Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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And I Darken

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.

I have been utterly destroyed by this wonderful book, and you know what? I couldn’t be happier about it. I have no idea what to do with my life while I lie in wait for the sequel for another year, but that is beside the point. I actually called my (now ex) boyfriend after I finished the novel and told him that I didn’t know how to exist in a world where I physically cannot go buy the sequel instantaneously, right now. He didn’t have any suitable advice for me—not from a lack of trying, but because I was inconsolable. For that reason, I’m going to blather on about my feelings for this book here. I hope you enjoy.

And I Darken is a gender-swapped retelling of Vlad the Impaler, who was a notoriously violent prince in 1400s’ Ottoman Empire. In this story, Lada—our Vlad—grows up in Wallachia with her younger brother Radu. She is raised to be cruel as a means of survival in a world that clearly favors men of wealth. Used as pawns in a political game, Lada and Radu have to cleverly outmaneuver all of the foes that move against their very lives.

Okay, so if that sounds like an awful synopsis, that’s because I suck at describing the magnitude that is this book. When I went into reading this novel, the only thing that I knew about it was that it was Vlad the Impaler as a girl. That’s it. I was sold, and it blew me away. Personally, I think that you should go into reading this book blindly. While I knew some things about the actual Vlad the Impaler, Kiersten White is really able to put her own spin on legitimate events within history. You don’t need to have any background knowledge before beginning to read, and you can clearly tell that she has put a lot of effort and research into the making of this novel.

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 characters were simply glorious and a pleasure to read about. I truly devoured their stories. And I Darken begins with the birth of Lada and continues on, showing how she grows up within the realm of her father’s cruelty. We all know that Lada will become this vicious, beautiful creature, but what’s so special about this book is that we get to watch it occur. We get to see why she becomes the person that she is, and we root for her. We want her to succeed. More than that though, Kiersten White perfectly juxtaposes Lada’s brutality with her brother’s gentleness. With both of these perspectives, the story is so balanced that you never feel overwhelmed by either one’s story arc.

On our wedding night… 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.

This novel is so dark, gritty, and passionate. I ate up every single one of the 475 pages that were in this tome. Complexity is a key to becoming one of my favorite novels, and this one had it. There are political games, tangled relationships, revolts, war, assassins, and the exploration of what makes someone powerful. It never had a moment of dullness in which I was wishing for more. I mean, I am now. I want the sequel in my hands, but we can’t always have what we want.

From what I have heard, this novel is being marketed as a fantasy, but while it feels very much like a fantasy, there have been no magical elements thus far. It’s more like a historical retelling; although, I have yet to read a historical retelling that has been as wonderful as this. The culture, religions, and relationships explored in this novel were surprising and developed with exquisite care, and I was quite pleased about what the author included.

Simply put, I am impressed. Very impressed. I eagerly and greedily await the day that I can have the sequel in my hands. I cannot praise And I Darken highly enough.



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