the way of the world. You can be the aggressor, you can fight against crusaders on their own land, or you can stay at home and wait for them to come to you. And they would come. They would come with fire, with disease, with swords and blood and death. Weakness is an irresistible lure."
4.5 stars.

Lada made an awesome first impression, not everyone can claim to be a badass right from birth. She wasn't exactly relatable - most of the time I couldn't figure out what her motivations were - but I couldn't help loving her no matter what.

I feel like Radu and Lada switched places in terms of gender and sexuality. Lada never wanted to be female and Radu never acted like a traditional male. Perhaps this came from their lack of adult role models growing up.

Mehmed made me angry sometimes... his determination to conquer Constantinople despite how many people would get killed in the process, and especially his obliviousness as the center of a love triangle. Every time he drove a wedge between Lada and Radu I wanted to strangle him, because Lada and Radu are my sibling bromance OTP - my brOTP. They should stand by one another no matter what.

The ending was bittersweet.
Actually, about that: does anyone think it's possible Mehmed is bisexual? Sometimes he seemed to get strangely physical with Radu. Maybe that's just me and my wishful thinking.

Will be desperately waiting for And I Rise until 2017.
Profile Image for Tweebs♥️ .
184 reviews836 followers
February 4, 2018
•full review posted now•

“On our wedding night," she said, "I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”

I'm in the process of giving my grades up for adoption because I'm unfit to raise them myself.

Is there any possibility that I can trade my grades for Radu and Lada??

Because now, I'd be fucking fabulous at raising them.

this is all lies; they'd probably end up raising me

I know it’s been like 65 years since I’ve finished this book. I have no excuses besides being the world's biggest procrastinator but hey look at me. I deserve an A++ for managing to type up all of this.

“We cannot always have what we want, no matter how much we want it.”

And I Darken, was as beautiful as the cover. I don't know whether it devoured me or I devoured it but the point is.......😍. It actually made my procrastinator self want to walk around in public and telling every human being, "If you don't read this....are you really living?" . Truthfully, I don't know what part in this book I declared I'm officially in love but all you need to know is that...you will love this. Not only because the synopsis will completely enamor you but the characters will make you want to throw up your soul and give it to them in a silver platter.

What's this book about???


✔️From beginning to end, you're thrown into a world filled with violence, abuse, dark, finding oneself and somewhat loving??
✔️ If you read the synopsis, you won't be let down.
✔️ Usually, I tend to stay away from giving anything about the plot and that's what I shall do.
✔️ honestly i don't even know where to begin like how does one explain this book ?? and actually make sense?? like I don't even understand my own self.
✔️ All I will tell you is that; the plot is very unique and interesting.
✔️ it's 5000 times better to go in as clueless as possible with zero expectations
✔️ You'd appreciate way way WAY more
✔️ Plus watching the plot unravel and tie together is the best feeling
✔️ I thought I knew what I was signing myself up for
✔️ I thought wrong
✔️ 😭


✔️ I know I know
✔️ I'm already a mother of 75875845845 fictional characters but like what is two more??
✔️ that's hardly anything
✔️ pfftttt....
✔️ listen i dare you to resist Radu and Lada
✔️ P.S: i'm not saying you will fail at this but that's exactly what I'm saying

If I were to explain the characters then I rather do it by using gifs.

Meet Lada:

Meet Radu

That is all.

I rest my case.

Don't even fight me on this.


✔️ Whoa there buddy
✔️ I might as well become the heart emoji because that was all I ever was from beginning to end
✔️ i think you need further clarification
✔️ this was me
✔️ 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍
✔️ In all seriousness, the writing was exquisite and everything was beautifully detailed. I may or may not have drooled but ssh you didn't hear that from me.
✔️ It made picking quotes hard because I simply loved everything.


✔️ Guys, It had a lot of history and I'm a fan of history so basically yes yes yes
✔️ I can't forget the representation of different sexualities
✔️ and y'all will be proud of this because I am
✔️ It even includes Islam which still makes me want to scream in joy
✔️ as in....right now.


