“Lada’s eyes burned with a look the nurse had come to dread. That look meant injury, destruction, or fire. Often all three.”
Lada Dragwlya may have been born a princess, but she never had any intention of acting like one. She was born fierce and relentless, never willing to be demure and quiet. She fights for what she wants, and that is to be seen by her father. To be seen as an equal. As a warrior.
Rada was born demure and beautiful. More the princess than his sister, he endures nothing but torment from everyone around him. Except from Lada. But she loves him in her own way. And that way doesn’t avoid scarring or bruises either.
When they are ripped from their homeland and find themselves in an enemy court, they realize they have only each other to rely on. One fierce, one cunning, they make a team that the world could fear. But then a boy, Mehmed, son of the sultan befriends them both and shows them that perhaps the enemy isn’t what they imagined.
Raja finds home. Lada never forgets. The three of them form a toxic triangle where all of their boundaries over love, power, and loyalty will be tested.
“She had been bartered by her father. That was what fathers did. It was up to the daughters to figure out survival by any means possible.”
Murder in her eyes and knives on her wrists, Lada is my kind of GIRL! From her first moments as a child, she is ferocious. She doesn’t understand why people keep trying to put her in a box and make her act a certain way. But unlike so many women, both in books and history, she flat out refuses to bend. It is so refreshing to read a female character who simply defies societal norms and does whatever the hell she wants. The reaction of men throughout this book made me laugh multiple times.
We get this story told from Lada and Radu’s perspective, altering between chapters. Given how the plot unfolds, I loved how we got to see things from both of their eyes. You could not get two more different personalities than these siblings, and yet, they also love each other fiercely in their own way. They also balance each other out, making it obvious that if they ever tried to take over the world, they would be scary successful as rulers.
“Radu felt a surge of affection for her that overcame even his anger. She really was magnificent sometimes.”
The journey we go on, to see how Radu adjusts to life with the Ottomans while Lada resists, is compelling and fascinating. She is torn between who she wants to be versus what she wants. Radu struggles with his own feelings while wanting to be loyal to Lada. It is an interesting and twisted path full of thought and emotion.
As someone fascinated with Dracula, and the legend of Vlad The Impaler as the historical figure behind the myth, reading a book where Vlad is rewritten as a woman had me salivating a bit. Lada does not at all disappoint. Like most misunderstood villains, she has a complex backstory that we are living through with her. We can see where the ruthlessness is beginning to come from. Where the rage, and violence, and drive stems from. I am flushed with anticipation to see her next chapters unfold.
“That is why you become a dealer of death. You feed death as many people as you can to keep it full and content so its eye stays off you.”
For a girl so full of violence and brutality, And I Darken isn’t a gory or graphic book. There is death, and lots of violence, murder, & mayhem. But it isn’t written to be shocking. We are more transported into the minds of what drives the decisions of Radu and Lada. And how they deal with the fallout and consequences. It is brutal subject matter without being overly detailed.
I also loved how the women were portrayed in this book. Even though most of the women aren’t quite as feral as Lada, they are all determined to find their paths in different ways. This felt very real to me, as I’m sure many women made similar choices as these women throughout history. White does a great job painting a diverse landscape with her characters, which serves to bring the entire story to life in a vivid and realistic way.
“There are many ways to be powerful. There is power in stillness. There is power in watching, waiting, saying the right thing to the right person. There is power in being a woman.”
You guys should know by now that I am a big fan of dark, stabby books full of murder and betrayal. This book hits all the high notes for me! I loved the complexity between Radu and Lada, Radu and Mehmed, and Mehmed and Lada. To call this triangle toxic feels like an understatement! This is not the normal romance trope as we know it, and I loved every single second. If you love all these things, you will really enjoy And I Darken.
I’ve already started Now I Rise, review to follow when I finish that beast!!!