Historical rewritings are where it’s at.
I’ve been in the mood for some YA fantasy lately, and while this doesn’t quite fit the bill, it’s close enough. And I Darken is a historical rewriting, where Vlad the Impaler is a woman named Lada. Now, you are not going to get that vibe from this first book, because all it does it establish the scene, which includes the relationships between Lada, her brother (Radu), and the Ottoman sultan’s son (Mehmed). Now everyone knows love triangles are exhausted, but I found this one to be entirely captivating and realistic. The relationships between the three of them are complex, and cannot be pined down with a word, not even the word “love.” And that, my friends, is what makes this book worth reading.
Yes, okay, the plot can be slow, but that’s because this book is building up to something. It is setting down the stones for the sequel, which I can only imagine is going to be heart-wrenching and brutal. We’ve met Lada. We know her stormy heart. We’ve met Radu. We know his stormy heart. And we’ve met Mehmed, who can only spell trouble for them all in the end. Sign me up, we’re in for a ride.
Personally, I didn’t find the plot that slow, and I thought it was a perfect balance between character development and plot activity/action. The prose is very easy to follow, and I really appreciated the modern dialogue, which makes it so easy to slip into the story and lose yourself in this fictional-historical world. It maintains the old-timey/fantastical feel while still being accessible and relevant.
Now, I picked up this book because I wanted to fall in love with a fierce, independent, and badass woman. What I ended up doing was falling in love with her brother. Radu appears to be everything Lada is not: he is soft, and sweet, and handsome while Lada is ugly and all sharp edges. While they are foils in many ways, they are united in their love for Mehmed and, I believe, we’re going to find out that they’re a lot more similar than they first appear. And boy oh boy, am I ready for it.
Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to thank Kiersten White for actually following through on the ~gay vibes~ that I was feeling early on. I was pleasantly surprised (read: ecstatic) to find a book that takes a gentle approach to historical homosexuality in a way that feels very genuine and real. Plus, it adds such a nice layer to the story that would be lost if it was discarded as just “brotherly affection.” People are gay, Steven!
And I Darken is a great read and I am EXTREMELY excited for the sequel that’s out in July. If this series is heading where I think it is (google “Vlad the Impaler” if you don’t know what I’m talking about) then buckle up your seat belts, kids, we’re in for a wild ride.
(me, whispering in the author’s ear, kill them off…. do it….)
4 stars out of 5