✔️ if you're reading this review then you're probably wondering why I gave it 4.5 stars?
✔️ well that's easy to explain
✔️ Mehmed
✔️ That is all
✔️ I should've wrote this review before finishing Book 2 because now i'm lost as to where my opinion of mehmed changed.

I think y'all already know what i'm going to say next but if you didn't then listen up buddy. If you don't pick this book up sometime in your life then I will come to your house and do this:

To put it kindly, you won't regret picking this book up. Give it a chance and let it surprise you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did :)

“I cannot afford to lose you, too"
"You cannot lose something you do not own. Take me with you”



{calls help line}

me: i tried to resist it but it gave me that, "i know you want me" look.
person: ???
me: and i can't
me: and i tried
me: and i failed
me: this title just fucking suits my mood

this makes no sense, just like my entire life but the point is i want to read it and understand the hype. This book was all over my feed so it better be goddamn beautiful and make me feel things or else i'll start a riot.

and i will ;p
Profile Image for Chantal .
343 reviews832 followers
August 19, 2016
Dear Kiersten White,

Thank you for restoring my faith in the YA Fantasy genre. I’ve had bad luck with it this year and I really needed someone to show me that the genre wasn’t the problem, and I wasn’t the problem, but instead I was just reading the wrong books.

Thank you for making me feel so much. For filling me up to the brim with emotion. Love, hatred, happiness, despair, frustration, glee, anxiety, passion. I felt it all while reading And I Darken and I can’t remember the last time a book did this to me.

Thank you for writing about a setting and time period that I’ve never seen before and thus gave this book an air of originality and doing it so excellently.

Thank you for not shying away from making your book all about politics. Thank you for making those political aspects easily accessible to anyone regardless of prior knowledge or reading experience, without ever trivializing it.

Thank you for all the fleshed-out, authentic characters, but most of all Lada. Thank you for Lada. Just that.

Thank you for the ending, which was exactly what I wanted to happen throughout the entire second half of the book, but wasn’t sure would.

Thank you for slowly killing me from the inside in the best possible way. You’ve probably put me in a book hangover for the rest of the year.

Thank you for giving me everything I never knew I wanted.


“I cannot afford to lose you, too"
"You cannot lose something you do not own. Take me with you”

It’s perhaps important for me to note that this book cannot strictly be considered “Fantasy”. There is no magic and it doesn’t even take place in a different world from our own. Instead, it’s an alternate history retelling, set in Eastern Europe during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. It is based on history, but not historically accurate. I say this, because if you go into it expecting a fast-paced, magic-filled world, you will be disappointed. It reads more like a YA historical fiction, than fantasy. Kiersten White took a real historical figure, Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, and turned history on its head. What if this man, who has a reputation for cruelty and found pleasure in torturing and killing, was a girl? The premise is intriguing to say the least, but a lot could have gone wrong and I’m happy to say it didn’t.

The plot, which could easily have been boring and repetitive, was exciting and didn’t ever bore me. Not once. I was hooked from the first chapter and couldn’t put the book down, even if at times, I needed to take a break just to give my poor heart some time to deal with all the feelings. I love intricate political back-and-forths and character-driven stories and this book did both wonderfully. Kiersten White knows exactly how to create tension, when to resolve misunderstandings right before they become frustrating, when to switch POV and how to make a rather slow book not feel slow-paced.

How can I talk about the characters without melting into a little puddle of mush? In short, this cast of characters was one of the best I’ve ever come across. They were both great standing on their own, as well as their dynamics with others. All of them were fleshed-out and three-dimensional, thoroughly flawed yet lovable and at times so relatable it hurt. I went into the book expecting to like Lada (and she did turn out to be my favourite) but I also loved the other characters. Sweet Radu with his good but emotionally scarred soul, Mehmed who does so much wrong and I sometimes wanted to slap but I warmed to anyways, Nikolai who is just the best, and all the female characters of the court who taught Lada what it means to be a woman in their world and how to be powerful and that the two aren’t irreconcilable.

“Ugh," she muttered, tugging his hair. "You are so pretty. Like a delicate butterfly beneath my boot."
"Ugh, " he replied, pulling one of her own curls, which were thick and coarse. "You are so mad. Like a rabid hound that needs to be put down.”

