Book Review: And I Darken, by Kiersten White

And I Darken is the perfect title for Kiersten White’s novel about Vlad the Impaler’s origins.

The plot (eventually) focuses on machinations for the 15th-century Ottoman throne, but at its heart, And I Darken is a character-driven tale that shows how abandonment changes Vlad and the other protagonists. Oh, and in White’s retelling, Vlad isn’t a man—he’s Lada, a girl who’d rather swing a sword than don a dress. It’s a compelling mix. The character development begins almost immediately, as soon as Lada and her brother Radu are old enough to merit their own viewpoints. Lada is fearless and fierce; Radu is timid and trusting. But when their father, the ruler of Wallachia (part of historical Romania), runs afoul of the Ottomans, he sends his children to be political hostages at the sultan’s court. Lada deals with the betrayal by hardening, training with the Ottoman’s Janissaries (elite soldiers taken as boys from other countries) and turning herself into a weapon. Radu, desperate for the approval and sense of belonging his sister is incapable of providing, converts to Islam and learns the intricacies of palace intrigue. About all the siblings have in common is their blood and their friendship with Mehmed, the sultan’s third son. Later, this relationship drags Lada and Radu into the Ottoman game of thrones, but the politics always feels secondary to the pair’s individual struggles: Lada’s rebellion against what’s expected of a woman, and Radu’s (quieter) grappling with what’s expected of a man. Both dilemmas feel modern in a way that doesn’t detract from the historical setting. The same goes for the story’s non-traditional love triangle. White also includes just the right amount of inner monologue: enough to let us into Lada and Radu’s mindsets and make us care about what they think, but not so much that the pace drags and we lose interest. So yeah, I liked this book. Not least because And I Darken is a sweet freaking title. If you enjoy well-written historical fiction, this one’s definitely worth a shot. ---- Buy And I Darken on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Hundreds of exhibits. Millions of visitors. One supernatural killer.

 

Neva’s goals at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago are simple. Enjoy the spectacle—perhaps the greatest the United States has ever put on (the world’s fair to end all world’s fairs!). Perform in the exposition’s Algerian Theatre to the best of her abilities. And don’t be found out as a witch.

Easy enough … until the morning she looks up in the Theatre and sees strangely marked insects swarming a severed hand in the rafters.

"Witch in the White City is a wild ride of suspense, magic, social corruption and history." – Suanne Schafer, author of A Different Kind of Fire

Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.