Thursday, February 24, 2022

Review: AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White


Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I’ve had this series sitting on my shelf for years, and it sounded like exactly the kind of story that I love: a Vlad the Impaler retelling but with a female lead, a princess who knows that brutality equals survival and ruthlessness means getting what she wants. Unfortunately, even though I loved our protagonist Lada, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had hoped to. 

To start with, a huge portion of this book was telling versus showing. Like someone was just recounting Lara’s childhood years and telling us what happened in her life, but we weren’t actually living those years with her. It felt like the narrator was just trying to get the readers up to speed with who Lada and Radu were, and this immediately made me feel very distanced from every single character. The first half of the book was written like this until we got to the "present day" that the story takes place in. 

I liked Lada as a character and loved her personality, and I appreciated the fact that she put herself before anyone else, including her own family and her own empire. I didn’t really care about any other characters though. Even Radu and Mehmed; they were forgettable to me.

One major thing that disappointed me was that this book is a fictionalized historical story. I expected this to be more of a fantasy, though I am not sure why now that I think about it. But I do not tend to like historical fiction, which I think is what primarily led to me not really liking this book. There was lots of talk about the Ottoman Empire and about Islam and about all the politics involved in that time, and I was just not interested whatsoever. It’s funny because I love fantasy politics, but as soon as they’re real-world politics involving real places and real people, even when they’re fictionalized, I completely lose interest. 

I think I would have enjoyed this story a lot more if Lada was a character based on Vlad the Impaler and the story was set in its own entirely fictitious world, instead of a historical account of Vlad the Impaler in 1400s Romania with Vlad being a female, which is what this book is. Those are two similar yet entirely different scenarios that would have resulted in a totally different reading experience. 

Overall, And I Darken was sadly not for me. I liked Lada, but she was not enough to make me care about any other aspect of this book. I spent most of the story being bored and uninterested, but I also think that’s partially my own fault since I didn’t realize how heavily this book focused on history. If you like historical fiction, or fictionalized historical retellings, you will likely have better luck with this series than I did. I also wonder if maybe Kiersten White isn’t the author for me, because this is the second book I’ve read by her that I haven’t cared for, and the second series of hers that I’m choosing not to continue past the first book. Either way, I’m sad I didn’t like this book, but I encourage you to check it out if it sounds like something you’ll enjoy because this was mostly a case of it’s not you, it’s me. 

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