The relationship between the two siblings was one of my favourite aspects of the novel. Their dynamics were done with such realism and honesty that it had me in awe. That wavering between affection, resentment and jealousy felt palpable and in many ways, their relationship was the driving force of the novel.

Lada herself was wonderful and one of my new favourite female characters. She is so fierce, so brutal, at times evil, but somehow she’s also incredibly relatable, something I did not expect. She’s a badass for sure but so much more than that. Her intelligence and calculating nature fascinated me and all I wanted was for her to be happy, to give her a hug and be her best friend. Lada blows other anti-heroines, like Adelina from The Young Elites, out of the water. She’s also a YA main character who isn’t pretty and yields that knowledge like a blade. Watching her fury unfold and seeing the fear, thirst and want behind it was utterly captivating.

The last time she was up here, she had been... staring up at the sky and dreaming of stars. Now, she looked down and plotted flames.

The dynamics between the characters were fabulous to read, though not always a pleasure. There is so much in this book: romance, friendship, sibling love and rivalry; it’s about power struggles and loyalty and the meaning of family. Feminism was clearly an important element but wasn’t ever over-the-top or lecturing and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that treated power and its importance (both on a personal and macro level) quite so well.

“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

I applaud the author for her elaboration on religion and her respectful way of talking about Islam, Christianity and Atheism. The novel also contains unrequited love (and lots of it) a topic that I always want to see, but that I’ve found to be astonishingly sparse in YA literature.

The fact that the author managed to interweave all of this seamlessly, still has me in awe. The sheer relatability I felt while reading this whole book was amazing: I felt like I knew these characters and seeing them struggle with so many things that I struggle with daily (though on a completely different scope), made me feel understood and less lonely with my feelings.

Kiersten White’s writing was beautiful and a huge departure from her Paranormalcy series I read from her years ago. Quietly poetic without being purple and always effective and poignant.

To give you an idea of what to expect, I would probably compare And I Darken most closely to The Winner's Crime and The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (also two of my favourites). If you loved that trilogy, I’m pretty sure you will love this one too. Otherwise, I know this book isn’t for everyone, as I can see people finding it dragging and slow-paced, but for me it worked perfectly and I full-heartedly recommend it.

I’m going to stop gushing now, just know this: I loved everything about this book and it will end up on my list of favourites for 2016 for sure.
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
595 reviews3,584 followers
October 15, 2018
"She would never toss aside her country the way her father had. She would protect it.

A small sob threatened to break free. What could she do? She had no power.

Yet, she vowed. She had no power

Can I get a high five for reached expectations? Bring it in, come on.

And I Darken is YA at its finest. There were times when I questioned if it should be classified as NA/Adult because the themes it deals with and the characters' thought processes get pretty dark. And then there's the history/world-building element, which is oh so rich and layered, but I worry may fly over the head for younger readers.

It's mature YA, let's put it that. Teens deserve more credit.

I have a bone to pick with the blurb, by the way. It in no way prepared for this gem of a character named Radu, also known as Lada's younger brother.

"There are other ways to beat someone than with fists."

His character arc is magnificent. Shy and physically weak, Radu has always been overshadowed by his fierce sister. He idolizes her, relies on her to protect him. Once they get to the Ottoman empire though, he realizes Lada's definition of fighting, through her fists, is useless and steps up to the plate as a Varys/Tyrion hybrid. He schmoozes up to the nobility, gains their trust, learns their secrets and just like that, he becomes one of the most powerful men in the nation.

That's what I love about And I Darken. It portrays different kinds of power: soft and hard, subtle and obvious. It shows there is power to be found in the unexpected: women and femininity. The main reason I'm not 100% in love with Lada is she acts rather condescending towards women who embrace traditional female roles.

"You should have fought them. You should have escaped."

"To where? I was angry, for many years. And frightened. But there are many ways to be powerful. There is power in stillness. There is power in watching, waiting, saying the right thing at the right time to the right person. There is power in being a woman—oh yes, power in these bodies you gaze upon with derision...When you have something someone else wants, there is always an element of power."

