Character Development Galore | And I Darken Review

Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Pages: 496
Published: Projected June 28, 2016
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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, who’s expected to rule a nation, 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.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

“Make me a Prince.”

*Disclaimer: I would like to thank Netgalley and Randomhouse for granting me this eARC. This does not in any way change my feelings towards the book or my review.*

After holding off reading for a while because of crazy finals, I got to start on And I Darken and holy moly this was a surprise. I was really intrigued when I requested it on NetGalley because the synopsis pretty much hailed Lada as this ruthless leader (which she is) and I’m a character driven reader so when I heard that there was going to be tensions in relationships I was sold. When I picked it up I was a bit afraid because the beginning kind of has a slow start. It’s definitely fast forwarding through Lada and Radu’s life to give us some exposition and I wasn’t a really big fan of that but I assumed that it was fast forwarding on purpose. Like this whole section had a purpose but we weren’t supposed to dwell on it for far too long, which I respect. But this part of the novel was pretty much all exposition with a little bit of character thrown in there.

Things start to pick up when we get to the Ottoman Empire and Lada has a lot of anger in her. She carries the anger of both her and Radu, I think. She’s angry because her father sold her and her brother as collateral to an empire that wouldn’t hesitate to kill her should her father break the treaty and she’s angry because, well, she cares about her brother as most siblings would. Lada has built herself to be for each man for himself kind of person. This is really supported by her kind of… terrible familial life and how unstable the courts in Wallachia are. So when she gets to the Ottoman Empire she’s just this little ball of fire and she’s not only angry that she’s caring for Radu in a protective older sister way–she’s afraid because it’s a weakness and it’s something that they can exploit. She’s angry, she’s fierce, she’s a fighter. I’ve seen people kind of criticize Lada for being such a ball of brooding and anger, but (coming from a person who had major anger issues as a teenager) if you were a. unliked by your father unless you could kill someone B. unloved by your mother C. unloved by really anyone and D. sold off to an empire that would kill you the moment your father breaks a treaty (and SPOILER he does) I would be pretty pissed off about it and I wouldn’t really be all that happy. It was something that I can understand Lada for having and I sympathized because I, too, have gone through that kind of phase of really heavy anger. Though since Lada has lived a life of violence being the headliner, she’s really inept in things that are more to the heart (i.e. her loving and caring for her brother). She and Mehmed have a strange kind of relationship in the novel and she’s incredibly confused about it and it does become a weakness for her. She constantly plans to leave for her homeland Wallachia, but her love for Mehmed inhibits her from doing so and it does create some tension between her and her… right hand man of the soldiers she gets to lead. Lada is constantly at war with herself because she’s fighting this feeling of home in the Ottoman Empire and the feeling of home in Wallachia where she is born and bred, she’s fighting with her feeling of love and sacrifice, and she’s fighting with herself with who she used to be and who she is now. Everything is kind of left up in the air at the end of the novel.

Radu on the other hand has always felt lesser. His father despised him for being too gentle and soft and Lada tried to… “teach” Radu to be thick skinned by constantly berating him and bullying him with Bogdan (the son of their nursemaid). He was never as strong as Lada and was never as ruthless as her and she constantly poked at him for that. He always thought of himself as less and by doing that, he had a knack of becoming invisible. This seeps into his move into the Ottoman Empire, but he slowly realizes that it’s a heavy advantage in the empire. It’s definitely a case of  “the maids know everything” and Radu learns to take that and run with it and he becomes an incredibly strong political player in this game. While being invisible but at the same time incredibly sweet and charming, Radu has learned to get close to many people without a rise of suspicion. This is an amazing contrast and balance to Lada who commands respect in fear rather than love. 

And then we have Mehmed. Mehmed starts off as kind of a snot nosed brat prince of the sultan, but being third in line he’s not really respected as a prince. His father ignores him greatly and so he’s kind of free to do what he would like. He’s introduced to Lada and her ruthlessness and is immediately delighted with her and her brother and through a strange way they start to become friends. It starts off being forced with Lada, but Radu welcomes it fully and it’s a really interesting development in the story. I really liked Mehmed. He was charming, mischievous, and kind all in one. He never really had any ill will towards anyone and just wanted to live his life. Through unfortunate circumstances, he becomes Sultan, then doesn’t become Sultan, and then he becomes Sultan once more. He’s had assassination attempts at him and through this he learns more and more how dangerous it is to be a leader that your people don’t love immediately. While this he’s also outwardly pining to Lada, but she’s very loyal to her sense of duty as a guard and as a soldier (while being in love with him). It’s a very tragic kind of love for the both of them and I feel. Mehmed, while he had his own character arc, is kind of the least interesting in the character arcs here. He’s a huge part of Lada and Radu’s character arc and their changes, but I haven’t really seen him change all too much until the end of the novel. 
Wow. Sorry guys, I didn’t mean to turn this into an English essay. I just get very, very deeply oriented with characters. Now this being said, this book isn’t action heavy and while it is kind of applauded as the Game of Thrones of YA, it definitely doesn’t have that kind of feel. If anything this book is really in it’s own league and I really enjoy that. This book isn’t filled with wall to wall action, it’s really filled with personal journeys and some action added into it. I know the book kind of builds Lada as almost a Celaena kind of character where she’ll be killing people left and right, but this will most likely happen in a different novel in the series. In this novel, the majority of how we know Lada is how she grows through the years of this novel. She starts off as a… 12 year old and then slowly grows to 16 or 17 at the end of the novel. She grows immensely, but I can see how people aren’t exactly excited about reading how people grow haha. There’s so much character development and character interaction in this novel and I really couldn’t help feel in love with it. I did have issues with the beginning being really slow and just expository, but it definitely picks up and while this novel (thinking in hindsight) is probably an expository novel of the trilogy, I’m really interested in how this series ends. 
P. S. Lada says the quote at the very top.
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