I have a very, very mixed feeling about And I Darken. I had so much expectation but turned out it wasn’t what I expected. It was a bit less and a bit more.
First of all, I’m gonna tell you this, in case you haven’t heard enough. This book is not fantasy at all, despite being shelved as ‘Fantasy’ on Goodreads. It is historical fiction, a retelling of (apparently) Vlad the Impaler. I knew nothing about it before and after halfway reading this book, I frantically scrambled to the internet to find out more about Vlad, Wallachia, and Ottoman Empire. It’s very political and it reminded me a little of The Winner’s Kiss.
This book is slow. And by slow I mean suuuupeeer slooooowww. I was expecting the book to be all action from page one but it was… systematic. It was boring and I slept about three times during the first half of the book alone. It didn’t really pick up pace, but it got more brutal and more action packed.
It’s the kind of book that slowly grew on me.
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way.
I felt thoroughly deceived by those sentences. On my mind, I thought Lada Dragwlya would be soft and sweet but secretly evil and brutal. But no, SHE’S OPENLY BRUTAL. She’s so ruthless and feral and cruel and SHE SCARES THE LIVING LIFE OUT OF ME! I mean… who killed a man with teeth and bare hands? Barbarian, that’s it! Lada is a barbarian! I didn’t particularly like her because she was so naive and close minded when it comes to power. She resented being a woman because she couldn’t go to war. I mean… why go to war if there are other ways to control the situation? I love being a woman and I always, always love a cunning and manipulative woman 😛 but that’s beside the point.
Lada spent so much time resenting her gender that I was almost fed up with her. BUT, just like the book itself, her character slowly grew on me. She learned her lessons the hard way and I actually enjoyed her character development, despite still being cold-hearted until the end of the book :’)
Mehmed, on the other hand, stole my heart since the first time (or second) he made an appearance. He’s just so funny and determined and extremely likable! I love to see him having a vision for the future. Unfortunately, his position as Sultan somehow made him less and less likable to me. He’s naive, radical, and let’s be real, unfair to Lada.
I had a hard time liking Radu because he was such a crybaby but OMGGGG his character development is THE BEST OF ALL! I honestly enjoyed to see him making friends, standing up for himself and the people he loved and finding his own home. He was also getting braver in making his own decision. He’s also very… whispers manipulative. #Respect.
Despite my issues with the main characters, I found them extremely intriguing. I was completely curious about what would happen to them and their relationships were indeed toxic! So much lies and repressed anger. The side characters are also surprisingly interesting. There are the kind one, the cheerful one, the bitter and realistic, the naive, and the manipulative. I like Mehmed’s mother so much she’s the perfect image of manipulation ♥
But the best thing about this books is the element of DIVERSITY.
- Islamic culture & religion. I am a Muslim and do you know how often I read about Islam in YA? NEVER! I never did, and I never expected to either. It was a HUGE, pleasant surprise for me to see this book has this element. Reading about Kumal’s devotion and Radu’s fascination to Islam really warmed my heart. It’s heartwarming to see Islam was portrayed as something so beautiful and peaceful ♥ It was also fascinating to see Radu’s journey and conversion… I was born Muslim so it was never a choice for me, but seeing Radu chose Islam was just ♥♥♥
- LGBT. I almost never read books featuring LGBT (though I so badly want to) so this was refreshing. It was subtle AT FIRST but then we got to really see it. There were so many portrayals of it. A couple who have accepted and are happy with their lives, a man in love with a man who loves someone else, a man in love but desperately try to deny his own feeling… I was actually pleased to see this much diversity!
- The lives of the harems. I’m no stranger to this culture because it happened in my own country a long time ago, but it’s not featured often enough in YA. It was kinda sad for me to see those daughters being wedded ONLY to secure alliances with rival kingdom and then left to care for themselves while being ‘expendable’ to the Sultan himself </3
- Diverse setting. How often do you read books set in 15th century Turki? I mean, I didn’t even know where Ottoman Empire was. Even worse, I wasn’t sure where Serbia and Hungary really are 😦 I’m never good with history though (hehe) this book made me open my atlas to get a better understanding of the setting. It also made me learn about Ottoman Empire. Nothing is better than diverse fantasy! 😛
Have you read And I Darken? Did you enjoy it? Drop some comments and let me know what you think 😀 I’d love to hear your thoughts ♥
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