To be fair, she changes. After meeting Mara (one of the sultan's wives who won peace for her country by agreeing to an arranged marriage) and Huma (Mehmed's mother who seized power through her body), she begins to long for female companionship and acknowledges "threads" of power can be found in unexpected places. Though I wish Lada could've changed more. She still considers herself better than these women and I look forward to her opinion shifting further in the sequel.

Make no mistake; I do adore Lada to pieces. Especially her decision at the end and this quote, which I will use in a wedding toast someday:

“On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”

There is a love triangle and it will absolutely break you. It's not two guys vying for one girl, like I thought would be at first. Everyone is sort of tangled with each other. Quite a bit of angst is involved, but it never feels cliche or melodramatic. White set up the situation so well and the characters so beautifully, it feels exactly as it ought to be: poignant and heartwrenching.

Very rarely does a tagline comparison deliver. And I Darken is indeed Game of Thrones for teens. It's filled with political intrigue, power struggles, and lots and lots of feels.

"There is no such thing as cheating. There is only winning or losing. I won."

My review of Now I Rise
My review of Bright We Burn
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,604 reviews5,987 followers
April 28, 2016
When I saw the premise for this story..A female anti-hero retelling of Vlad the Impaler..in a sort of Game of Thorns vibe..I was all set to start handing out some stars.
Palm Springs commercial photography

The book starts with Lada (Ladislav-but she will punch you in the face for calling her that) and her brother Radu growing up in Wallachia. Lada wants to impress her father Vlad so that she can prove that even though born female she is a force to be reckoned with. And she is..
Palm Springs commercial photography

Occasionally she informed her tutors when a torture method appeared to be less effective than others. They ground their teeth and whispered that she had no soul.

Her brother is the complete opposite of Lada, Radu is handsome and meek. Sensitive to a fault. He gets beat up a ton except for the times that Lada uses her fists to get him out of a jam. She tells him that no one will kill him but her.
Palm Springs commercial photography

Their father Vlad is a spineless turd and he puts the kids off on the Ottoman empire. Their lives are at stake if he does not keep his treaty bargains. Lada HATES it there. They later try to marry her off and that works out just great...
Lada spoke with a quiet, clear voice, and the room hushed in surprise. No one expected a gril to speak. she was probably not allowed to. Radu knew Lada would not care either way. "On our wedding night," she said, "I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied."

That really works out well...then the Sultan's son Mehmed meets Lada and Radu and wants to be their friends.
Lada huffed, exasperated. "Very well. What exactly does a friend do?"
"I have never had one. I was hoping you would know."
"Then you are even more stupid than you look. Radu is the one who makes friends. I am the one who makes people want to whip me."

Palm Springs commercial photography

See what an awesome character that Lada is?
The first part of this book had me all fangirly and then around 50% I started to lose interest. Mehmed started to get on my nerves..I mean grinding hard on my nerves.

Both Lada and Radu were both all in lust/love/some shit with him. I really thought he knew of both their feelings and played it to his advantage. Radu is the one who had true feelings for the idiot and he saw Lada and Mehmed all smooching and it crushed him.
Palm Springs commercial photography

Bleck. The politics kind of took over the story and I'm sorry but that stuff was boring and went on way too long. This book is a chunker and it felt like words were just getting added and repeated over and over again.
Mehmed's character just wasn't strong enough for me to want him to be Sultan. I kept hoping that either Lada would come to her senses or some assassin would finally really act like Game of Thrones on his stupid ass.
Palm Springs commercial photography

I'm going with 2.5 stars rounded up to three..just because I want to have hope for Lada's character.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.

Palm Springs commercial photography
My friend Hershey and I kinda had an unofficial buddy read with this book. Her review for it is freaking awesome.

Profile Image for Kiki.
194 reviews8,528 followers
October 9, 2019
EDIT: This seems incredibly random, and it is, so let's chalk it up to shower thoughts - but it's been niggling at me, especially as I contemplate picking up the second book.

I sincerely hope that someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but considering this is based on history, is it not...incredibly straightwashed? In history, Mehmed and Radu were lovers for years and years, and yet in this book, the author has actually gone out of her way to avoid this, by gender bending Vlad the Impaler and pushing Lada and Mehmed together, and shoving Radu out to the perpetual "I love you like a brother" zone, even though, historically, this romance belongs to him. The author has actually strayed further from history for no reason other than to shoehorn in a straight romance where historically there was a queer one?

