January 29, 2017

ARC Review of And I Darken by Kiersten White

Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count: 475
Format: ARC
Genre: YA/Fantasy
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.
When I first heard of And I Darken by Kiersten White it piqued my interests for several reasons, the main one being that The Ottoman Empire was in it. This was my first time seeing any YA (or any fiction) book featuring them and having had family in the Ottoman Empire in the past I decided to give it a try. While the representation wasn't perfect it was fairly close and the rest of the book more than made up for it.

The book takes place (obviously) when the Ottoman Empire still existed and was a powerful force in the world. We get to see scenes in both Wallachia and various parts of the Ottoman Empire as the book progresses and events unfold. Kiersten White definitely delivers on the settings with great writing although I did wish we could have seen a wider variety of areas (I feel this way about most books so it's not something that's specific to only And I Darken).

Just like the world-building and settings, all the other aspects of the books from the characters to the plot and more were well-written. The story of Lada is pretty interesting and from the moment she was introduced I started rooting for her and her future. As she travels to the Ottoman Empire and befriends new people (with a few enemies thrown in) and even changes the fate of the whole empire she never failed to keep my interest. And of course seeing all the mentions, references, etc to the Ottoman Empire in a YA book was also really cool. However, I didn't agree with every aspect of its representation like some explanations of the religion and behaviors of the people. It didn't detract much from the book (this is after all fiction and not reality) so I was able to ignore and still enjoy the book. With the representation issues aside And I Darken turned out to be a pretty good book and I thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading it.

As one of the few (if not the only one) YA books with the Ottoman Empire in it And I Darken has a lot to deliver and it certainly comes close to delivering. With a great story, intriguing characters, and decent interpretation of the Ottoman Empire it's definitely a great book. If the author can fix some of the representation in the sequel it'll be even better but even without that I'm sure it'll be just as good as this one. I'm already eagerly awaiting the sequel after this one ended and hopefully it'll be just as good!

4.5/5 - Pretty good book

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