Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Books I've Loved: And I Darken
This one was a complete surprise for me. I'm not even certain why I picked it up. I've read Kiersten White's other books and they kind of annoyed me with their perkiness… But for whatever reason, I picked this up and boy am I glad I did!
This is an alternate (sort of) history in which the man who grew up to be Vlad the Impaler in reality, is a woman. And what a woman! Lada is tough, strong and ignores the rules any society places on women. Interestingly, she also learns about those rules and how women use their place in society to get what they want. Lada understands quite quickly that by rejecting that place, she doesn't get to use her femininity the same way. She can't have the best of both worlds.
In contrast, Lada's brother, Radu, is the soft, gentle, beautiful one and he uses his beauty in much the same way women traditionally do.
This, first book in the series sets up the characters and their friendships and allegiances. Political machinations are made. Power is gained and lost. People align themselves with one person or another. It's all very exciting. And all set against a backdrop of the ancient Ottoman Empire.
Which brings me to the next thing I really liked about the book (after its fascinating feminism): the depiction of religion. Islam is the primary religion here, but Christianity is mentioned too. Islam is so deeply ingrained into the society here, is so much a part of everyday life, it's difficult to untangle the political decisions from the moral and religious ones. It's a very realistic depiction of what Islam really is.
And did I mention the gayness? Because yes, there are some fascinating gay undercurrents here. Nothing overt or on the page exactly, but there nonetheless.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It's exciting, complex, deep, and offers a fascinating insight into an ancient culture. I was a little disappointed to discover this is the first in a series because now I'll have to wait years to find out what happens next….
But don't just believe me, here's the blurb:
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
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. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.