I haven't read the sequel so I don't know what happens there. But creating what is essentially a fictional character and inserting them into a historical novel and going to all of these lengths to create a fake het romance in the place of the historically accurate and less boring queer one seems like a lot of hassle to go to when you could have just... made them in a queer relationship... like they were in real life?

Am I wrong? Tell me if I am. This was just my understanding of what went down, and it made me raise an eyebrow.

In terms of an actual review: I don't have one. Let's make it quick and dirty. This was one part boring, three parts thrilling, and beautifully written. It's a shame I hated Lada and Mehmed so much. Like, the thought of them now makes my eye twitch. Radu deserves better.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,738 reviews5,279 followers
July 5, 2018
#1 And I Darken ★★★★★
#2 Now I Rise ★★★★★
#3 Bright We Burn ★★★☆☆

Update 12.28.17 → Don't mind me, just rewrote my entire review because rereading and dwelling on this book has changed my original opinion so drastically that it deserved better. 😍

"A dragon did not crawl on its belly in front of its enemies, begging for their help. A dragon did not vow to rid the world of infidels, and then invite them into its home. A dragon did not flee its land in the middle of the night like a criminal.

A dragon burned everything around herself until it was purified in ash."

Lada has the literal best character introduction you could hope for, in her wet nurse's prayer for her at her birth:

"Let her be strong.
Let her be sly.
And let her be ugly."

The nurse's prayers do not fall on deaf ears; Lada grows into an unruly, angry, and unattractive child who gets what she wants by force. On the contrary, her younger brother, Radu, gets what he wants with his beautiful cherubic face and sweet words. The siblings couldn't be any more different if they tried, so the alternating third-person perspectives make for an incredibly fascinating read.

The writing is beautiful, though there is a lot of slow development following the characters through their childhoods, and nothing of any real note occurs until they enter their teen years. We mostly just see a lot of Lada becoming set in her violent ways, while Radu continues to be the belle of the ball, rinse and repeat.

Once I hit the halfway mark, though, the action picked up immediately. There is so much political build-up and intrigue to keep you guessing, and the twists are wonderful. There is a love triangle, but I promise that it's unlike most love triangles you've read (maybe all of them), and absolutely blows the stereotype out of the water.

On one final note, there's something I want to touch on that I've seen in some other reviews: I've seen a handful of people say that they were disappointed in Lada, because they felt as though she lost her edge in the later chapters. I have to disagree with this, as her self-awareness and shame were more than enough to notate that she wasn't losing her values and priorities, so much as simply developing as a character and a young woman. As someone who loved her tyrannical behavior, I found her development to be... flawless, honestly. I adored Lada as a character; she is rude, demanding, and yet a fantastic leader. Kiersten White made no attempts to write a "likable" heroine, but that's precisely what made me love her so damn much.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,380 followers
June 26, 2018
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found@The Book Prescription

Her spine was steel. Her heart was armor. Her eyes were fire.

🌟 This book was listed by many as a Fantasy book and not pure Historical fiction. I know that historical fictions don’t work for me and I stopped reading them a long time ago. I have never seen a book in this genre getting this much hype so I thought that it must be special. Nothing was special about it and I don’t think it is a fantasy book at all.

🌟 I DNFed this after 41 chapters because I didn’t feel I was enjoying it and I felt like I was forced to read it. It brought me back to high school days were I had to study History although I hated it. I promised myself to enjoy books this year and to not feel forced to read anything and that was that and I did not finish it.

🌟 The book started out good and I thought it had potential and I could see why it has such a large fan base. But after like 25-30% it was being even more slow, boring and nothing was happening. The characters were not interesting and I could not relate to them. I felt when Mohamed was introduced, he became the center of attention in a very annoying way (First book to feature my name and my heart is broken). I did not feel intrigued enough to finish the book, let alone a whole trilogy. I am not so sad that I read this because I have been willing to for ages! now my TBR has fewer books so it’s a win-win situation.

