Summary: 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, 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.
Review: 2 1/2 stars
I picked this book up because it has been receiving a lot of hype. With that being said, I went into it with pretty high expectations. Also, when I opened the book I discovered that it had a map. Lately I have been noticing that a lot of great fantasy books have maps in the beginning. Granted, this map is not of a fantasy world, but rather of the Ottoman Empire. So starting off this book my expectations were high.
The pacing of this novel was no where near consistent. There were a good 50 to 100 pages where I almost set it down because it was going so slow and nothing was really happening. Then it would pick up with non stop action. The plot was all over the place as it was an attempt to turn history into a novel.
I will say that the characters are what kept this story alive. There was an emotional connection achieved here by the raw truthfulness of the emotions the characters felt. The characters jealousy was not concealed, but in the open, their pain clear to see. I read the entire Game of Thrones series and the wars never had the same emotional effect on me that they did in this novel through Radu’s narrative of his experiences.
Lada, Radu and Mehmed make for the most interesting relationships and family dynamics. The contrasting personalities of Lada and Radu show in their different actions as well as emotions. Where Lara is fierce and brutal, Radu is meek but compassionate. But at the end of the day they are still family. They are characters you can both love and hate. They are flawed and this book is filled with their humanity . I am sick to death of characters without personality. In that aspect, this book didn’t disappoint.
The time period is one which women are more like second class citizens and this book showcases a variety of ways that they seek to achieve power where they can get it. Some women use sex and others like Lada demand respect. Maybe it is because the concept of a harem is so foreign to me, but I could never imagine sharing a lover or a husband with other women. It is strange to me that this was accepted at the time. The topic of being gay was also approached and although multiple wives were accepted, being gay was not. It really made me think about how societies accept different things based on religious beliefs and social acceptance.
And I Darken was marketed as a fantasy, which was one of the reasons that I picked it up. It completely failed on that front. There is no fantasy aspects at all, this is historical fiction, that is in no way historically accurate. I am so mixed on this review because some parts were awesome and some parts dragged because they were horrible. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone or come back for a sequel.