🌟 I am going to keep this short and summarize here: This book has a good writing style, I felt it was slow, boring and I couldn’t relate to the characters, but that’s me with every historical book ever, so I may be biased and I am definitely not the best judge. If you love historical fiction then this is good, if you think this will have fantasy elements then stay away and just don’t think about it.

A BR with Vanessa
Profile Image for lucie.
507 reviews637 followers
February 12, 2018
I have never, never been so disappointed in my life, not even when I have found out that my gym crush is already married. I was so close to DNF it but I kept reading because I wanted to at least like it but it didn't happen.

Now just let me find a dark corner where I can cry over my disappointment.
Profile Image for may ➹.
494 reviews2,062 followers
June 28, 2018
it’s officially been 3 months since I finished this and I’m still wondering what there is to love about this book

// buddy read with raiasaons (please don’t blame me for the horrid spelling of raisins I’m actually very smart)
Profile Image for Chesca (thecrownedpages).
309 reviews161 followers
February 9, 2017
Highly-recommended. My new favorite.
A read for The Quarterly Book Club’s Fourth Quarter: Historical Fiction

“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

This was my first time to read a book by this author and I will definitely check out her other works. Her writing is exceptionally exquisite. She was able to rebuild a long-gone world in my head and piqued my curiosity into getting to know more about this part of history, its culture, and the people behind it. It was an unforgettable and intense experience that would stay with me for a long time. I do have a book hangover. I was already planning to reread it the moment I reached its last sentence.

I have never read anything like this before! Kiersten White’s And I Darken is a dangerous gamble of hearts and of power that you would want to get caught up in.

This is such a brave and greatly interesting approach to history. I am in awe of how the author played with these facts, bridging gaps between historical records, in a thought-provoking way. Her unbiased story has a diamond heart at its center. It answers the question: “What are you willing to sacrifice to gain what you want the most?”

At a young age, Vlad III and his younger brother Radu were brought into the Ottoman courts. There they lived for years and have been educated just so their father could keep the throne of Wallachia, a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire, for himself.

Here’s how the story went in Kiersten White’s masterpiece: Instead of Vlad III, we get Ladislav “Lada” Dragwyla in his place. This gender switch in the character let the author focus on and deal with the issues of women during the medieval era in terms of power. Is it possible for a woman to rule an empire? How could a woman acquire power if her only role in society is to be a property of men, producing heirs, giving pleasure, and just being a wife?

Lada was a selfish and ruthless girl. As a child, she had always looked up to her father, wanting nothing but to please him more than her brothers could ever do. She never wanted to be like her mother who was weak, always begging for her life. Lada’s father showed her that the woman who gave birth to her was not her real mother but Wallachia itself. This led Lada to believe that Wallachia was hers for the taking and that one day, she would be the one to sit on its throne. I think I have never read a character as tough and cunning as her. She was intriguing and I was watching out for her every decision. It seemed like, even though she was held captive in a foreign land, she always knew her way out of trouble, manipulating a situation in every way she could. She was unafraid of anyone. It was very creative of the author to nickname Ladislav “Lada”. I just found out that it is the name of the Slavic goddess of beauty, love, harmony, and merriment. Isn’t it ironic that our female protagonist was named after her despite having the opposite characteristics of this said deity?

Radu, Lada’s younger brother whom she always considered as one of her properties, was her complete opposite. Unlike Lada who was born brave and ugly, Radu was fragile and very beautiful. He grew up clinging to their nurse all the time and wanting nothing but to be taken care of by her. He was always treated as an underdog by his older siblings, physically and emotionally hurting him. Radu saw the world with meekness. At first, I wanted to ignore Radu because of his weakness, but as I got more hooked by their tale, I realized that I was getting attracted to him more than I expected.

These two saw their captivity in different ways. Lada saw it as something she should escape, while Radu found a new home and enlightenment, especially in Mehmed, the Sultan’s third and least favorite son. The three grew up together, influencing the course of their decisions, changing their fates together with that of the whole empire.

The Dragwyla siblings each have their good and admirable sides. I greatly approve the way these two have changed throughout the span of years. Radu became strong and cunning on his own, while Lada became more caring and affectionate in her own way. It was as if, by the end of the book, they were finally able to meet halfway.

I really find Mehmed absolutely interesting, first, because of his culture. I have never read a book on Islam so it was eye-opening to me to see his situation both as a Muslim and as an heir to the throne. His duties and responsibilities as an important Ottoman figure, which his people would find honorable and pleasing, could be hurtful or taboo to Lada and Christians like her. Second, I love the way his character developed. I was able to really see him shed his boyhood. The change in his priorities, the way he acts, his strength—all of them eclipsed the boy that Lada and Radu first met.

Among these three, guess which one of them is my favorite character.

It’s Radu. I adore him definitely. At first, I thought that I would stick to Lada ‘til the end, but Radu was just able to pull at my heartstrings the way Lada was not able to. Radu started as a boy whom you would disregard no matter what he did, but as he grew up, it was not the way his looks were described that caught my attention, it was his heart. He was at war with his emotions all the time and would sacrifice his happiness for those whom he loved. Between him and Lada, I could say that he’s been making the greater sacrifices. In the end,

The romance of this book got me torn in half. Well, not actually, but I was so confused for a few moments. Guess which ship I’m on! I’m on the Mehdu or Ramed ship! Whatever that’s called. Yes, I want Mehmed to end up with Radu. Why? I think it could work better than if he would end up with Lada. I think Lada would just trample Mehmed. Sooner or later, they would just hurt each other. The two of them aren’t on one, same side. It felt to me that their relationship and feelings for each other were so strained as if they’re playing tug of war, and not one of them would want to let go of the rope. I think, as a leader, Mehmed would need one like Radu by his side. He needs someone to help him conquer the world and be what he was destined to be. Also, But, anyway, it’s the author’s choice. Let her do her magic. She’s the creator, not me.

Lastly, the ending was, without a doubt, amazing and a powerful one at that. It was earnest and necessary as a turning point for all of them. Lada and Radu made their choices, both of them choosing what they thought were right. I can’t wait any longer for the sequel! I have a feeling that it would shatter its readers and leave us all in an emotional mess. I could already hear Future Me screaming my head off.

If you have not read this book yet, my friend, you have to get a copy very soon. You would not want to miss this. Don’t add this to your regret list, if you even have a list for that. I highly recommend this to Ottoman Empire and historical fiction enthusiasts, and to everyone.

Profile Image for Ryan.
51 reviews374 followers
November 28, 2016
3.5/5 stars

Edit: Looking back on this, I believe I need to edit some things. See, I posted this review when I was new to Goodreads, so I thought giving a book three stars would be considered "rude" (which I find kind of amusing now, considering some of my more...rant-y reviews). Thankfully, now I know that's not the case. Don't get me wrong, I still really enjoyed this book. It did drag on a bit in some parts, and I may or may not have skimmed a few sections when things got boring, but I do love Kiersten White's writing style and characters, and I will most definitely be continuing with this series.


(Original review)

“'So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?'”

I went into this book expecting a ruthless, cunning, badass female lead - Lada Dragwyla is all of that, and so much more.

The story starts from Lada's birth, and takes you until she's about seventeen or eighteen. I was a bit skeptical as to if this was a good idea (I didn't particularly fancy the thought of reading from an eight-year-old's point of view). In time, I realized starting so early was necessary to show Lada's development and why she is who she is today. Same goes for Radu. Since their personalities are like day and night, it was interesting to read from Lada's perspective, and then from Radu's. Radu's cheerful disposition helped balance Lada's feisty one, and vice versa.

I enjoyed the first section of the book when they were children, but when they became young adults was when the story really enveloped me.

While reading this book, I found myself rooting for Lada, no matter what sort of horrible thing she may have done. Like I said before, I kind of admired her strength and viciousness, and I don't know what that says about me. Lada wasn't one to settle for what little she's given - she will fight to get what she deserves, no matter the cost.


My favourite character had to be Radu, though. If Lada is a gender-bent Vlad the Impaler, then Radu is a gender-bent version of me - forever confused, and never knowing what the hell is going on.

Seriously, I just wanted to give the guy a hug.


The fight scenes! Holy shit, the fight scenes. And talk about character development. Thank you, Kiersten White.


I need the second book now, please, thank you.
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